By Drew Brown, Editor
INSPIRATIONAL RETURN: Edwin Tjiramba ’93 and
Louisa Mupetami ’92 during their recent return to the Northwest.
From a small, desert-covered country in
southern Africa comes one of the more
influential groups of PLU graduates.
Early this summer Edwin Tjiramba ’93, director of
institutional development and Louisa Mupetami
’92 , director for the Center for Entrepreneurial
Leadership (both at the Polytechnic of Namibia,
Windhoek), returned to Washington. They had
two main reasons to return: to tell their inspirational
stories to the Lutheran churches that
sponsored them, and to continue learning how to
bring educational development to their university.
The Namibian Student Project at Pacific
Lutheran University was born in 1986, after two
Lutheran bishops from Namibia—a country of 1.7
million people northwest of South Africa with a 50
percent Lutheran population—requested support
to educate young Namibian native leaders.
Opportunities did not exist for black
Namibians to receive a baccalaureate degree in
their country. At the time, Namibia remained under
the illegal rule of South Africa—and the
oppression of the apartheid movement.
In August 1986, Ron Tellefson, who had served
as university pastor for 10 years, was on a sabbatical.
He asked President William Rieke how he
could serve the university during this three-month
“President Rieke asked me if I could raise
$50,000 to bring a student from Namibia to PLU.”
Tellefson said. “And I believed we could do that.”
With the support of PLU, Tellefson set out to
raise the money. Over three months, more than
$335,000 was pledged from 55 congregations of
Region 1 (Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho &
Alaska) of the ELCA. This financial support ultimately
enabled eight Namibians to attend Pacific
Lutheran University. Tellefson was soon after invited
to become a development director for PLU.
The PLU/Namibia program blossomed from there.
“You never know what impact a program will
have. You start with an idea and hope for the best,”
Tellefson said. “As we can see now, it worked out
It has been a decade since the first Namibian
student first graduated from PLU, and the success
of the students, in addition to Tjiramba and
Mupetami, speaks for itself:
The first student, Kuuva Kongeli ’91 is head of
Namibia’s forensic lab, investigating homicides and
other crimes; Kauna (Ben) Shingenge ’91 was recently
appointed first secretary of the Namibian
delegation to the United Nations in New York; Eva-Liisa
(Kafidi ’92) Shilamba is a mother and is now
working in the area of health care instruction in
Namibia; Penda Naanda ’92 works for office of the
foreign ministry in Windhoek; Lahja Mbango ’94
is a special reporter for Namibian Broadcasting
Corporation, travelling extensively with Namibia’s
president; Thomas Shikongo ’95, the latest
Namibian to finish at PLU, is an educator and
school principal in Northern Namibia.
Although Tellefson is retired from PLU (he
heads Enrichment Ministries with his wife, Eileen),
he hopes that more Namibian students can come.
He envisions a program where students would
spend their first two years at Highline Community
College (the Des Moines, Wash. school has a
Namibian program), and their last two at PLU.
“It has been great working with these people”
Tellefson said. “To see these students learn, and
bring their skills back to Namibia, is truly inspirational.”