Growing the Church through a PhD in understanding the Holy Spirit

Eli Ezung grew up in the north of South Asia, alongside her family, including four siblings. She has spent the last three years in the UK as a Langham Scholar, studying for her PhD in World Christianity, at the University of Edinburgh. 

Eli’s focus is on the area of Pneumatology, which is the study of the person and work of the Holy Spirit, amongst the people of her hometown. Initially, Eli says she struggled with some culture shock between South Asia and the UK, namely the weather and the differences in religious inclination.

“My country in South Asia is a very religious country, even though it’s not a majority Christian country, whereas, coming to the UK it’s very different because it is very secular,” Eli shares. 

Challenging herself academically and spiritually 

Because she grew up in South Asia and her previous theological studies were there, Eli was looking to challenge herself outside of her comfort zone and experience studying theology in a different environment.

“It was to challenge myself and discipline myself because obviously, a PhD is a very rigorous and self-disciplining process, it has helped me refine myself academically and in my faith as well,” she shares. 

“Before I started my PhD studies, I was serving in a church for a couple of years, and it was actually during this time that I felt really called to do a PhD. From the very beginning, I felt called to do it in the UK and it was through very many different circumstances, people who were significant in my life, like my mentors from the seminary, some church elders and friends, and also my family who really supported me in this decision of coming to the UK. That was all a confirmation to pursue a PhD in the UK,” Eli says. 

Eli says she really felt God led her to continue her studies beyond what she had learnt in South Asia, but says it was a long and difficult journey to get there. After she had received her confirmation to study in the UK, she had to wait a year before she got started due to funding reasons. 

“Coming to the UK to study is really actually my way of saying that I’m obeying God because it is what God really taught me to do and it involved waiting and trusting him even when things did not make sense. But here I am,” she reflects. 

“Being in the UK and doing my PhD studies, it’s led me to work a lot on gratefulness in my life, the perspective of being grateful just changes the way I see life. I’m very grateful for Langham and their supporters and the Langham family in general, who have been so supportive in every way. And if there is one thing that I can be very confident of, I know that Langham families pray for me and that just gives me so much confidence and I’m truly, truly grateful for all the support that I’ve received so far,” she expressed.

Training leaders to grow the Nepalese church

Eli plans to finish her PhD in the Summer of 2024. Beyond that goal, Eli has a job lined up in Nepal teaching at the Everest Theological Institute which focuses on training Christian leaders in Nepal. The Institute was recently founded by another Langham graduate who also undertook theological studies in South Asia and now lives and serves in Nepal with his family. 

Eli shares that one of her hopes for her PhD studies is that the knowledge she’s learnt while studying will equip her for the work she is set to do in Nepal. 

“The church in Nepal is growing and there are a lot of different teachings going around as well. I realise how important it is as Christians to be theologically grounded in an understanding of the Holy Spirit and especially as the church in Nepal is quite young,” she shares.

“My hope is that by having a biblical, theologically grounded understanding of the Holy Spirit myself, I can help leaders and church leaders who are already serving.”

Eli asks for prayer as she works through the last year of her PhD studies. Please pray that she can maintain self-discipline and use critical thinking throughout the process. Pray for her family in South Asia whom she misses and pray for good health for herself so she can finish up her studies well. Pray also for the Christians in Nepal who Eli will eventually work and serve beside, that they will remain strong in their faith as they train pastors to share the Gospel.

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