Multiplication in South Asia: From student to scholar to teacher

Francis Mathew is a Langham Scholar from South Asia, currently pursuing a PhD in Old Testament from Bristol Baptist College through the University of Aberdeen in the UK. He is also married to Medonuo Zhotso and is a full-time father to their super active (soon-to-be) two-year-old son, Asher Lev.

Francis has been impacted by the multiplying effect of Langham Scholar Dr. Havilah Dharamraj – who invested in someone who in turn invested in Francis! He has also benefited from teaching and mentoring from Dr. Havilah.  

Empowered and supported by Langham Partnership

Francis encountered Langham Partnership while studying at theological college. While he was doing postgraduate studies he was taught by Dr. Havilah and Dr. Paul Windsor (current Langham Preaching Director). Francis recalls, “I was seriously impressed by the little I knew of Langham’s investment into training scholars from the Global South.”

These instrumental people as well as others empowered Francis to apply for a scholarship from Langham to support his PhD studies. He says, “By God’s grace, I got through and I have been a Langham Scholar since 2021.” 

Becoming a Langham Scholar has brought Francis so many great things that support him and enable his research. He shares, “Firstly, the financial grant that I continue to receive from Langham allows me to pursue my doctoral studies at a world-class university. Without this support, I cannot imagine in my wildest dreams pursuing a PhD program with a foreign university.” 

Francis continues, “Secondly, I am always grateful to Langham for the pastoral care they have provided (and continue to do so) for me. Text messages and timely calls from Dr Rico Villanueva (Scholar Care Coordinator) have been a strength in my academic journey.”

This pastoral care has also included generous hospitality from Langham team members who hosted Francis when he visited the UK. In addition to community with the team at Langham, Francis has also benefited from connecting with other scholars like him. He says, “Although I have only met a few fellow Langham scholars (both in-person and online), there is such a warmth in getting to know them and their stories. I look forward with much anticipation to academic and ministerial collaborations in the future with some of them.”

Old stories creating new responses

Francis’s research explores the Old Testament and its stories of violence against women, particularly sexual violence, and the ‘silence’ of God in these narratives. His research will go a long way to inform the pastoral response of his country to victims of sexual abuse, as well as guide faithful advocacy in contexts where women face growing violence. 

The journey to this topic has been a series of discoveries, starting with a module on Methods of Biblical Interpretation taught by Dr. Havilah while Francis was studying for his Master of Theology (MTh). 

He says, “My final paper engaged in an intertextual reading of the rape narratives of Dinah (Genesis 34) and Tamar (2 Samual 13). This inspired me to consider doing my MTh Thesis along the same lines.”

For his thesis, Francis engaged in a narrative and intertextual reading of the three rape narratives in the Old Testament (Genesis 34, Judges 19, 2 Samuel 13) with a particular focus on the characterization of the perpetrators, victims, and third parties in these stories in relation to the representation of rape plots in popular art forms from his region. 

This initial research led him to his PhD research area. Francis explains, “I discovered that there is a significant gap in the rape studies in the Old Testament with regard to the attention given to the silence and absence of God in these stories. It is this enquiry that spurred my doctoral research. Currently, I am in the third year of my PhD studies and I am working on my second core chapter that seeks to understand the silence of God in the rape of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13.” 

Ripples of change for life and research

Looking to the future, Francis wants to see his work shape thinking and action. He shares, “I hope the findings of my research can contribute in some way to the Old Testament scholarship, particularly in my country and in the area of rape studies and theodicy. I also hope that my research can aid in some meaningful way to the ongoing pastoral care of rape victims and their families in the church with regard to their questions of God in their crises.”

After finishing his PhD, Francis aims to be a full-time faculty member at the theological college in his region where he was greatly impacted by teachers like Dr. Havilah. He hopes to teach in the Old Testament department and invest in the ongoing discipleship of students on campus, as well as be involved with local church and ministry. Currently, he works as a Faculty-in-Training at the college and is also the lead pastor of Mercy Vineyard Church, which will be a role he steps down from when he has finished his studies. 

Please pray for Francis as he conducts this important research, and for all the responsibilities he currently has. Please also pray for his future, that God might continue to work powerfully through him. 

Learn more about supporting Scholars like Francis.

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