ESWA awards its first degrees

By Debbie Sacra | Liberia in West Africa

ESWA Graduate Seminary's first Master of Divinity graduates. Photo by SIM Liberia.

The Evangelical Seminary of West Africa (ESWA), a close partner of SIM Liberia, has awarded its first degrees.

The seminary’s inaugural cohort of Master’s degree students was inducted in September 2019. In early 2023, the first five of these scholars completed the rigorous requirements for their degree, including an oral doctrinal exam and defense of a research thesis. They graduated in March.

Dr. Rick Calenberg, along with his wife Carol, has been serving as the president of the seminary during its first years, recruiting and hosting many outside instructors to provide a robust curriculum. The Calenbergs spent 10 years at Jos Evangelical Theological Seminary in Nigeria and at Moody Bible Institute, then at Dallas Theological Seminary in the US. SIM Liberia workers Dr. Dee Grimes and Gene Brooks also teach and mentor at ESWA and two other families are “on the runway” to join them if housing and children’s schooling become available.

The seminary fills a critical need of the church in Liberia: to deepen Biblical knowledge and understanding within the local context and guard against false teaching. Master of Divinity degrees are offered with a specialisation in either pastoral and theological studies or educational administration and management. The testimony of Rev. Ben Suah, the top pastoral theology graduate, articulates the impact of ESWA for the church in Liberia. He says, “I now have a gospel lens through which to view all things including the culture around me. The congregation I pastor is now hearing the gospel preached and taught with rich applications for their lives…The entire Bible is now understood as one major story with intercanonical themes that find its ultimate fulfilment and resolution in Christ.”

Another graduate, Rev. Ugo Peterson, is passing along his learning to undergraduates at a local seminary. He also coordinates the ‘Paths to School Improvement’ programme at ESWA to train leaders of Christian schools in Liberia, in association with the Association of Christian Schools, International (ACSI) and SIM West Africa. The programme will bring international trainers to Liberia to help schools build curricula based on the Christian worldview and to improve academic standards.

The motto of ESWA is “Light your heart, impact your world.” The graduates will surely strengthen the church of Jesus Christ in Liberia as they lead churches and schools into deeper knowledge of God, and a clearer understanding of the gospel both through their example and their teaching.


Rev. Ugo Peterson receives his graduate hood. Photo by SIM Liberia.


These first years of operation have revealed the potential impact of a graduate level seminary in Liberia, but to continue operation the institution needs ongoing support to fund student scholarships, facility development, and essential operational expenses. For more information, explore their website at



•For the new graduates to apply their gospel-focused training in leadership of churches and educational institutions

•For new faculty to be able to begin service in Liberia soon

•For financial provision for scholarships, operations, and a new facility for the seminary.

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