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Africa University endowment reaches $44 million

Bishop Ernest Lyght (right) leads the Africa University Advisory Development Committee meeting Feb. 26 in Los Angeles. UMNS photos by Linda Green.

By Linda Green*
March 6, 2008 | LOS ANGELES (UMNS)

The Rev. Kenneth Lutgen Jr. listens as Larry Powell shares how the Desert Southwest Annual Conference has endowed a chair at Africa University.

United Methodist churches and annual conferences increased their giving to Africa University by 2 percent in 2007 and helped the Zimbabwe school's endowment reach $44 million.

The 16-year-old university, though challenged by Zimbabwe's astronomical inflation rate, is managing to cope with political and economic crises, according to a report delivered Feb. 26 to the Africa University Development Advisory Committee.

"Africa University is the hope of Africa when it comes to education," said West Virginia Bishop Ernest Lyght, committee chairperson. "Some people in The United Methodist Church are uncomfortable talking about money, but how can you be Methodist and not talk about money?"

The committee's primary task is to help the university's development office and its board of directors raise "gifts of love" for the pan-African, United Methodist-related school in Mutare. Africa University is home to 1,400 students representing 26 countries.

Leaders say the university has managed to continue operating amidst national chaos because the Zimbabwean government has not interfered with school operations and because of generous giving to the school's endowment. The $44 million endowment reached beyond the projected $40 million to be raised by 2012.

Local churches and annual conferences gave $2.3 million to the university fund in 2007, a 2 percent increase over 2006, while local churches, annual conferences and individuals provided $459,628 in endowed scholarships to date for the 2007-2008 academic year. Another $377,613 was raised for direct scholarships to students, which is $100,000 more than the same period last year. Churches, conferences and individuals also have launched campaigns for direct and endowed scholarships, endowed chairs, dormitories, a student health clinic and staff housing.

"The Africa University farm is our lifeline," said James Salley, the school's associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement. "The biggest consumer of our farm products is the university dining hall and our students. The Lord knew that Zimbabwe would be where it is today, so Africa University was founded in chicken coops and barns built on the old farm of Old Mutare Mission. God knew and God prepared."

Apportionments praise

The committee gave special thanks to churches and annual conferences in the Northeastern Jurisdiction for paying 100 percent or more of their apportionment asking for Africa University in 2007. Two conferences paid beyond their apportionment goal: West Virginia paid 129 percent and New York paid 109 percent. For the first time, Eastern Pennsylvania paid 100 percent of its apportionments, increasing its giving from 72 percent; Greater New Jersey increased from 88 to 100 percent; North Central New York went from 79 to 100 percent; and New England increased from 89 to 100 percent.

"This is the first time in recent years that an entire jurisdiction has paid an apportionment at 100 percent on any of the apportionments," said Ken Sloane, director of communications ministry at United Methodist Communications. "In spite of the challenges that the churches in the (jurisdiction) face, Africa University continues to be a cause that excites people."

Bishop Marcus Matthews (from right), the Rev. Henry Masters, Jen Rooney and Angella Current-Felder listen to a presentation.

Not every annual conference in the Northeast jurisdiction was able to pay 100 percent to the Africa University Fund, Sloane said, "but because some conferences exceeded their 100 percent asking, the jurisdiction can celebrate what they connectionally did together."

"We still believe that it is possible to have all jurisdictions give 100 percent of the apportionments to Africa University in 2008," Salley said. "We will continue to press on in order to have Africa University become the first fund of the church to reach 100 percent." In an effort to increase online giving, the development office redesigned its Web site.

Stories of hope

During the meeting, committee members affirmed Africa University for its work in offering hope and peace, changing lives, and serving as an instrument of God to change the world. They were encouraged to share these stories to help others in the church catch the school's vision.

Last December, the university appointed faculty member Fanuel Tagwira as interim chief in the wake of Vice Chancellor Rukudzo Murapa's retirement. Salley and Tagwira, the school's dean of the faculty of agriculture and natural resources, have been working together to shepherd the school in the areas of student life, academic support, faculty and staff salaries and maintenance.

In other actions, committee members learned that:

  • The Zimbabwe presidential election in scheduled for March 29;
  • A search committee has begun its work to find a new vice chancellor for Africa University;
  • A natural resources study has launched on campus;
  • Artemus Gaye, a Liberian graduate of Africa University and member of the development committee, was the subject of a Feb. 4 PBS documentary called "Prince Among Slaves";
  • The 15-member Africa University choir is scheduled to tour the United States as part of the 2008 General Conference, the church's top legislative meeting being held this spring in Fort Worth, Texas. The choir will sing April 29 at General Conference and provide music at a banquet honoring Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and then tour the North Texas Conference for a week before departing for a May 11-19 tour of Germany;
  • Africa University's satellite campus in Maputo, Mozambique, will be dedicated March 31. The project is a collaborative effort with the Methodist University of São Paulo, Brazil, and the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry with funding from the Methodist Global Education Fund for Leadership Development. Maputo is the first of five planned satellite campuses for Africa University. Other proposed sites are in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone.

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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