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Proud Africa University graduates celebrate role at General Conference

by Kathy Gilbert
April 27, 2012

For a few hours Thursday night (April 24) Africa University was transported to two rooms at the Marriot Hotel in Tampa, Fla., where graduates, students and friends of the United Methodist institution in Zimbabwe, Africa, gathered for a “drop in.”

It was the most joyous room anywhere near the 2012 United Methodist General Conference.

Jim Salley, director of the university’s development office, put out the word for AU grads to get together and the room was overflowing.

It was easy to find them, the traveling Africa University choir was in its element singing and dancing at the front of the room. It will be performing for the General Conference during the second week of the assembly’s meeting.
Emotions ran high as former Africa University professors—now United Methodist bishops—pointed to former students with pride saying, “He is a district superintendent. She is working on a doctorate degree in the U.S. He is a successful businessman.”

If someone wants to be a bishop in The United Methodist Church, Salley joked, first teach at Africa University. Bishop David Kekumba, Central Congo, and Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, Zimbabwe, both taught in the faculty of theology before being elected as bishops.

“The first students were courageous,” Nhiwatiwa said. “They arrived in buses and we weren’t ready. We took them on a tour and said ‘Here is where the library will be, here is where the classrooms will be.’”

One of those first students shouted, “Now we know” as the room exploded in laughter.

Africa University graduates are delegates, translators, marshals, pages and monitors at the 2012 worldwide assembly.

“I don’t know how they would have general conference without Africa University students,” Salley quipped.

This year the university will celebrate its 20th year. In 1988, General Conference approved the Africa Initiative, which provided $10 million in apportionment funding that quadrennium with the expectation that an additional $10 million would be raised through the World Service Special Gifts.

Africa University has been apportioned the same amount each quadrennium since its start and will ask for the same amount at the 2012 General Conference. That apportionment amounts to 29 cents per member per year.