|North Texas donates $500,000 to Africa University|
James Salley (right) accepts a $500,000 check from Bishop Alfred L. Norris Jr. and the United Methodist North Texas Annual (regional) Conference to establish a new student health center at Africa University. A UMNS photo by Milse Furtado.
By Joan LaBarr*
July 14, 2008 | DALLAS (UMNS)
The United Methodist North Texas Annual (regional) Conference has donated $500,000 to build a new student health center at Africa University, with plans to contribute another $500,000 to the Zimbabwe school.
During the conference's 2008 annual session, Bishop Alfred L. Norris led the "Africa Night" celebration at Hamilton Park United Methodist Church. The June 9 event celebrated ties with Africa University in Old Mutare.
"You have made history," said James Salley, accepting the check as vice president and director of institutional advancement for the United Methodist school. "This is the first time that an annual conference has done a major campaign and raised such a large amount in less than a year."
Of the $1 million campaign goal, the conference reported some $800,000 in gifts and pledges. A $5,000 offering was collected during the celebration. The additional funds are being collected to fund health science scholarships as part of the conference's 2007-08 Bishop’s Initiative for Africa University.
"It’s a significant gift for the North Texas Conference to make at one of the most challenging times politically in Zimbabwe. It says to us that the church is not backing away during a time of need. It’s good to know that we stand on the shoulders of The United Methodist Church and they can hold us up," Salley said.
"It’s a significant gift for the North Texas Conference to make at one of the most challenging times politically in Zimbabwe." –James Salley
Despite political and economic turmoil in Zimbabwe, Salley said there has been no interference with Africa University, which is still conducting classes, paying staff and graduating students.
"In the midst of chaos and confusion, when other people are saying 'no,' the church says 'yes,'" Salley said.
Salley said the new health center will resolve an immediate problem for Africa University, which has long outgrown its old student health clinic.
Blooming in the desert
Preaching on "blooming in the desert," Norris emphasized the need for spiritual irrigation and nourishment. He spoke about the 2008 Lenten study on Africa University, created by North Texas supporters of the campaign and calling it an experience of "bringing hope to our brothers and sisters in Africa."
The Lenten study included devotionals written by people who had traveled to Africa University in the summer of 2007, as well as other interested clergy and laity. As a part of the study, participants were asked to make sacrificial gifts to the Bishop's Initiative. These gifts, representing churches of all sizes, were included in the check presented to Salley.
In his sermon based on Isaiah 35:1-2, Norris noted Africa University's philosophy that deserts can bloom. He said those who take part in ministries such as the initiative provide such blossoming opportunities, both in Africa and in one's personal life. "Your life might be dry tonight, but God can stir up good gifts in you. You can bloom!" Norris declared.
Salley said the resources created by the conference––including the Lenten Study, the campaign process and the celebration––can serve as a model for other places.
Africa University was founded by The United Methodist Church in 1992 as the first private university in Zimbabwe. On June 7 at its 14th graduation ceremony, the school awarded 354 degrees to students from 16 different African countries.
*LaBarr is director of communications for the North Texas Annual Conference and editor of the conference's edition of the United Methodist Reporter.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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