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Bishop's Trip to Africa University

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."—Nelson Mandela

In January of this year, 39 people embarked on a remarkable trip led by Resident Bishop Jonathan Holston and his wife, Felecia.

We gathered in Atlanta and flew to Johannesburg, South Africa, crossing the equator, seven time zones and 8,000 miles. We then flew about 600 miles generally north to land in Zimbabwe's capital city, Harare, in the northeast corner of the country.

Zimbabwe is slightly larger than Georgia and the two Carolinas combined. Population is about 14 million, and the literacy is high at 84 percent. English is a common language, and the United States dollar is the main currency. Harare is a modern city with a population of about 1.5 million. Rural areas are less affluent, and the country is still restructuring from British rule, which ended in 1980.

Our primary mission was to visit Africa University near Mutare (the fourth largest city in Zimbabwe and about 165 miles south of Harare, population circa 400,000). It is the only private university in Zimbabwe.

Students and graduates have come from 29 different countries in Africa. There is a deliberate mixing of students from different regions in the classroom and in dormitories. Pan-African thinking is emphasized over a focus on local contexts. Graduates can and do work in a variety of settings and geographies. Leadership training is embedded in all of the programs of study.

Africa University's graduates are making a difference in Africa. For example, Dr. Tolbert Jallah (Liberia) is the Secretary General of the Christian Council of Churches in West Africa, Togo. He and essentially all of his leadership staff are AU graduates.

In Uganda, graduates are training peacekeepers in Sudan, an area of conflict. Several years ago, schoolgirls were kidnapped and abused in Uganda. One of those girls, who was age 14 at the time and abused for four months prior to escaping, is now an AU graduate. She has returned to Uganda as a social worker assisting refugees and abused women integrate back into society. She is also a strong advocate for women's rights.

A United States mining company hired 3 AU graduates several years ago to work in water reclamation from mining operations. The company was so pleased with the skills and leadership of these environmental engineers that they now employ 22 AU graduates. A missionary graduate from Senegal is the founding dean of an agricultural school in the Congo. He is working to develop new seed varieties suitable to local conditions.

We did have time to play tourist and visit Victoria Falls. The falls are impressive, roughly twice as high as Niagara at 354 feet and twice as wide as Horseshoe Falls (more than a mile wide, 5,604 feet).

Friends, our Bishop frequently challenges us with "what is your God sized vision?" Applying this question to AU and the Old Mutare Mission seems appropriate.

South Carolina, what is our God sized vision for these two valuable ministries?

Dr. David Braddon, South Carolina Annual Conference Advocate

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Fund pays for bishops' salaries, office and travel expenses, and pension and health-benefit coverage. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Episcopal Fund apportionment at 100 percent.

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