Europeans help dreams come true at Africa University

Africa University might have been one man's dream, but it's helped thousands of men and women achieve their dreams in its nearly 25 years of existence.

It's quite possible that none of those dreams would be reality without the support European Methodists have given Africa University for not just 25 years, but more than 100 years.

It was 1907 when Africa Missionary Bishop Joseph Hartzell came to Norway and shared his vision of education for Rhodesia — what is present-day Zimbabwe. Later that year Norway sent the first Methodist mission group to Zimbabwe, where Africa University is located.

"Hartzell spoke to the people of Northern Europe, the young people heard him, took his words to heart and started working," said Tove Odland, a former African University board member and Norwegian representative on the General Board of Global Ministries.

That first trip was the beginning of Europeans bringing better, and higher, education to not just Zimbabwe, but the entire continent.

After visiting Africa University for the first time in 2007, Germany Episcopal Area Bishop Rosemarie Wenner said, "I was deeply impressed by the high standard of the facilities, the quality of academic life and the commitment of faculty members and students.

"Since then, I can prove that a dream came true."

Helping fuel those dreams was the late Rev. Heinrich Meinhardt, along with his wife, Birgit, and son Nils.

"Heinrich was the one who inspired us in Germany to catch the vision and strengthen the Pan-African University in Mutare," said Bishop Wenner. "Such a center for learning, peace building and spiritual formation is a blessing for the continent of Africa and for the world. Many former students and faculty members in Mutare remember Rev. Meinhardt with gratitude."

Birgit Meinhardt remembers how those first encouraging reports from Zimbabwe contributed to the momentum of what eventually became Africa University, which opened in 1992 and had its first graduating class in 1994.

"I remember there were some reservations against the dream of Africa University, but individual commitments and reports about the first steps in Zimbabwe opened the hearts of many people," she said. "Martin E. Brose (a German Theologian) was one of the witnesses, and he and Rev. Meinhardt couldn't stop talking about Africa University in our church."

Without Africa University, "I am sure that I would not have the mental maturity and spiritual growth that I have now," said Albert Walkili, an AU graduate who is a Global Mission Fellow serving as a youth and children's worker at Blanchardstown Methodist Church in Dublin, Ireland.

"Africa University has made a remarkable contribution to Africa and across the world in its first 25 years, often despite political and economic challenges within Zimbabwe," says Thomas Kemper, General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries. "It has fulfilled and kept the founding dream of a United Methodist Pan-African university, maintaining a broad representation in the student body and faculty."

Jeffrey Wolfe, freelance writing living in New Jersey

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Africa University Fund transforms Africa by educating and empowering students from across the continent through Africa University, the first fully accredited, United Methodist-related educational institution on the continent. The Africa University Fund supports the general operating expenses of Africa University including faculty and staff salaries and vital infrastructure. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Africa University Fund at 100 percent.