Iowa Conference Invests in Worship and Hospitality at AU

The Iowa Annual Conference has gifted more than $45,000 to Africa University to complete the kitchen at the Ubuntu Retreat Center—a facility that hosts training events, short-term visitors, work teams and seminar/workshop leaders and participants.

The eight districts of the conference collaborated to raise the funds and delivered their gifts during the opening worship at the Iowa Annual Conference on Saturday, June 8. The offering surpassed the conference's original goal of $40,000.

"Our trip to Africa University in the fall of 2018, and especially the hospitality that we experienced, inspired our district superintendents to lead the fundraising," said Bishop Laurie Haller. "In addition, one of the laypersons on our trip, Darline Demmel, inspired her local church, St. Timothy's UMC in Cedar Rapids, to purchase 500 copies of The Faith We Sing for the Africa University chapel."

Staff and students began using the new hymnals during Sunday and Wednesday morning community worship services in July. Their first song from the hymnals was a campus favorite and staple in the repertoire of the Africa University Choir and the student-led Praise the Lord Choir, "Siyahamba" (a South African freedom song usually translated as "We are marching in the light of God").

While serving as superintendent of the Grand Rapids District of the West Michigan Conference, Bishop Haller led a campaign to raise $500,000 for the construction of the Ubuntu Retreat Center at Africa University. About 450 churches in West Michigan contributed to the $500,000 gift, which was then matched by an anonymous donor, bringing the total to $1 million.

The 24-room facility welcomed its first group of guests in February 2016 and has become a focal point for community building, while generating significant savings, great reviews, and goodwill for the university.

Elaine Jenkins, former director of planned giving, Africa University Development Office

A World Service Special Gift is a designated financial contribution made by an individual, local church, organization, district or annual conference to a project authorized as such by the Connectional Table. Current World Service Special Gifts projects include the Africa University Endowment Fund, the Leonard Perryman Communications Scholarship for Ethnic Minority Students, the Methodist Global Education Fund, the National Anti-Gambling Project and the Lay Missionary Planting Network.