"Africa University has become a 10th university in our family," says the Rev. Michael Selleck, director of connectional ministries for the North Georgia Annual Conference. "We have nine United Methodist colleges and universities in Georgia. They are a blessing to us."
What makes the conference's support of Africa University and the nine United Methodist colleges in Georgia so distinctive, Selleck says, "is the generosity of the people in our local churches and the leadership of our clergy who see the value of education."
Ben Hill United Methodist church in Atlanta is an example. It is one of many North Georgia congregations with a strong record of 100-percent giving to all of the denomination's apportioned funds, particularly Africa University.
Rich Jordan, administrative board chair at Ben Hill, says support for the university dates back to Bishop Felton E. May's challenge in 1991 to predominantly African-American churches to support Africa University. Support for Africa University continues today "to make possible education for students who are our future leaders," Jordan says. "It helps bond the church universal.
"Ben Hill has always had a love for giving and answers a big challenge with a God-size response," he adds. The congregation made a $300,000 pledge to build a women's residence hall and placed the commitment within the church annual budget. The church activated a fundraising campaign and made quarterly payments to Africa University.
"More than 100 members attended [the residence hall's] dedication in 2002," Jordan says. "We now have a personal bond and ongoing relationship with Africa University."
Ben Hill provided an independent scholarship to a United Methodist minister from Mutare to attend seminary in Atlanta. As a special initiative, the congregation also endowed the salary for a professor at Africa University for one year. "We placed this expense in our annual budget to ensure fulfillment," Jordan explains.
"Our mission ministry ensures that a dedicated Africa University offering is taken annually," he continues. "Supporting Africa University ensures that deserving students, including those from low- to moderate-income families, can obtain a quality education."
"We know that long-term health and education is the beginning of any real change," Selleck says. "We can bring in bricks and mortar, but they can't compare to what a strong, sound university can provide a community, a country and a continent."
Heather Peck Travis, freelance writer based in Glasgow, Ky.
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.