At the 62-year-old Berlin-Wittenau United Methodist Church in Germany, Africa University is a beloved mission beyond the local church. Using birthday and anniversary celebrations, seniors club gatherings and other events, the members of the congregation highlight and solicit gifts for the annual mission offering for Africa University. Their investment in Africa University is generous and consistent, and they’ve been doing it for more than 30 years.
“The connection between our congregation and Africa University is based on the work which Heinrich Meinhardt, our late pastor, did for the university,” said Rev. Anja Mueller, the church’s current pastor.
The size of the Berlin Wittenau United Methodist congregation is typical for Germany—around 60 members as well as an extended church family of 75, comprised of friends of the congregation and members’ relatives. Most of the members are senior citizens in their 70s and 80s. The congregation evolved from groups that began meeting in private houses in the 1950s, for prayer and mutual support. In 1957, they came together to build the church at Berlin-Wittenau.
For Rev. Uwe Onnen, a German and one of two leaders who currently represent the European Central Conference on the Africa University Board of Directors, Africa University is an important opportunity for engagement for European United Methodists.
“To be engaged in the work of Africa University (allows us) to cross borders and see more than just our local situation or country,” said Onnen. “Germany is one of the richest countries in the world, but it was once very poor, full of shame, and helpless. Others came and gave their helping hands and a lot of support. We haven’t forgotten that…our eyes are open to the needs of others.”
Even before Africa University opened in 1992, Heinrich Meinhardt and Martin E. Brose, a German theologian, kept the Berlin-Wittenau congregation and the wider United Methodist Church of Germany informed about the university’s progress, impact, and needs. Brose was a founding member of the Africa University Board of Directors and Meinhardt succeeded him on the board. They made presentations, organized concerts, hosted African students and leaders associated with the university, and urged United Methodists in Germany and throughout the European Central Conference to pray for and invest in Africa University.
Meinhardt’s wife, Birgit said “He brought the spirit of Africa University to our people…that of coming together as one to address common challenges. This is a wonderful way to keep the worldwide United Methodist Church together. To hear of thousands of dollars given by Annual Conferences in the United States is impressive. In comparison, our amount is very small, but Africa University is on the minds of our people.”
Birgit Meinhardt describes support for Africa University within the Berlin-Wittenau congregation as strong. Even if it is quieter since her husband’s death in December 2009, she says it is very much alive. Martin Brose, who still worships at the Berlin-Wittenau United Methodist Church, notes that the congregants are keenly interested in the individual stories of the graduates and the contributions they are making in Africa.
“The Africa University alumni are doing an excellent job in various African countries,” said Brose. “This proves that the investment of prayers and money is not in vain. Africa University is well-established and growing continually despite the very difficult political and social situation in Zimbabwe. ‘This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes’ (Ps. 118:23).”
Andra M. Stevens, Director, Communications, Africa University Development Office
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.