New Milestone for Oak Ridge UMC Scholarship Effort

The Oak Ridge United Methodist Church scholarship initiative for Africa University has come full circle.

Over a period of 10 years, this Western North Carolina congregation has raised and gifted $73,622.00 in direct scholarship funds to Africa University. These gifts have helped six students to complete degree programs in agriculture, education, business, and economics.

"Annual gifts like the ones from Oak Ridge UMC and other local churches are crucial and they make a big difference in the lives of the students," said James Salley, Africa University's associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement.

Oak Ridge UMC is currently supporting its seventh scholarship beneficiary. The student, Levy Tshota Kayembe, is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. With the help of Oak Ridge UMC, he is pursuing an undergraduate degree in social sciences at Africa University.

Kayembe is an orphan who attended high school through the Child Action Initiative (CAI) education program; and the Child Action Initiative was founded by Esaie Njimbu Chot—the first Africa University student to receive a scholarship thanks to Oak Ridge UMC.

Ed and Bev Wentz, United Methodist Volunteers in Mission and members of Oak Ridge UMC, befriended Chot in 2005, while on assignment in Zimbabwe. Ed Wentz learned that Chot, a senior at Africa University at the time, was in danger of dropping out of school because of financial hardship.

Wentz and the pastor at that time, Rev. Dr. John Franklin Howard, made a scholarship appeal for Chot, and the Oak Ridge UMC – Africa University Scholarship Fund was born. Chat graduated in June 2006. He returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo and established the Child Action Initiative in order to help to care for and educate orphans.

For Rev. Dr. Michael Kurtz, who along with his wife, Rev. Karen Kurtz, has served Oak Ridge UMC since 2006, the congregation's effort to provide scholarships for students at Africa University is a fitting expression of its mission to make disciples through fervent outreach.

"What a beautiful thing to see the impact of Ed and Bev Wentz as mission interpreters, get to know and support Isaiah Chot in his ministry over the years, and watch our outreach multiply," said Kurtz. "It has been a two-way street and such a blessing for the congregation to have a hand in helping so many students."

In July, after a decade of ministry at Oak Ridge UMC, Rev. Dr. Kurtz and Rev. Kurtz moved to a new assignment in the Western North Carolina Conference.

In the 2015-2016 academic year, the university awarded more than $2 million in scholarships and financial aid to students—enabling them to remain in school and complete their education. One fourth of the funds awarded—about $500,000—were second-mile gifts to Africa University from United Methodist congregations.

Andra M. Stevens, Director, Communications, 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.