Twenty-five-year-old Astewale Ayaleneh is a first-generation college student from Ethiopia. He's also the ninth student to attend Africa University with scholarship support from Pender United Methodist Church.
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.
In a recent letter to the Fairfax, VA-based congregation, Astewale writes about the experience.
"I am exposed to so many amazing and enriching experiences that I never thought would have been possible in my life…and though I may never get the opportunity to meet you in person to tell you just how grateful I am, I hope that these words convey clearly to you what a life changing gift you have given me and the benefit that educating me will have on my family and my country."
Pender UMC provides an annual scholarship for an undergraduate student under Africa University's Usahwira program. The scholarship and its impact are the focus of the congregation's Easter Offering. Since 2002, Pender UMC has invested more than $85,000 through gifts for scholarships to Africa University.
"Pender (UMC) is a leader in the Virginia Conference and it's certainly at the top of list in the conference for scholarship contributions to Africa University," said Rev. Lloyd Rollins, a longstanding member of the congregation and consultant to the ongoing $50 million Campaign for Africa University. (and heads the Africa University Campaign Office in Fulton, MD.)
"It's astounding what happens when you tell people how and where their giving makes a difference… they are moved to give," said Katie Chapin, the church's communications chairperson. This year, the response from church members generated more than $19,000. It was the largest Easter Offering in 15 years and will be split between Africa University and two other ministries—the work of Stephen's Children in overcrowded, poverty-stricken urban communities in Egypt, and the Chris Atwood Foundation with recovery support and advocacy for people affected by addiction.
Chapin says that the mission of Pender UMC can be summed up in three words—follow, reach, transform. That mission inspires members about their impact outside the walls of the church, especially with children, students, and others who are living in challenging circumstances in the United States and around the world. It has led to initiatives such as Pender UMC's $350,000 Faith Promise missions budget which provides annual support for 145 missionaries, 11 mission organizations, and eight mission projects in 36 countries.
Andra Stevens, director of communications in the 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.