Bishop Marcus Matthews must have said the word "dream" a dozen times that day. It just kept coming up in conversation.
The six-member Baltimore-Washington Conference delegation checked into Africa University's new Ubuntu Retreat Center on the school's campus in Mutare, Zimbabwe, last summer. The beautiful new center was, the bishop said, the dream of the Rev. Laurie Haller, a former district superintendent in Michigan who had a dream of a retreat center to build global spirituality and hospitality.
She shared her dream with the people of the Grand Rapids District in West Michigan, who raised $500,000 to build the facility. An anonymous donor was inspired by their vision and contributed a matching $500,000.
"That's one person's dream – shared with a district and it now stands as a reality," Bishop Matthews said.
In Southern Africa, Ubuntu means "human kindness." It's often translated as a bond of sharing that connects all humanity.
Matthews embraced the spirit of ubuntu as he signed more than 700 2016 graduation certificates. Forty percent of the students at Africa University are international. It is a source of pride for him that The United Methodist Church dreamed of, and built, such an institution.
He remembers rising to his feet when the idea of Africa University was proposed at General Conference in 1988. He remembers the groundbreaking ceremony in 1991, at which one acacia tree was planted.
Such fruit that symbolic tree has borne; it's almost beyond one's dreams.
That evening, the delegation was invited to a lovely meal at the home of Africa University's Vice Chancellor Munashe Furusa and his wife, Professor Zanele Furusa, who were also guests of the BWC at their 2016 Annual Conference Session.
Amid the rose garden, pool, tennis courts and vegetable gardens that make the house so special, Furusa shared some of his dreams of "creating systems for human interactions." His ambition is to raise up the university and its students to be exceptional and to help in the creation of a united Africa not divided by cultures. The dreams flowed with the evening's conversations.
Shortly after arrival on the campus, the Rev. Maidstone Mulenga pointed out a path that leads to a large white cross on a mountain.
Here's where the legend kicks in. In 1898, Bishop Joseph Crane Hartzell, a missionary bishop to Africa, stood atop Mt. Chiremba. Overlooking Old Mutare, down in the valley below, he envisioned hundreds of African youth with books in their hands running to school.
Today, in that valley, lies Africa University, the Hartzell School, an institution for students in grades 1-13, a small 60-bed hospital, an orphanage, and an agricultural program. The cross marks the spot where Hartzell dreamed.
Watching Bishop Matthews interact with the students at Africa University it's clear – the dreams are still unfolding and the dreamers are living out a Spirit-born vision.
Melissa Lauber, Director of Communication, Baltimore-Washington AC
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.