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The Dodge Family Love Affair

It made perfect sense that Dr. Ed Dodge would recommend his family go on a climb of Mt. Chiremba in Zimbabwe. The view from Mt. Chiremba was magnificent, and so was the family's historic sojourn to Zimbabwe.

For Ed Dodge, it was a call to Africa that began what is now 80-year love affair.

Dodge's parents, Bishop Ralph and Mrs. Eunice Dodge, first went to Angola in 1936. He was only three months old when they left the United States to begin their life-long passion, and eight decades of ministry and service.  In 1956, six years after Rev. Ralph Dodge was appointed to administer the work of the Methodist Board of Missions in Africa and Europe, he became the first Methodist Bishop, and the only American missionary ever elected Bishop by the Africa Central Conference.

This growing passion for serving others was the legacy Dr. Dodge inherited. It would continue years later, in his role as Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Africa University. This commitment continued for one semester a year until 2015, when at age 79 Dr. Dodge retired.  Through the years he maintained ties with students, faculty members and other friends made in Zimbabwe. This ongoing relationship was one of the reasons Dr. Dodge, and his fifteen-member family traveled to AU for graduation this year.  "We wanted to get in touch with the rich family legacy left by my parents as a result of their work in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) decades ago," said Dr. Dodge. "Although much of this was a re-visit for me, it was a first-time, onsite kind of experience for my children and grandchildren."

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In addition to retracing three generations of Dodge family ties to Africa, it also meant the family would learn more about his work in the Faculty of Health Sciences at AU, and his role in shaping the department's understanding of healthy foods. They were equally impressed with the university's upcoming project to model and teach healthy lifestyles across the continent. Eighteen-year-old granddaughter, Bayush Alford commented, "The chance to go to AU to me meant a chance to contextualize the history that I'd heard so much about for years. And BOY, did it deliver!"

This trip was a homecoming and a celebration of giving back for three generations of the Dodge family. It was a time for connecting to family roots.  The day visit to the Old Mutare Mission, the Ehnes Memorial Church, key to much of Bishop Dodge's ministry, and the family memorial moment spent in the garden-like setting of the AU campus entrance, were all impressions the Dodge family would never forget.

Bayush said, "I've gained so much from this experience.  Getting to meet actual people who said "Your grandfather has done so much for me." Or, "Your great grandfather changed the game in Zimbabwe!" It changed the way I saw the church. Great gramps is called 'the Revolutionary Bishop' because of the way he changed the way Zimbabweans viewed themselves."  She continued, "One Zimbabwean I spoke to said, "I remember your great-grandfather saying ' If these people [Zimbabweans] can run the church, then they can run the country' and I thought, by God, he's right!" Knowing that he was willing and able to do all that, and gladly, makes me proud to be a part of this family." 

Africa University alumni, about 8,800, continue making disciples and addressing the challenges of hunger, poverty, disease and conflict.  These images and more for the Dodge family, would fuel the future of a continuing love affair.

Celinda J. Hughes, Freelance Writer for 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.

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