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Florida United Methodists learn their role in university’s success

Florida United Methodists learn their role in university’s success

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida United Methodists learn their role in university’s success

By Kitty Carpenter | April 27, 2010 {1166}

DAYTONA BEACH — Alumni, board members and other representatives of Africa University took part in the worship services of 17 United Methodist churches in three North Florida districts March 21.  

The “saturation event” for the United Methodist-related institution was held in conjunction with a March 23 meeting of the university’s advisory development committee in Jacksonville. 

What’s an education at Africa University worth? Elaine Jenkins (left) and the Rev. Yollande Samba Mavund can explain it, but from different perspectives. Jenkins is director of planned giving for the university, and Mavund is a graduate. Both women shared aspects of Africa University’s mission and story with members and guests at Stewart Memorial United Methodist Church March 21. Photo by Kitty Carpenter. Photo #10-1429. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery with longer description.

“We welcome this opportunity in the spring and the fall to say ‘thank you’ for the continued, faithful support of The United Methodist Church, without which Africa University would not exist,” said Elaine Jenkins, director of planned giving for the university. 

Jenkins, who works from the development office, based in Nashville, Tenn., spoke both to a Sunday School class and briefly during the worship service at Stewart Memorial United Methodist Church in Daytona Beach. She reminded the congregation that United Methodists have built institutions of higher learning on every continent, with Africa being the last.

“The investment in Africa University has been tremendous, and the stewardship of your support is exemplary,” Jenkins said. “Because of your commitment, Africa University is not only transforming a continent, it is transforming lives.”
Africa University opened in 1992 with 44 students studying in renovated farm buildings on the 1,500-acre campus located in the “Valley of Hope” in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe. Today, the university has 1,190 students from 28 African countries living and studying in 37 new buildings on campus. The university boasts more than 3,000 graduates in its 18-year history. It is also debt free and self-sustaining, with a working vegetable and pig farm, dairy, and water system.

Africa University has set a standard for education, Jenkins said, and every country in Africa wants an Africa University. While that option is not possible, she says, Africa University is establishing 18 distance-learning sites that will make higher education available to many more students across the continent.
Funding, Florida’s contribution

Although the university has many partners in education, Jenkins said, it depends highly on support from The United Methodist Church through a two-part, $20 million fund-raising effort every four years. Apportionments sent through the 34,000-plus United Methodist congregations account for the first $10 million and pay for the day-to-day operations of the university. This represents a gift of 29 cents per member. 

During the past four years, the Florida Conference has given an average of $91,200 through its apportionments. In addition, under the leadership of Bishop Hasbrouck Hughes, who was assigned to the Florida Conference from 1988 to 1996, a capital campaign allowed the Florida Conference to be the first to build a two-story dormitory on the campus. A maintenance endowment for the perpetual upkeep of the building was also established, and a scholarship was endowed in honor of Hughes.
Another $10 million is raised through World Service Special Gifts for a permanent endowment now totaling nearly $45 million. The earnings and interest from this endowment provide scholarships and other financial assistance to students and meet new programmatic needs.

Africa University’s Kwang Lim Chapel is one of the first buildings students and visitors see as they make their way up the university’s long drive. The chapel was built in 1996 with funding from Kwang Lim Methodist Church in Seoul, Korea, and reflects both Korean and African art. Photo courtesy of Africa University. Photo #10-1430. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery with longer description.

Approximately 80 percent of the students benefit from a mix of financial scholarships and work-study programs that goes toward an average yearly tuition of $5,200. When the “Zim dollar” failed in a devastated economy in Zimbawe recently, the need for scholarship assistance grew dramatically, Jenkins said.

The Rev. Dr. Walter Monroe, pastor at the Daytona Beach church, acknowledged that people sometimes find it is hard to contribute to apportionments without seeing how those funds are utilized.

“I am so very pleased that the constituents of The United Methodist Church have rallied together in a commitment to education for the people of Africa,” he said. “Today, we can see that we are making a difference in so many lives around the world in very positive ways.”
Changing lives

The measure of a university’s effectiveness is its graduates, Jenkins said — who they are and what they are doing now.

Today, the Rev. Yollande Samba Mavund is serving as the family advocate and surgery chaplain at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. She is also an elder in the South Congo-Zambia Conference of The United Methodist Church.

The 1999 Africa University graduate earned a divinity degree focused on counseling and then a master’s degree in theology from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. She is continuing her studies through Johns Hopkins University’s school of public health to expand her counseling and what she describes as “a ministry of compassion.”

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, Mavund was one of eight children. Here parents are Mpez Kayombo and the late Rev. Ziyil Kayombo, a United Methodist minister. In 1994, she left her home and family for the first time to attend Africa University.

Although Mavund is now fluent in seven languages, when she first began her university education, she spoke only French and Swahili and was given a roommate who spoke only Portuguese. The first year for all students is spent learning to speak, read and write English as a common language for communicating and learning. Mavund says it was a difficult year for her.

“At Africa University, I met God; I found him in others and I found him in myself,” she said to members and guests during the worship service. Being alone in a strange country and unable to communicate, she said, taught her patience and “to depend on God for everything.”

Africa University’s choir received first place for the 2006 National Arts Merit Award, given annually by the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe in recognition of outstanding achievements in the performing arts. The choir’s main function is to sing in weekly chapel services, leading the congregation in worship, but it also performs throughout the country and has annually toured the United States. Photo by Don Wood. Photo #10-1431. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery with longer description.

Equating the university to a “United Nations of African countries,” Mavund says she also learned about Christian humanity. Africa comprises 54 countries and a population that speaks more than 350 different languages, Mavund said, so for most of the students, studying and living with people from other countries is both a new and life-changing experience.
“My roommate and I could only communicate in gestures and expressions, but I had to learn to love this person. It was a journey of learning about faith through patience,” she said. “We learned we could still laugh and have compassion for each other during difficult times; we could still hug each other without words.” 

While growing up in the Congo, she said, rebels and soldiers from Rwanda and Burundi invaded her country many times and were considered absolute enemies. While attending school with students from these countries, she says she found brothers and sisters in Christ who had similar hopes, dreams and struggles. She now carries that love and humanity with her wherever she goes.   

Hands-on experience

Jim and Eleanor Crossley witnessed that love first hand.

After retiring, the Sun City Center United Methodist Church members spent one semester at Africa University in 1996 and then the 1997-1998 academic year there as United Methodist Volunteers in Mission. Mavund was a student then.

When Africa University opened in 1992, 44 students studied in renovated farm buildings on the current 1,500-care site in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe. Since then, more than 3,000 students have graduated from the university in its 18-year history. Photo courtesy of Africa University. Photo #10-1432. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery with longer description.

Jim was a member of the faculty, teaching business, and Eleanor worked in the library and with students needing help with English. They also helped coordinate the work of United Methodist Volunteers in Mission teams from the United States.

“We saw the great need for education in Africa, but also the need for students from different African cultures and backgrounds to cooperate and work with each other,” Jim said.

The Christian background of the university facilitated this cooperation, he said, and enabled students to return home with a love of all Africans, not just those in their own culture.

“We gained much more than we gave during our time there,” Jim said. “It was a life-changing experience.” 

The Crossleys were not involved in missions before their time in Africa, but since then, they have served as mission chairpersons in their local church and the South Central District. They’ve also participated in a variety of mission programs.
Paving the way

“The creation of Africa University has been one of the significant individual achievements of The United Methodist Church, and the university is making a positive impact upon Africa and the lives of Africans,” Florida Conference Bishop Timothy Whitaker said.

Whitaker made that statement March 23 in Jacksonville during a luncheon for members of Africa University’s board development committee, pastors of the Florida Conference churches university representatives visited, and other leaders associated with Africa University and The United Methodist Church.

Although the university cannot meet the educational needs of United Methodists for the entire continent, Whitaker said, “it plays a special role in being a school of quality where future leaders from several nations get to know one another as they share the common experience of studying at Africa University.”

The university offers graduate and undergraduate degrees in six areas — agriculture and natural resources, education, humanities and social sciences, health sciences, management and administration, and theology. It also offers an information technology training center and a certificate program in medical laboratory technology. Its Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance offers postgraduate diplomas and master’s programs. Photo courtesy of Africa University. Photo #10-1433. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery with longer description.

Following lunch, James H. Salley, associate vice-chancellor for institutional advancement at Africa University; Professor Artemus Gaye, a member of the advisory development committee; and Jenkins presented a resolution in memory of Dr. Donald M. Hill, the university’s first volunteer in mission scholar, to Dr. Lowell G. Kafer, who accepted the resolution on behalf of Hill’s wife, Kandace.

Donald Hill was a nationally recognized professor at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and became the first visiting scholar at Africa University in the 1993-1994 academic year, teaching accelerated math courses. He returned in 1996 to deliver lectures and participate in a building dedication. The committee honored Hill’s service, passion for mission and education, and Christian leadership. Hill died June 10, 2009, at age 66. Although Hill’s wife is relocating to Idaho, the framed resolution will be presented to the couples’ home church, Deer Lake United Methodist Church in Tallahassee.

Bishop Ernest S. Lyght, resident bishop of the West Virginia Conference and chairman of Africa University’s board development committee, led the luncheon; Bishop Marcus Matthews, resident bishop of the New York West Area, gave the benediction.
News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Carpenter is a freelance writer based in Palm Harbor, Fla.