Wow. I thought today would be a little more low-key than others. God had other things in mind. Literally, a packed day. After breakfast, we had a tour from a 4th year Africa University. We arrived yesterday evening as I may have pointed out.
The tour showed a beautiful campus, much like a small liberal arts college back home. The similarities between a campus like Central Methodist University (CMU) and Africa University were pretty striking. I am prayerful that with some encouragement, conversations, and God’s hand, the two institutions can work more closely together in the future. There’s lots of possibilities here from health sciences/nursing to some of the arts.
After the tour, we met with some financial aid staff and scholarship committee members to learn about the selection processes of various financial aid opportunities. In a nutshell, the Missouri Annual Conference has an endowment at AU in honor of former bishop Ann Sherer to where two Mozambican students are allowed to attend AU on scholarship. In addition to this endowment, it is worth noting that each bishop in Africa gets to select up to four students who get a full scholarship, two in theology and two in other degree areas. Bishop Nhanala, they reported, always selects her students – which is wonderful!
After lunch, the surprise and moving moments came. First, we met with Memory, one of the two beneficiaries currently on our endowment’s scholarship. Memory was shy, a bit quiet, awesome, and from the Tete district. After a conversation and sharing why we wanted to meet with her, we offered to pray for her. After our prayer, Memory thanked us and our conference with tears in her eyes. She hopes to work for an organization like “Save The Children” where she completed an internship for last year. While she isn’t United Methodist (and this isn’t a requirement for the endowed scholarship) – Mozambique will be a better place when she graduates. In a “small world” moment, we found out her Ezy knows her mother who works for World Vision in Tete.
We then spent more than an hour and a half with 15 of the Mozambican students attending AU. About half were theology students, some of them current ordained pastors in Mozambique who are furthering their education and have served many churches. This was a great time. After learning about them, we offered to answer questions they had of us about the American church. Questions/answers included our (overall) decline in Christianity/Methodism, how churches are reaching new people (bar churches, worship in other venues), the number of bishops in America, and how the worship styles compared. We concluded with me asking them to go around and answer what their favorite and least favorite classes were at AU. Answers of favorite classes included Old Testament, New Testament, Evangelism, Clinical Psychology, Christian History, and English as a second language. Common least favorite classes included Hebrew and Greek and Mathematics.
A beautiful sunset atop one of the mountains concluded our day with dinner.
It’s been fun to see Ezy reunited with old friends, professors, and employees of AU – he has been “lit up” and just shining for the last 36 hours.
One last story, during our tour of the campus we learned that at any point, AU has approximately 2,500 students with between 20-31 African countries represented. AU mandates that first year students be roommates with people who are from a different country. English is the common language (Zimbabwe’s national language) but often times students don’t learn this until coming to the University. This forces students of different ethnicities, languages, cultures to embrace and appreciate each other’s traditions in ways that I can only imagine. How wonderful would it be if we did this? Instead, we (including me) are paired with roommates who have similar interests. This struck me as we think, understand, and move forward with how partisan our society has become. We read only news we agree with. We talk only in person to those who we agree with. AU and this model challenges that in ways that break down barriers and make everyone uncomfortable.
I’ll maybe touch on this tomorrow or Monday, but if we were all more uncomfortable, vulnerable, and awkward with each other --- the world, I think, would be a better place. Nothing about this roommate model is comfortable, but our tour guide said she has heard nothing but positive experiences. We have much to learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ so far away.