PITTSBURG - The Rev. Mande Muyombo, a self-described boy from the 'hood in the Congo, now works for peace in his home country thanks to a calling from God and Africa University.
"I understand the meaning of resurrection through Africa University," he told Western Pa. United Methodists recently.
Muyombo, the first-born of 16 children of a polygamist father who made the equivalent of about $30 a month, said growing up his family had one meal a day, if they could. "I could have been a child soldier.but I felt a call to ministry," he said, "and Africa University made me a preacher."
"The first day (at AU), I could not speak any word of English. There are 350 dialects in the Congo. People cannot understand one another. That why you hear about tribal conflict."
Through an intensive course in English, he said, "I could communicate with brothers from countries I was told were my enemies. Now all of us go to our homes and tell them that there is no difference between Congolese, Rwandans. We are all human beings and we deserve to live in peace."
Muyombo said Africa University changed his life and as an Elder who recently earned a master's degree in peace, leadership and government he is committed to working for peace in his homeland. He sometimes interacts with fellow graduates in other nations who have the same goal.
"Education is civilizing and it civilized me," he said. "I was able to rise from the 'hood'."
Approved in 1988
The 1988 General Conference approved starting a university in Zimbabwe despite the objections of at least one delegate who said, "It would be like pouring money down a rat hole."
Associate Vice Chancellor James Salley said, the university opened with programs (faculties) in agriculture and natural resources in renovated buildings on Old Mutare Farm in what's known as the Valley of Hope.
Salley said, "Today, there are 1,300 students, 320 staff members, 26 buildings and four more under construction, a balanced budget, clean audit and no debt!" The school offers undergraduate degrees in six disciplines and graduate degrees in agriculture, management, theology, health sciences, and peace, leadership and government.
"It's all because of people who decided to be the church in the world," Salley said.
Africa University has become a powerful source of hope and an agent for positive change on the continent, he said.
"Peace is the sole purpose and mission (of the new Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance)," Salley said, and "the mission is to find ways to help people to live together, learn how to govern themselves and live together without going to war."
He said the cost of educating one student for one year at Africa U. is about $5,400 (US). Several individuals and congregations in the United States support students. A one-time gift of $116,000 will fully fund one student in perpetuity, he added.
Because Zimbabwe currently has the highest inflation rate in the world, the university began accepting fees in U.S. currency in January.
"The good news is that a number of students have been able to pay their fees," Salley said. "Some had to drop out. Sometimes all an individual needs is $50 or $100, and we are able to provide that. The hope for Zimbabwe is in its citizens. They are a very resilient people." And Africa University is a beacon of hope for the nation and the continent,.
"That's because it's a symbol of how life can be better. This is how you can change generations, how you can change a continent."
For more information about planned giving at Africa University, contact Elaine Jenkins at 615-340-7428 or e-mail here at firstname.lastname@example.org.