WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A team of six Americans from Wesley Foundation at Purdue University and First United Methodist Church in West Lafayette returned from a month-long mission trip earlier this year to three countries in Africa. One of the places we stayed and served was Africa University in Zimbabwe.

It was incredibly special to me to be at this particular AU graduation. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Africa University. I remember my home church raising money for AU’s genesis and singing a Cantata called “The Bridge to Dreams” in a choir at our Central Illinois Annual Conference to celebrate the new university. I still had my copy and presented it to Vice Chancellor Tagwira for their archives.

For my twentieth birthday that year, my parents gave me a United Methodist Hymnal with the gold Africa University logo adorning the front. I still have it and treasure it. I remember my heart being strangely warmed when I saw a flyer advertising a mission trip for students to go to Zimbabwe to help break ground for this new university. I was in college and wanted to go but decided I couldn’t afford it, and I always regretted it. I’ve been trying to make up for that ever since, and particularly in the past ten years! My husband, Glen, and I try to take as many college students as we can each time we go, and we help make sure they can afford it.

It’s amazing to me how much AU has grown in just twenty years, how much it has had to go through with Zimbabwe’s ups but mostly spiraling downs, and how much AU has impacted Africa and the world in those twenty years. It started in some old farm buildings with 40 students from six countries. Now there are more than 1,600 students from 28 African countries. To date, there are seven faculties offering 29 degrees, each with its own building.

There is also a beautiful chapel, an air-conditioned library, computer labs, dining hall, administration buildings, a nice clinic and numerous residence halls, including four built by Hoosier United Methodists. More residence halls, family units and faculty houses are in growing demand.

This year, more than 300 students graduated, with more than half of those being women, and nine of the top ten students were women. These advances in women’s education were highly lauded by the school’s vice chancellor in his graduation speech. It was an exciting graduation to attend.

Just think, there are more than 4,000 graduates of Africa University spread all across Africa and around the world making a difference in 38 countries, including the United States, because they dared to dream and we dared to dream. I’ve been blessed to see what several of these graduates are doing in churches, schools, NGOs, orphanages, hospitals, clinics and governments, and I can vouch that their dreams are definitely a worthy investment.

Lana J. Robyne serves as Co-Director of Wesley Foundation Campus Ministry and Pastor of Spiritual Growth and Campus Ministry at First United Methodist Church in West Lafayette. Readers can contact her at pastorlana@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy Lana Robyne

MUTARE, Zimbabwe – Purdue Wesley Foundation students share apples with Africa University students during their trip earlier this year to Africa University.

Some ways individuals, churches and districts can help students at AU:

  • Help fund a partial or full AU Scholarship: The yearly fee for one student annually at Africa University is $5,400;
  • Help fund a four-year Usahwira “Beautiful Friendship” Scholarship;
  • Consider helping a non-scholarship student, who is kept from taking exams or graduating due to a debt they have to the university. There is nothing more disheartening than hearing from students that they weren’t allowed to graduate;
  • Donate to the “Tooth Paste Club” that helps students get the toiletries they don’t have money to buy; and
  • Join us on our next Wesley Foundation mission trip to AU, hopefully in January or May 2014. Rev. Lana Robyne also can help you hook up with another team going if those times don’t work for you. You can contact her at pastorlana@gmail.com.