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Bishop leads S.C. group to tour AU, launch hunger project

By Jessica Connor

“We will no longer just hear the story of Africa University as it is told. We will witness it in person.”

With those words, S.C. Resident Bishop Jonathan Holston is leading South Carolina United Methodists 8,000 miles across the globe. They are heading on a mission to understand our conference s connection to Africa University and witness the launch of a new sustainable agriculture program by Africans for Africans.

Holston will lead the trip Jan. 13-20, 2014, to Johannesburg and Africa University, in Zimbabwe. The trip is planned and inspired with involvement from South Carolina native James Salley, associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement for Africa University, as well as the Rev. John Culp, pastor of Virginia Wingard Memorial United Methodist Church, Columbia, who recently helped construct a UMC in nearby Malawi.

The class of new clergy ordinands will be going, and all United Methodists across the state (clergy and laity) are invited and encouraged to attend. Registration is going on now.

South Carolina has been intimately involved with the 21-year-old Africa University since the beginning. A South Carolina couple (the Kennedys of Bennettsville) gave the very first gift to open the university, which is a private, international higher education institution founded in March 1992 by the global UMC. South Carolina supporters also helped construct the Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey Faculty of Theology building and endowed four full scholarships in perpetuity for AU theology students.

But despite South Carolina s long history and investment with AU, Salley and Culp said the conference has never given 100 percent of its apportionments for the AU fund. For 2013, that amount is $38,445 for the whole conference “ just 29 cents a member annually.

Holston, Salley and Culp hope the trip will open people s eyes and hearts to the connection between South Carolina and AU, plus foster a new partnership for the better of the continent.

The January Africa University trip presents an extraordinary opportunity to experience the excitement of an international mission uniquely connected to South Carolina Methodism,  Holston told the Advocate. Perspective will be enlarged and ministry strengthened for years to come because of what one will witness on this tour. 

Stopping hunger ˜from an African perspective

Not only will people be able to see what their dollars and commitment have done at AU for all of Africa, but they also will witness the beginning of a new sustainable agriculture program that has the potential to solve hunger problems long-term on the continent.

Inspired by all the good the S.C. Conference did through its successful S.C. Hunger Project at Annual Conference in June, AU faculty and administration decided to launch a major hunger relief effort to kick off while Holston and the South Carolina team are in Africa. Part of what S.C. did at Annual Conference was a one-day meal-packing event through Stop Hunger Now, raising nearly $170,000 for global and local hunger relief and sending 285,000 meals to people in need.

Led by AU Vice Chancellor Fanuel Tagwira, the Faculty of Agriculture and the Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance are developing a new program that can deal with stopping hunger, but from an African perspective, Salley said.

We thought about launching a Stop Hunger Now program, doing what people in the U.S. are now doing and shipping meals to other countries, but when we looked at it and talked to our faculty and staff, we decided we would do something from an African perspective, a program that would have Africans doing for Africa,  Salley said.

The program is being defined now and is expected to involve AU students, faculty and staff along with the South Carolina team, he said.

When the mission team leaves, we want something that can be carried on the ground after them and can be transferred to other African countries,  Salley said. In addition to that, we want people to be able to see the fruit of their labor. We take trips to the Holy Land, we take trips to Alaska, we take trips all over to look at programs and projects, and now we want people to take a trip to Zimbabwe and actually be able to see the work of the church and in particular South Carolina and help launch what we think will be a new initiative. 

˜A crucial need

Culp said he thinks clergy and laity across the state should do whatever they can to go to Africa with the bishop. After all, Culp said, Africa is the growing church in global Christianity “ and AU is doing major things to improve the future of that continent.

When I went to Malawi, I learned the district superintendent of Malawi is a graduate of Africa University, and I saw the crucial need,  Culp said. Africa University is educating the leaders of the future of Africa in whatever field is needed “ nursing, education, everything. 

Culp was aghast to realize that in spite of its renown for making the first donation to AU, for building the Faculty of Theology and for endowing four full scholarships, the S.C. Conference as a whole has
not been a major financial supporter of the university. When I found out our conference has never paid 100 percent of our apportionments to Africa University, I felt we needed to encourage that,  Culp said.

Salley thinks South Carolina has not paid 100 percent to the AU fund because people are not fully aware of the connection between the conference and the university, and they do not understand all the tremendous good AU has done throughout Africa.

Now that we ve had 21 years of this ministry, we now see graduates who are in Africa and all over the continent making a difference in every walk of life,  Salley said. What we want is for people to actually be inspired to give that 100 percent. 

He said the trip to Africa is a huge opportunity for this conference, calling it a wonderful mission event that is mission and ministry at its best. 

Africa University in the DNA of South Carolina,  Salley said. Hopefully when they get there and participate in activities, there won t be any question about why we should continue to do what we do. 

About the trip

The itinerary starts in Johannesburg with visits to the Apartheid Museum, Hector Pietersen Museum and Mandela House. Then it is on to Mutare, Zimbabwe, with a stop at the Halfway House between Harare and Mutare. The group will visit Africa University next, then round out the trip at Fairfield Children s Home at the Old Mutare Mission.

All-inclusive prices start at $3,498 from Columbia. Registration is going on now, and the deadline to register without late fees is Sept. 30.

Besides the bishop, Salley, Culp and the new class of ordinands, many other clergy and laity from S.C. are also going on the trip. All are welcome.

Want to go on the Africa trip with Bishop Holston?

South Carolina will go to Africa Jan. 13-20, 2014. All-inclusive prices start at $3,498 from Columbia. The deadline without late fees is Sept. 30.

Clergy and laity are invited.

For more information, email eo@travelwithus.com , contact the episcopal office at 803-786-9486, or download the brochure at www.umcsc.org/blogposts/events/AF14_50255_Layout%201.pdf .

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