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A Global Partnership: Supporting education in Africa

01.21.16 | Outreach, Africa | by Lisa Tichenor

A Global Partnership: Supporting education in Africa

    HPUMC has supported student scholarships since 2007 through our Global Outreach funding.

    Africa University Choir performs at HPUMC

    Sunday, February 7 | Sanctuary, Cornerstone, and The Feast
    HPUMC is honored to host the Africa University Choir for the 2nd time.12 members of this talented group of singers from 5 different African countries will be singing favorite hymns and worship music in Cornerstone, the Sanctuary, and The Feast. Come experience a joyous sound!

    As a 31-year-old delegate to the 1988 United Methodist General Conference, I was introduced to a brand new initiative of the global church – the creation of an institution called Africa University. This seemed a logical and important investment for the UMC, with our historical commitment to education. It would be our first institution of higher education on the entire continent of Africa.

    During my time at General Conference I made a point to meet the people crafting this idea, because I was intrigued with its possibilities. As a result, later that year I was asked to serve on the founding advisory development committee in the United States.

    My responsibility initially was to spread the word about Africa University’s formation in the South Central Jurisdiction of the UMC, including Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. Once the doors of the university opened in 1992 with 40 students, I began to connect churches and church members more directly with AU.  

    In 2007, I co-chaired the North Texas Conference effort to raise money for a health clinic and for student scholarships. At the completion of this million-dollar campaign in 2009, our group traveled to Zimbabwe for the dedication of the clinic and the blessing of the scholarships.

    For 21 years I had worked on behalf of the university from afar, hearing stories of the difference it was making on the continent of Africa. But when I set foot on campus for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of all that had been accomplished by the United Methodist Church in its vision for Africa University. It was a glorious moment!

    In 2008, the Africa University Choir came to North Texas to visit churches and share the story of AU. One of the choir members, Hugo, was a scholarship recipient of Highland Park United Methodist Church. Just recently Hugo let me know how important this scholarship was for him, and how he is living his life as a result:

    “It was my fourth year when I got to know my sponsors as Highland Park United Methodist Church. I am forever grateful for their support and for changing my life and for being a church that’s been used by Christ to solve problems of under privileged people like me. I don’t know what to give back to HPUMC, but I hope the little things I am doing to show my appreciation would make them proud. As a way of showing gratitude to both GOD and HPUMC, I am committed to support singles mothers and widows with running small business. I always make small savings to support these women with capital, and with my knowledge of economics I gained at Africa University.”

    Last year Paul Rasmussen, who knew of my long-standing involvement with Africa University, began to discuss a trip to get to know AU students and meet other African partners in ministry. The trip also included Rev. Adam Hamilton from the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas. Rasmussen and Hamilton spent several days preaching, teaching, and learning from the students and staff of AU. We all came to understand that the university is a world-class education, as students are admitted into graduate programs throughout the world.

    The student experience has room for improvement, and our church has already begun to fill that need with a gift of a large sport court area to support intermural sports. HPUMC has supported student scholarships since 2007 through our Global Outreach funding. We currently support seven students at a tuition cost of $6,000 per year. That may sound like a bargain to U.S. students, but to many in Africa it might as well be a billion dollars. The students overcome obstacles we can’t even imagine, and when they succeed, like Hugo, they feel committed to helping others in return.

    The university has grown steadily with broad support from the United Methodist Church. Currently, over 1,400 students from 26 different countries are enrolled in Africa University, and the school boasts 6,000 graduates from 31 countries throughout the continent.

    That said, there are still many people who don’t know the story of this wonderful place. I’m grateful that my church continues to be a leader in committing much-needed resources and in telling the story so that others can join hands to change the world through the footprint of Africa University.

    Lisa Tichenor is the president of the QuadW Foundation, formed when she and her husband, Mac, lost their son Willie to osteosarcoma. She graduated from the University of Texas in Austin with a BBA in finance. She serves as a patient advocate for the NCI Pediatric and Adolescent Solid Tumor Steering Committee, NCI Patient Advocate Steering Committee, and on the External Advisory Board for the CPRIT Metastatic Osteosarcoma Grant. Lisa is a founding member of the advisory development committee for Africa University, a pan-African institution of higher education in Zimbabwe. She runs a community garden, and enjoys cycling, snow skiing, hiking, reading, being with friends and making pies.

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