Bishop L. Jonathon Holston leads pilgrimage to Africa University

It had become an established tradition for Bishop L. Jonathan Holston to invite a group to join him to celebrate his birthday by visiting , witnessing and being with the students, faculty and staff of Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. The last time a group from South Carolina  visited Africa was in 2020, right before the COVID 19 Pandemic. Four years later, Bishop Holston and his wife Felicia have joyfully resumed their mission of sharing the good news of Africa University with South Carolinians and anyone invested in the school of dreams in the valley of hope, and in doing so , are uplifting what is fondly referred to by many as God’s Project, one that some doubted would be realized, but through the work of many, continues to thrive ,to educate and to transform Africa.

Leading a 42-member strong delegation of clergy and lay persons , the Holston group comprised of those who were regular visitors to the campus over the years since its inception in 1992, and those who were visiting Africa and the university for the very first time. One thing uniting  all in the group was their faith , belief and renewed commitment to Africa University.

Bishop Holston said ,“In everything that we see, do and touch at Africa University, one thing in which we unanimously agree is that we feel the presence of God in this place. The School of Dreams in the Valley of Hope, its works and its impact is a story that is known far and wide and it is a privilege to have the opportunity to see it for ourselves and to live this dream.”

Bishop L. Jonathan Holston speaks to faculty and staff during a presentation by the Vice Chancellor Reverend Professor Peter Mageto

Beginning with a tour of the campus and the myriad developments that have taken place since the group’s coming, faculty shared research and headway being made in the fight against Malaria on the continent and the critical role that the university plays in this effort, the strides being made towards enhancing food security through building robust agricultural foundations in communities,  as well as sharing in the spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship and passion that drives teaching, learning and research on the campus.

Members of the South Carolina Group observe live Mosquitoes at the AU ZENTO labs (Zimbabwe Entomological Support Programme in Malaria)

The Holston group also took time to  visit the Old Mutare Mission that holds a rich history of the involvement of the United Methodist Church in the area and the subsequent impact that it has had upon generations within the surrounding communities. A walk through the Mission hospital led by the Old Mutare Station Chair Reverend Tedious Mwadiwa and resident nurses, shed light on how the Mission hospital is working toward reducing maternal and infant mortality by providing all- round pre and post-natal care. A Dental Clinic and Outpatient ward also brings increased access to healthcare at an affordable cost to patients in rural communities. The tour ended with a visit to the Fairfield Children’s Home that caters for children as young as 5 weeks old into young adulthood with wards only released from the home’s care after the completion of their first university degree.

A number of children from the Fairfield Children’s Home have acquired advanced qualifications from Africa University with the two sharing strong connections through a shared vision for empowerment and the development of the African child. In testimony of this, the tour of the Home was led by former resident and Africa University graduate Juliet Sithole who is currently a graduate trainee at Africa University.

A fellowship dinner followed that gave room to the sharing of experiences on being at Africa University. Also present in fellowship were students supported by the South Carolina Conference as well as students in the Praise the Lord Choir who provided wonderful entertainment throughout the dinner with praise and worship songs from different parts of the Continent. Moved and uplifted, a number of members made generous donations and pledges to the ongoing work of the university in supporting student access and success through scholarships and financial aid. Vice Chancellor Reverend Professor Peter Mageto shared his appreciation and that of the university community for the tireless support and love shown to the institution that has added impetus to the impact of AU.

Members also had the opportunity to engage in meaningful interactions with faculty, gaining insight into how they could further give back through the cross transfer of skills and expertise, tapping into the vast experience of those who have served in higher education and development spaces to craft programs, researches and learning platforms that enhance the student experience and progression.