By Richard Straub
IGRC Africa University Committee Chair
The Bridge to……..
Let me ask you to do something. Use your imagination to place yourself in the character of a young adult. You’re standing on a road overlooking the entrance to a bridge. Here you are standing alone, dreaming that some day you might be able to cross over this very bridge to what awaits you on the other side.
No, this is not a bridge in some occupied territory where freedom to move about is restricted and you have to request permission to cross, nor is it a bridge that leads you to no particular place in the middle of an empty waste land. This is in deed a bridge leading to opportunities; a bridge that will help determine your future; a bridge to fulfill a desire that some day I can and will make a difference; a bridge that will not only impact me, but also my homeland and possibly the world.
What stands in front of me is a bridge that opens a pathway to an education; a bridge to pursue academic excellence; a bridge where dreams become a reality. What stands before me is the “Bridge to Dreams” just outside the grounds of Africa University in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe.
Unfortunately, this imaginative story line is a fallacy for far too many young African people. Standing at the entrance of the “Bridge to Dreams” are the barriers preventing so many students from crossing over to a land of educational opportunities. These barriers, standing in the way of prospective students, are created by extreme family hardships, overwhelming financial burdens, governmental conflicts and/or just living in a country stricken with poverty. The means of any education, yet alone, a college level education is way out of the realm of possibilities for so many. What is only a dream in the minds of many is found in the reality of lost hopes in achieving an education.
This is where so many of you and your Illinois Great Rivers Conference have made a difference in the lives of many African young people. Through your life of prayer, your faith of believing in the future of mankind, your priority in the value of an education, your willingness to serve the one true God of creation, and through your financial support of sponsorship and scholarship the churches and its members of the Illinois Great Rivers have and are making a difference.
Throughout Africa the IGRC has been involved in projects and campaigns to help alleviate the spread of malaria (Nothing but Nets and Imagine No Malaria initiatives); build and/or reconstruct schools, hospitals, orphanages, and churches; support the mission field and missionaries; sponsor children, youth and adults with academic scholarships; and help in the development of higher Academic Institutions, particularly Africa University, in Zimbabwe. .
Since the groundbreaking of Africa University took place in 1991 at Old Mutare this Illinois Great Rivers Conference and its predecessor conferences have been involved in “The Dream” of making Africa University possible. Mr. Jim Salley, Associate Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement for Africa University made comments in his 2014 IGRC Annual Conference address saying, “The Illinois Great Rivers Conference is in the DNA of Africa University.”
Most, if not all of you, know of the history and support our Methodist General Conference has had in helping make the dream of Africa University a reality. Our Illinois Great Rivers Conference has been equally instrumental in the history and development of this same dream for Africa University. From the beginning of Bishop Hartzell’s dream to the naming of the “Bridge to Dreams” in honor of Bishop Woodie and Mrs. Kim White to many other dedicated people: Rev. Wayne Hess; Bishop David Lawson and wife, Martha; Richard and Joyce Reeves; Jack Cramer-Heuerman; Bettie W. Story; to our present IGRC Bishop Jonathan Keaton, just to name a few from a list of so many.
2013 Annual Conference was a monumental year for continuing our IGRC connection with Africa University with the proposal of Legislative Item 129: Scholarships for Africa University. This item was overwhelmingly passed by the delegate members present on the floor identifying the “Making Dreams Possible” Endowment Scholarship. This $1,000,000 initiative is the latest commitment our conference has dedicated itself to in support of AU.
Since its time of introduction, at Annual Conference in 2013 to Annual Conference of 2014, your Africa University Committee members worked diligently to lay the ground works and strategies for implementing a coarse of action so “Making Dreams Possible” $1,000,000 Endowment Campaign could not only be realistic, but also achievable.
As proud as this conference can be with its involvement of Africa University we must go forth and continue our support for the future. Through our past and continuing Endowment Scholarships and Direct Scholarships to the present and future “Making Dreams Possible” Endowment Initiative (Advance # 6980), the success of AU depends on it; the lives of young people need it; and the future of Africa will benefit because of it.
Contributions to the “Making Dreams Possible” Endowment Scholarship can be made connecting to the IGRC Website at: www.igrc.org/AU and by clicking the Donate button at the bottom of the page or by direct mail to:
Illinois Great Rivers Conference
Attn: Cindy Welch
P.O. Box 19207
Springfield, IL 62794
Memo Line: IGRC Advance #6980
Thank you for your prayers, service and support for Africa University, and may they all continue now and into the future in making dreams possible.