Today was the first day of classes for 2014!
If you’ve been reading my blog the past few weeks and the links I’ve been posting, some of the intro below will be repeat for you. But as a friend said following my giving this speech on Monday to our new and returning students to start off our year, “I read all that stuff but hadn’t thought of putting it together that way.”
My task was to give our students a vision for ACC and what we’re really about. I wanted them to know that we’re all counting on them for Africa’s future. What follows are my scripted notes. I thought it appropriate to share here…
THE MISSION AND PURPOSE OF AFRICAN CHRISTIAN COLLEGE
The BBC reports that yesterday in the Central Africa Republic capital, a mob of Christians killed and burned 2 Muslims in a roundabout – to avenge the murder of a Christian overnight. In a related story, another Christian man in CAR reports eating the flesh of another man out of revenge. In CAR, 20% of the people have already fled and violence and chaos rule.
In Africa Review recently, Charles Oyango-Obbo wrote, “In November last year, just a month ago, we were reading some optimistic stuff about South Sudan predicting that the country’s economy would grow by 30 per cent.
After the recent allegedly failed coup, and the falling out between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, South Sudan has been all but plunged into a vicious civil war. Now that projected 30 per cent growth, could well turn out to be minus 30 per cent.”
Kenya’s Deputy President is standing trail now, and the current president is due to stand trial next month on charges of fueling violence after disputed elections in 2007. During the conflict, about 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 displaced. This all comes after the country is shaken up by terrorist attacks on the Westgate mall in Septmember.
In Zimbabwe last week, police arrested an 18 year old for posting an insulting comment about its president on Facebook. This is not unique. All the while, the country wonders who will succeed its aging leader.
Africa foreign investment rose this past year and many new mining discoveries are still being found in countries like Zambia and Kenya. Last year, both Uganda and Mozambique discovered oil. And yet, the money never makes it to the people – poverty, hungry, access to water, healthcare, and education remains very low.
Instead, the pockets of politicians are lined with money. Retired politicians build fancy mansions, large hotels, restaurants, and businesses on their “lowly, civil servant’s salary.” Somehow, in retirement, they are suddenly wealthy. We know what this means. And it has been and continues to be harming the entire continent.
“In Burundi, there are concerns that the president is intent on scrapping the peace agreements that ended the civil war there with power-sharing and term-limits for the head of state.” (Obbo)
Research is showing that a new nutrition problem is emerging in Africa: over nutrition. The WHO predicts that by 2030, one fifth of Africans will be obese. Despite the fact that HIV/AIDS is the biggest cause of death in South Africa, cardiovascular disease is the second biggest. “The problem in Africa,” says Hester Vorster at North-West University in South Africa, “is that both under- and over-nutrition are the worst in the world. We really are facing a double burden.”
Again from Obbo: “In many ways, it was a very low point for Africa that its best vibe, and some of the most flowery praise it has ever heard, came from a death — that of Nelson Mandela.”
In Obbo’s interview with Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, we still hear hope. “Europe went through centuries of war and suffering, Africa too will take the same route. Things will get much worse, before they get better.” This is the voice of the Afro-optimist.
Although it may appear I’m negative about Africa, that’s not true. In fact, I count myself among the Afro-optimists. And, though we were encouraged to not remember the past, we must acknowledge the present circumstances that our homes and countries, leaders and citizens, friends and relatives are currently in. We must acknowledge the state of the church and the ways the kingdom of God is – and isn’t – impacting the daily lives of our continent.
I am an Afro-optimist because I know you.
According to a report from Fast Company,
“Africa has the world’s largest unmet demand for higher education. There are 200 million people aged 15-24, the youngest population in the world. This youth population is on track to double by 2045. But higher education enrolment of this population in Sub-Saharan Africa is just 5%, the lowest in the world…The remaining 190 million are out of luck.”
You are among the 5%.
You are now enrolled in higher education. You’re here to get a college degree – a Bachelor’s Degree. That’s important. Because, as you know, in many cases you’ll automatically be the next leaders for your communities and countries simply because you’re part of the 5% blessed to get an education.
African Christian College – those of us you see here and those you don’t see who make this place possible – is putting its hope in you. The 5%. The future. The ones who can make it different. You can be the ones to end poverty, overcome corruption, bring peace, spread God’s kingdom – all in Jesus’ name. You can be the ones Africa has been waiting for.
Kagame is right. It’s good change theory: things will get worse before they get better. But they won’t get better without leaders who are equipped for the challenges they will face. It’s my hope – it’s ACC’s hope – that you will be equipped for these challenges. Not just the challenges of preaching and communicating God’s Word; but of being the leaders Africa needs.
But ACC doesn’t just exist for you to get a college degree and be among the 5%.
Our real goal is for you to be formed much deeper than simply inside your mind and the things you can learn and experience. Our real goal is for “you to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you will be able to test and approve God’s will – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” In other words, we want you to become like Jesus.
Here, I hope you’ll get a first class education. That you’ll know what you need to know. That you’ll practice what you need to practice. But here are four other things that are on the priority list:
- Christian Character. The most important thing that can happen when you leave this place is that you are a person who loves God and loves other people. A friend has said that “nothing else matters.” Sometimes I think that is over-simplification. But, when thinking about it, he may just be right. If we’ll learn to really love God and really love other people, then everything else will fall into place. When you leave this place after your three years, we hope you’ll be people who deeply love God and deeply love other people.
- Servant Leadership. Servant leadership seems contradictory – a servant, a leader. Those don’t go together. And yet, that’s exactly what we want you to be. Why? Because Jesus came to serve, not to lord. And Jesus showed us to look to the needs of others instead of our own. Perhaps the answer to the lined pockets of politicians and corrupt political leaders – the answer to the big-headed egos of African heads of state who imprison their citizens for negative Facebook posts – is servant leadership. Being someone who empowers others. Who seeks to serve, not lord over. When you leave this place after your three years here, we hope you’ll be this kind of leader: a servant leader, who loves God and loves other people.
- Global Awareness. And we hope that you’ll have an understanding of the larger world in which we live. When you have an understanding of your world – locally, nationally, across the continent, and globally – you’ll be better prepared to really help, and to innovate for the good of those around you. You must know not only about the Bible, but also the world around you.
- Self–Sufficiency. This isn’t usually our favourite subject, but it needs to be said anyway, because I want you to know it clearly from the outset. When you leave this place and receive your degree, there will not be the contact information for some person or church in the USA or anywhere else that is going to send you support money the rest of your life. That’s not what we’re here for. I don’t think you expect that, but in case you do, it’s not going to happen. Instead, our goal is that you’re prepared to take care of yourself and your family. When you leave here after your three years, you should have the knowledge and skills to provide for your own needs – and the needs of those around you – without the support of others, that you’ll be an innovator of good with a global awareness, and a servant leader who deeply loves God and other people.
There are lots of biblical examples of God’s people in transition. Perhaps the most obvious one is the time of them wandering in the desert for years after leaving Egypt and on the way to the Promised Land. I wonder if our time at ACC is our wilderness – a time of transition and even preparation.
More like Jesus’ temptation at the beginning of his ministry. He fasted for 40 days to prepare for his life of ministry. You’ll spend about a 1,000 days at ACC. That’s a bit more, but you’re doing similar things to get prepared.
The caution, though, is this: when you leave this place you will also face the same temptations Jesus faced. You’ll be challenged to eat without having to follow the rules of huger or of agriculture – turn these stones to bread! To take risks without danger. To claim power without being rejected. These are temptations for us as leaders – and will be for you as leaders: to take for yourself that which you do not have a right. To be a lord, and take advantage of your position among the 5%.
My prayer – ACC’s prayer – is that you’ll stand against these temptations as Jesus did. Rather than choosing the glory he might, he chose the cross. And he called us to “take up your cross daily” and follow him. He’s the leader. We’re the followers and we point to Jesus, not ourselves.
But, in order to be ready for these temptations, you’ll need to spend your time at ACC considering what life will be like later. You’ll need to prepare and practice. So you can be ready. Get firm in your foundation as a servant leader, not a lord. Strengthen your love of God and your love of other people. Learn as much as you can, study hard, try new things.
It’s time for you to be who you’ve been waiting for.
As Mordecai said to Esther in Esther 4:14: “Who knows if you’re not in this position for such a time as this?!” I believe the same thing: you’re here – we’re all here – for such a time as this. Africa needs people like you. Rise up and allow God to use you to make Africa – and the whole world – a better place.