Members Step Forward with Gifts for Scholarship

The members of Pender United Methodist Church in Fairfax, Virginia have been investing annually in direct scholarship support for students at Africa University since 2002. To date, the congregation has invested more than $90,000 and helped nine students to acquire and return to their home countries with crucial professional skills.

Each year, the church would designate funds from its Easter offering for its scholarship at Africa University. This April, with restrictions in place due to the impact of COVID-19, there was no in-person Easter service and therefore, no offering.

With the approval of the pastor at the time, Rev. Margaret T. Kutz, congregant and Africa University consultant, Rev. Lloyd Rollins got creative. He and his family made personal contributions towards the $6,000 that was needed and approached other families in the church to do the same.

Members like Theresa P. Carpenter, the church’s music director, and her husband James, responded generously.

Theresa Carpenter and her husband, Jim, gave in support of the annual scholarship.“We look at this gift as an investment,” said Carpenter. “What we have will always go to good regardless of what is going on at a specific moment. I was there at Africa University in 2006 and I saw what was happening, spoke with the students at the time, and know how big a difference scholarships make.”

The current beneficiary of the Pender UMC Usahwira scholarship at Africa University is 23-year-old Betelhem Getenet Birehanu, an orphan and agribusiness major from Ethiopia. She completed the first year of her degree program in June and has remained on campus due to lack of resources for travel and the impact of the pandemic.

“Challenges that have been generations in the making can’t be dealt with overnight,” said Rollins. “It takes time and sustained effort to transform communities. We can’t let this pandemic interrupt the flow of education to young people who are already grasping at straws to get access to education anyway.”

Pender UMC also supports a school in South Sudan. A female student from that school will begin her college journey at Africa University in August.