Pender UMC: Faithfully Impacting the World

Twenty-five-year-old Astewale Ayaleneh is a first-generation college student from Ethiopia. He’s also the ninth student to attend Africa University with scholarship support from Pender United Methodist Church. In a recent letter to the Fairfax, VA-based congregation, Ayaleneh wrote about the experience.

“I am exposed to so many amazing and enriching experiences that I never thought would have been possible in my life…and though I may never get the opportunity to meet you in person to tell you just how grateful I am, I hope that these words convey clearly to you what a life changing gift you have given me and the benefit that educating me will have on my family and my country.” 25-year-old Astewale Ayaleneh is an agriculture student from Ethiopia and ninth Africa University student supported by Pender UMC to date.

Pender UMC provides an annual scholarship for an undergraduate student under Africa University’s Usahwira program. The scholarship and its impact are the focus of the congregation’s Easter Offering. Since 2002, Pender UMC has invested more than $85,000 through gifts for scholarships to Africa University.

“Pender (UMC) is a leader in the Virginia Conference and it’s certainly at the top of list in the conference for scholarship contributions to Africa University,” said Rev. Lloyd Rollins, a longstanding member of the congregation and consultant to the ongoing $50 million Campaign for Africa University.

“It’s astounding what happens when you tell people how and where their giving makes a difference… they are moved to give,” said Katie Chapin, the communications chairperson at Pender UMC. This year, the response from church members generated more than $19,000. It was the largest Easter Offering in 15 years and it will be split between Africa University and two other ministries—the work of Stephen’s Children in overcrowded, poverty-stricken urban communities in Egypt; and the Chris Atwood Foundation which offers recovery support and advocacy for people affected by addiction.

Chapin says that the mission of Pender UMC can be summed up in three words—follow, reach, transform. That mission inspires members to think about their impact outside the walls of the church, especially with children, students, and others who are living in challenging circumstances in the United States and around the world. It has led to initiatives such as Pender UMC’s $350,000 Faith Promise missions budget which provides annual support for 145 missionaries, 11 mission organizations, and eight mission projects in 36 countries.

In the case of Astewale Ayaleneh, the generosity of the members of Pender UMC is inspiring a desire to lead in transforming his country.

“My ambition is to improve the marketing system of Ethiopia’s agricultural sector that is currently underdeveloped, and as a result, is leading to the stagnation of the sector’s growth and development,” said Ayaleneh.  “Through driving this transformation, I plan to build a stronger agricultural base in my country…(and) create more avenues for employment and job creation for Ethiopia’s youth.”