In my last post, I introduced you to a vital ministry brewing here in Zambia: African Christian University (ACU). I also made the bold claim that this school has the potential to put a real dent in the spiritual and material poverty in Africa. It may seem absurd that one school has such promise, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that it does. ACU, I believe, could be a major catalyst toward Africa’s solution. But before we talk solution, let’s look at the problem.
After 40 years of dumping trillions of western dollars into Africa, the continent is still struggling. Hurling money oversees hasn’t helped African in the long run. Such (often) mismanaged charity has created an attitude of dependency and stripped away the need or desire for self-sufficiency, not to mention fostered wide-spread corruption both inside and outside the church. Therefore, many experts locate the solution to Africa’s demise in three main areas: leadership, education, and the gospel. Here’s an oversimplified explanation.
Leadership has been a major problem across the continent, as African Economist George Ayittey pointed out quite thoroughly in his book Africa in Chaos. Bad African leadership has crippled the continent. The solution therefore is raising up a new generation of African leaders who will better manage the vast resources in the country. Such influential leaders, who can strategically fill such a weighty role, generally come from the educated class.
This leads to the second point: education. Many Africans who want (and can afford) quality education leave the country to get it, but then they typically don’t come back. What Africa needs, therefore, is to focus on improving higher education in Africa. Quality African education will cultivate a more sustainable solution to Africa’s problems. The hope of Africa lies in Africa.
But as a Christian, educated leadership may improve Africa’s material problem but it won’t change people’s hearts (which actually may end up hurting the material condition as well.) What is needed is theological education. But not just theological education that trains pastors—though this is still a tremendous need!—but liberal arts education that’s governed by a Christian worldview. We need doctors, engineers, lawyers, businesspeople, journalists, chemists, historians, and school teachers, who can receive a top-notch education in Africa that’s focused on the Lordship of Jesus in all things so that this next generation of leaders can transform Africa for Christ. All three areas (leadership, education, gospel) are necessary.
And all three areas beautifully converge at ACU. The school wants to provide a top of the line education in all subjects—including theology—that are taught from a Christian worldview. So when students study business, they will learn how businesses should reflect kingdom values and further God’s reign over the earth. Aspiring journalists will look into the complex fabric of human affairs and testify to God’s stamp on human nature and history. Chemists will cultivate worship as they explore the ingenuity of God’s creation. In all of this, ACU will maintain the same academic rigor of any university in the West. Africans won’t need to go to Europe or North America to receive credible training. They can just go to Zambia; they can go to ACU. And they can seek to bring Africa under the rule of Christ as they pursue gospel-centered vocations.
But this is just the beginning. Ken has come up with a “Student Labor Program,” where students will not only learn in the classroom, but on the ground. The ACU campus will provide opportunities for students to learn agriculture by farming the land and caring for livestock. They will learn value-added business skills by selling their goods that they harvested from the earth (think: creation mandate, Gen 2). They will learn basic work skills by taking ownership of their own campus: upkeep, repairs, and other operation needs. They will even learn how to run a fish-hatchery from the lake that Ken wants to build. In all this, these students—the future of Africa—will experience discipleship both inside and outside the classroom, so that they can go out and disciple others. In the long run, Ken wants to work himself out of a job. He would love to see ACU’s alumni return to the school to take
ownership of the project. How cool would it be to not only see the vision of ACU come to fruition, but ultimately see Zambians take ownership of the school.
Once again, I’m reminded that God is on the move around the world. Sometimes it’s tough to see this when we race around in our own little world with tunnel vision. I know, because I fall into that trap almost daily! I would love to see the global church reach across oceans to join arms with one another so that Jesus’ kingship over the globe would be unmistakable to the nations.