Missionaries at Africa University train leaders to embrace an ever-changing world

By Larry and Jane Kies

February 2020 | ATLANTA

Jane and Larry Kies, serving Africa University in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe, since 2002, have been United Methodist missionaries since 1988 and 1980, respectively. Their first appointments in Zimbabwe, in 1994, were at Nyadire Mission. Larry teaches Agriculture and serves as technical advisor to the Africa University farm. Jane teaches an Intensive English course to students who come from non-English-speaking countries across Africa. This article is based on their missionary newsletters.

A new academic year began with a boost for Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe – the combined efforts of farm workers, students and staff resulted in an award for the Best Tertiary Institution display at the Manicaland Agricultural Show, and the Africa University farm won awards for Best Piggery and Best Rabbits.

The excitement took me (Larry) back to the Jesup, Iowa, Farmers’ Day, when I was about nine-years-old. My mom encouraged two of my brothers and me to each enter a dozen eggs in the produce section. I can still remember checking the results of the judging and running four blocks to tell Mom that our eggs had taken the top three positions! You can imagine the boosts to the self-confidence of we three farm boys.

It was only decades later, after we were grown and had finished college, that Mom confided to us that ours were the only three egg entries in the contest that year!

Sharing the abundance across campus

Professor Joel Nyabunze teaching teeth trimming to first year agricultural students, Africa University. Photo: Larry KiesProfessor Joel Nyabunze teaching teeth trimming to first year agricultural students, Africa University. Photo: Larry Kies
Winning the Best Piggery award not only boosted the market for the university’s breeding stock but also provided positive reinforcement for Joel Nyabunze, the university’s farm, piggery and poultry supervisor. In addition to the day-to-day management of these livestock units, Nyabunze loves to help instruct the students.

Professor Nyabunze has been working with Africa University since 1992 – almost from its beginning. He raised his family in a very small, humble house on campus. They’ve just moved into a newly built, larger house, thanks to funding from the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.

Some other recent agricultural activities have included buying a new fertilizer spreader and working on lining fish ponds to raise tilapia on campus.

We are also in the early stages of plans to expand the production of broiler chickens. Since the student body has grown, an increased demand by the campus food services for meat means that the farm’s thousand-birds-a-week facilities can no longer keep up.

This term has seen my largest first-year class ever in Practical Agriculture. Exciting! Of course, many are here only because of gifts to the scholarship fund; thank you to those who continue to help.

Preparing others to fulfill their ministries

Agricultural missionaries and agriculture professors from Africa University, meet at Global Ministries’ Agricultural Summit in South Africa, 2019. Left to right: Kutela Katembo (East Angola); Larry Kies (professor, missionary, AU); Temba Nkomozepi (Zambia); Professor Tagwira, AU; John Nday (Mozambique); Fatuma Kutela (West Angola); Lorraine Charinda (North Katanga, DRC); David Makobo Nshikala (Senegal). Photo: Courtesy of Larry KiesAgricultural missionaries and agriculture professors from Africa University, meet at Global Ministries’ Agricultural Summit in South Africa, 2019. Left to right: Kutela Katembo (East Angola); Larry Kies (professor, missionary, AU); Temba Nkomozepi (Zambia); Professor Tagwira, AU; John Nday (Mozambique); Fatuma Kutela (West Angola); Lorraine Charinda (North Katanga, DRC); David Makobo Nshikala (Senegal). Photo: Courtesy of Larry Kies
Larry and I (Jane) spend much of our days in classrooms and offices or walking on the farm and surrounding bush. Over the years, we have seen how contributions, large and small, have both provided encouragement and resulted in tremendous growth. These gifts impact the lives of countless young men and women from all over Africa who are preparing to become leaders.

One friendship we treasure is that of a young Nigerian Health Sciences graduate, Vincent Yohanna, who is now working as a Global Mission Fellow missionary in Ganta, Liberia. He is helping to set up a medical laboratory in Ganta United Methodist Hospital. So many young graduates with abundant talents collectively continue to invest in Africa’s future.

In January 2019, we flew to Johannesburg to attend a missionary conference on agriculture and the church in Africa. It was exciting to meet many Africa University agriculture students who have become missionaries, using their skills to lead agricultural development in other African countries as they live and teach the gospel in their communities.

We met other Africa University graduates who serve as missionaries in church planting, health care and other roles.

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Last year, two swallows made the ceiling of our veranda their chosen nest-building site. The previous year their efforts ended in disaster when, because of its weight, the nest detached from the ceiling and crashed to the ground. This year, when we saw that they were determined to give it another go, we gave them a little help by inserting wood screws in the ceiling, providing enough support that the birds successfully raised two young ones.

In the same vein, we know that it is our call as Christians in mission to work alongside local residents who are collectively building for themselves strong, resilient systems and communities.

A major goal of Africa University is to provide leaders who are prepared to cope with an ever-changing world, dealing with climate change and other challenges. Africa University continues to invest in Africa’s future.

Jane Kies was born in Zambia and Larry Kies in Iowa. They have four adult children, all born and raised in Africa.
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