March 15, 2023
The ABF six-country tour of Africa has come to an end. As I stated in an earlier email, understanding and explaining ABF’s programs in Africa is complicated. Naturally beautiful – and also complex. Also, please feel free to share this email with others.
Without a doubt, ABF is supporting tremendous good throughout the regions of Africa where we have programs. ABF provides life changing scholarships to Christian Scientists who use their education and knowledge to bless themselves, their families, their communities, their churches, and sometimes even their counties. Their stories are inspiring and clearly illuminate why ABF has these programs. I look forward to sharing more of these stories with you over the coming year through the ABF website, social media posts, and a special Zoom meeting we will host in late April or May. More details about the special Zoom meeting will be shared as they become available.
One such example is Japhet Tekila. Japhet grew up in Christian Science and was able to attend the local CSO at the University of Kinshasa as a high school student, because his high school academic program let him take courses at the university while enrolled in high school. Japhet went on to study law at the same University of Kinshasa with ABF’s support. He has worked in Parliament and now works with the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo along with the President’s team. He advises on subjects related to international law. Japhet has shared copies of Science & Health with others in the President’s office, when there has been an interest. That said, Japhet also shared that it is not always easy to talk to others about Christian Science in the office of the President. Japhet was empathic that his success is a result of what he has learned through Christian Science.
Mary Darlin from Nairobi is another great example. Because there was no Christian Science church near where she grew up, Mary Darlin’s early exposure to Christian Science was through reading Christian Science books she received from her father When her family moved to Nairobi, she joined the Christian Science Church in Nairobi and started attending Sunday School. ABF supported Mary Darlin with her bachelor’s degree in actuarial science. After completing an internship, she learned of a job opportunity from her former Sunday School teacher. Within a week, Mary Darlin submitted her resume, interviewed, was hired, and started work at a company that supports transfer pricing with a focus on corporate income tax for multinational clients. Although her bachelor’s degree is not directly related to her position, Mary Darlin’s strong work ethic and character led her to be promoted to Assistant Manager ahead of others at the company who had been there much longer. Mary Darlin says, and I quote: “Thank God for Christian Science!” and “Mind is not limited, so I am not either.” What a joy to meet these ABF beneficiaries!
ABF is also providing life changing scholarships to Africans who united with their local Christian Science churches, but now represent a broad range in their practice of Christian Science. This is perhaps no different than elsewhere in the world. These ABF beneficiaries are blessing themselves, their families, and their communities, but may not be active in their branch churches. In some cases, their job requires them to live in a location that is hours away from the closest Christian Science church or society.
Unfortunately, attempted fraud within Africa has existed in that past and continues to exist. Applicants who clearly do not meet the ABF criteria continue to apply for grants from ABF. On a very positive note, ABF has a strong team supporting our African programs and has put many practices and processes into place to ensure we are reviewing authentic applications from practicing Christian Scientists. I really should say we have strong African teams, since each country (or region) essentially operates individually with Dominique and Lamech. The ABF program in each country depends on our In-Country Representative (ICR) to validate applications and applicants. Where we have strong ICR’s, we have strong programs. It is also interesting to note that in the majority of the countries where ABF operates, we really only operate in (or receive applications from) one or two cities/regions in the country where there is an active Christian Science church or society.
Divine Love met our needs throughout the entire trip. One favorite example was when our initial plans to drive from Yaoundé to Douala fell through. The car and driver that had been hired to drive us between these cities abruptly cancelled and gave no reason. Mr. Oliver, Founder and Executive Director of the Olialima Ecole Internationale de Musique, learned of our need and reserved four direct flight plane tickets from Yaoundé to Douala for $440 USD. The was a perfect solution. The previous night, Lamech and I found airline tickets between the two cities on the internet that were priced at $4,400 USD – or ten times as much! When Mr. Oliver learned of our need, he used his local expertise to assist us. Mr. Oliver even took a taxi to meet us at our hotel that morning, walked with us to get cash from an ATM, then walked with us to purchase the tickets at the nearby airline office. Although Mr. Oliver is not a Christian Scientist, it was easy to see Divine Love expressed through him. It should not be surprising that he has a Christian Science hymnal on his desk, which he uses with our ABF students that attend his school.
By the numbers, we:
- Visited six countries (Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo)
- Visited eleven Christian Science Churches and Societies
- Met with students from the Ndejje University CSO
- Shared information on ABF and answered questions with twelve separate groups of Christian Scientists
- Met, learned the stories of, and gathered feedback from 54 ABF beneficiaries (graduates and current students)
- Met with and interviewed 19 current and former ABF ICR’s
- Visited eleven universities and vocational schools
- Visited six primary schools and two secondary schools
- Shared Christian Science books and blue chalk with 13 Christian Science churches and societies & with two Christian Science schools
- Met with officials from three African banks
Through the many discussions with these individuals and groups, I have gathered over 150 pages of notes, suggestions, and recommendations. Robin has a similar amount of notes. The following are a few of the initial themes:
- Create an ABF African Alumni Association for our African Beneficiaries (AAAA).
- Investigate a method for former ABF Beneficiaries to financially donate to ABF in support of current African students. Almost all of our former students do not have credit cards or checkbooks, so the current ABF methods used to solicit donations are unusable for them.
- Consider starting a pilot mentoring program for our African students, since employment after graduation is a significant issue. This program would need to be led by a person in Africa.
- Better communication with students and alums using the WhatsApp mobile application.
On several occasions, I saw young children joyfully pushing a tire down their street (dirt road). What a different and beautiful world!