An initiative designed to groom post-graduate students at Seventh-day Adventist universities in Africa saw its first graduation last week.
Earning master's degrees in pastoral theology and leadership from the Adventist University of Africa, the first 166 graduates of the program are seen as products of the Adventist Church's expansion of higher education in Africa, regional church leaders said.
In 2003, church education officials met in Tanzania, first to recommend establishing a postgraduate institution to meet the needs of students seeking Adventist higher education in Africa. They later decided to offer master's degrees through three existing church-run campuses across the continent: Babcock University in Nigeria, Solusi University in Zimbabwe and the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton in Kenya.
The program's shorter intensive classes were designed to appeal to students with jobs and families, university officials said.
Speaking during August 9 commencement services, Matthew Bediako, Adventist world church secretary, thanked the church's regional administration in Africa for supporting Adventist higher education and urged the graduates to exemplify courageous faith.
"The church in Africa needs leaders who will stand for the right," he said.
Gerry Karst, a world church vice president, told the graduates he remembered when church leaders first surveyed the land where the Adventist University of Africa's administrative headquarters are now located, near Nairobi, Kenya. "Seven years later here we are celebrating the first graduation," he said. "Be proud to be part of this historic moment."
Karst told the graduates to embrace the position of role model, challenging them to display faith young people can emulate.
As the master's program through the Adventist University of Africa grows, school administration plans to add two additional degree tracks: Biblical studies and theological-historical studies.