News

Professors discuss African missionary work

At the end of a silent, monotonously colored hallway, University of Miami faculty and a diverse cast of students gathered in a room abounding with African flags.

The African Student Union, founded on campus nearly 20 years ago, has begun its second annual Africa Week. Professors Patti Rose, David Kling and Margaret Marshall served as panelists at an event termed “Mission (Im)possible” Tuesday evening in the Mahoney-Pearson classrooms. The event aspired to give students a holistic view of the ups and downs of missionary work in Africa.

Rose, a professor of public health at UM, launched the event by speaking about her grandfather, Max Yergan. Yergan left his dreams of being a lawyer behind to do missionary work, becoming the first black American to conduct YMCA work in India in 1916.

Rose reminisced upon countless days spent studying her grandfather’s speeches in Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University. Rose talked about the viewpoints and perceptions of black missionaries in African communities.

“It is important to keep in mind the race issue here,” Rose said. “The whole notion of imposing Western values on them weren’t the same.”

In addition to India, Yergan went on to travel to East Africa, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam, meeting and gaining the respect of such luminaries as Mohandas Gandhi and W.E.B Dubois. He was one of the “Talented Ten,” and one of the first allowed in South Africa as a missionary.

Kling, a professor of religious studies, took a step back and admired the movement of religion in Africa.

Kling considers the spread of Christianity in Africa “one of the most fascinating episodes in recent history.”

Just a century ago, Africa only contained two percent of the world’s Christian population. Today 400 million of the world’s two billion Christians reside in Africa.

“Africa is the place where Christianity is growing at the fastest rate,” Kling said.

Kling emphasized the ability of Pentecostal churches to provide basic social structures and radical communities that the government cannot.

“Even the poor have found a place in these kinds of churches,” Kling said. “Women find a voice in these communities.”

Marshall, an associate professor of English, recalled her days as a peace corps volunteer in Kenya years ago.  She recalled how her Kenyan neighbors clearly identified themselves as Kenyan Christians, singing the same Bible hymns she did as a child to African beats.

“There’s a way in which the religion gets transposed, I guess you could say,” Marshall said, emphasizing the natives’ way of personalizing religions brought by missionaries.

Sophomore Feeta Caphart, a vice president of the African Student Union, believes missionary work in Africa is a large part of history and added a helpful tip for those looking to test out the waters.

“I think the first step would be to contact your local church, see if they can help you,” Caphart said.

Senior Krys Foster, the president of the organization, shared some of the vast dreams of the little club.

“We’re trying to get the word out in every way possible. We felt there were a lot of students who might be interested in missionary work,” said Foster, citing the example of UM students going to Ghana last semester.

The African Student Union will host an African dance lesson tonight in the UC Ballroom at 7 p.m.

They are also collecting donations and selling Ugandan beads in the UC breezeway, which will go toward their philanthropy to aid Africans affected by obstetric fistula.

November 12, 2008

Reporters

Kelly Vavra

Contributing News Writer


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Boston College star Ky Bowman came down with a 102-degree fever on Saturday night. Jordan Chatman an ...

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Sunday: ▪ New UM defensive coordinator Blake Baker has asked UM ...

Emese Hof and No. 20 Miami think they can play with anyone, and it shows. Hof scored 18 of her 25 po ...

New University of Miami baseball head coach Gino DiMare wanted to start strong. He got perfection. T ...

Former University of Miami star running back Mark Walton was arrested late Friday on a charge of mis ...

UM alumna Alina Mayo Azze, who has covered a myriad of topics during her 37-year career, has been a ...

Happiness and well-being scholar Tal Ben-Shahar is UM’s newest Distinguished Presidential Scholar. ...

The University of Miami will host the first symposium to explore LGBTQ human rights across the Ameri ...

UM experts react to a new ban that prohibits people in Key West from using certain types of sunscree ...

A matchmaker extraordinaire, Ricardo Cepeda, the manager of the UM Zebrafish Facility, is passionate ...

The No. 20 Miami women's basketball team stormed back from a 14-point deficit to pick up the bi ...

Brian Van Belle struck out five over six shutout innings to help the Canes sweep Rutgers on opening ...

The Hurricanes fell in Chestnut Hill, 64-57. ...

The sophomore first baseman slugged his second homer of the weekend to lead the Canes to a series wi ...

Junior Renate Grimstad led the way for Miami and is tied for 18th at one-over-par, while sophomore K ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.