On Wednesday, the Hope Africa University family paused to remember its first Rector. Bishop Dr. Elie Buconyori was one of the originators of the idea of a Christian University in central Africa that would train Africans to “face African realities”. Students, professors, church members, and various representatives from the community (including the First Lady) were present outside the Ngagara FMC to mark one year since Buconyori’s death.
Despite the loss of Buconyori’s leadership, HAU continues to grow.From a few hundred students at its beginning, the school has grown to almost 5000 students. Buconyori was always looking for ways to expand the school’s academic offerings. When the government would come to him requesting training for doctors, he agreed to start the medical school. When engineers were needed to oversee improvements to the country’s damaged infrastructure, HAU began its Engineering Department. This sort of rapid expansion was scary for many stakeholders, but we learned to allow Africans to lead the way and asked God to increase our faith! Bishop Elie was not only casting the vision for what HAU might become and might offer but he was also often the one showing the specific steps that could be followed to arrive at that goal.
At the same time, Buconyori served as Bishop of the Burundi Free Methodist Church. His leadership was informed by a lifetime of study and spiritual preparation. He also filled leadership roles in the international Counsel of FM Bishops. These diverse roles were not easy and demanded much travel. I was impressed, however, that Elie always took time to listen and tried to tune in to the heart issues of the people with whom he worked. Meetings became opportunities to seek the Lord’s will or to give encouragement.
Bishop Elie was encouraging to our family as we wrestled with the idea of serving in Africa. We had many questions and concerns which he patiently addressed. I will never forget his words during my exploratory trip in 2010: “I’m going to pray that God sends you here and provides a way for you to be here…and I have never seen my prayers go unanswered!” That prayer was answered and our introduction to the people of Burundi is fruit of Bishop Elie’s ministry.
A Word From Our Rector
The current Rector of HAU, Dr. Gerald Bates, reported on this special anniversary. Here are some edited excerpts from his report…
“Wednesday of this week was the one-year memorial service for the founder/rector of Hope Africa University, Bishop Dr. Elie Alexander Buconyori, who died a year ago on Easter. A quadrangle of tents were set up around the grave site, on the grounds of the Ngagara Free Methodist Church adjacent to the campus. There were probably a thousand people present. His life is an easy one to celebrate because he was a truly great man–churchman, a man of prayer, educator, visionary, leader, linguist, internationalist, counselor to many, as well as husband, father, grandfather–and a longtime friend to many of us.
I was honored to be asked by the family to speak on behalf of the university and as a friend. My thoughts went to this honored memory as of a man who was a truly ‘kingdom’ person as defined by Jesus in his charter of the kingdom in Luke 4 and how Bishop Elie’s vision is bearing fruit in the continued life of this institution called Hope which, through its education and healing ministries mirrors the elements of the kingdom–hope for the poor, healing, sight for the blind, restoration of life to those who would be effectively dead, the salt and light represented by our graduates, pouring leadership into the church, the gospel pervasively present in every part of the institution.
I am in administration and know well a lot of the warts and imperfections. The truth is, however, that the more we are here, the more we see and know, the more excited we get over the kingdom impact of this remarkable tool for witness and good.”
The many professors, administrators, staff, and students of HAU need your prayers. There are challenges that seem insurmountable at times. Like Buconyori, we want to see the God-inspired possibilities and have the courage to step out in faith. Thank you for partnering with us, with HAU, and with God to bless Burundi.