Our mission at Abilene Christian University is to “educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.” Our core work is to equip students so they can make a real difference in the world, and the story of the African Christian College (ACC) is just one example of how we hope to educate Christians to change the world.
The History of African Christian College
African Christian College is 50 years old, and it got its start as a preacher training school designed to prepare native South Africans with the education needed to be preachers. With roots in the Church of Christ, the Swaziland school held its first class in 1967.
The school was nearly shut down at one point due to a lack of funds, but a gentleman named Joy Lea Brazell and several other people of faith saw God at work in Swaziland. Brazell was sent by the church overseeing the support of ACC to close it down, send everyone home, and sell the land. That may have been the church’s plan – to shut the school down – but it wasn’t God’s plan.
Brazell said, “God’s at work. I can’t do this. He came back to the church and said, ‘I didn’t sell anything, and I didn’t send anyone home. We’ve got to find a way to make this work.’” There still was the question of how to support the school, and a member of a nearby church in South Africa suggested macadamia nuts. In 1997, the “Tree of Life Project” was born with the planting of macadamia trees on campus, and today more than 14,000 trees exist. They’re being farmed, and now most of the school’s operating expenditures come from the sale of macadamia oil from the nuts harvested on the school’s grounds.
Originally called the Manzini Bible School, the school changed its name to African Christian College in 2007. It was at this point that ACC launched a new vision to be more than just a preaching school — the goal was to become a Christian university serving South Africa.
African Christian College Today
Today, ACC offers an accredited undergraduate program. Currently, they offer a Bachelor of Theology degree with majors in counseling, leadership, and ministry. The school is small but vibrant and now has 45 students enrolled in its program. Instead of doing a four-year program, students earn their degree in a three-year, intensive program that has fewer breaks than the typical American bachelor’s program.
At this time, faculty and staff members and their families, as well as students and their families, all live on campus together. According to Brad Carter, President of ACC, “we believe strongly that families need to be together. We’re not just studying. We’re not just getting a piece of paper, but we’re working to transform lives…if we’re going to help a student grow in that way, the family needs to be there growing along with them… So, we’re studying together. We’re working together. We’re worshiping together, and we’re just kind of doing life together.”
The ACC and ACU Connections
In many ways, ACC and ACU are sister schools — they both have Church of Christ roots. Most importantly, the two schools share the same vision. According to President Carter, “We’re a small school in Africa, but we do share the same roots in the Church of Christ and the Stone-Campbell movement. We also share similar ideals for what we want from our students and graduates and how we want them to impact the kingdom of God.”
Through the years the two institutions have been intertwined in many ways. The relationship between ACU and ACC really began developing within the past 15 years with the involvement of Dr. Ira Hill, a graduate of ACU and a sitting ACC board member. He was the one who started more of the formal partnerships between the two schools, inviting ACU teachers to give visiting lectures in Africa and using his own network of relationships at ACU to further the cause of ACC. In fact, when ACU remodeled their library, a significant amount of that furniture and even books from the library were sent to Swaziland to help ACC.
President Carter has his own connections with ACU. According to Carter, “I was a student at ACU starting in 1997, I finished my undergrad in 2000, and then went on to complete my Master of Arts in Religion there, working full time for the university as I worked on my master’s.”
A new way the two schools are connecting is by ACC partnering with ACU as a means of educating their staff. ACU is providing full scholarships to several ACC staff members to earn their graduate degrees. Currently, five staff members at ACC are enrolled with ACU; three in the MBA program, one in the Master of Education in Higher Education, and one in the Graduate School of Theology. “We’re working towards students, staff, faculty members, and future leaders getting their master’s degrees and doctoral degrees so they’ll be fully qualified in the academic environment. We’re really excited to be partnered with Abilene Christian University in making that happen.”
Additional information about these five students and their stories will follow in future articles.
A Vision for the Future
Beyond the exciting things that are happening at African Christian College today, the school has an inspiring vision for its future. Their goal is to increase the number of students from 45 to 300. President Carter also envisions adding five more programs to the college. From there, the vision is to set up satellite schools in the metro areas of South Africa and Zimbabwe.
President Carter is excited about partnering with ACU, both now and in the future. “At African Christian College, we’re thankful to be partnered with ACU, particularly in equipping these students with the skills for them to be even better at the work they’re doing. This is going to transform the future of African Christian College and help establish it as a strong institution that services the church and the kingdom of God in Africa.”
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