My intent was to serve. The outcome is, I was blessed.” So is the summary of my service at the Adventist University of Africa (AUA) in Nairobi, Kenya. AUA is a General Conference institution that specializes in providing theological and graduate programs for the three divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (East-Central Africa, Southern Africa-Indian Ocean, West-Central Africa) in sub-Saharan Africa.
Carlos Wallace, author of Life Is Not Complicated—You Are (2013), noted: “Your intent will always be second to what you complete.” My wife, Susan, and I recently applied for permanent return to the United States, which officially ends our overseas service. It has been an honor to serve.
The high point is not the progress achieved at AUA, but working with the people: talented students, gifted faculty and staff, committed members, workers, and leaders of the three divisions. Foundational to everything was the providence of God and the generous support of donors, supporters, friends, and entities from around the world.
Adventism and Africa: Africa is the second-largest continent in terms of land mass and population. Approximately 1.25 billion people live on the African continent, with 19 being the average age. Adventism offers answers that Africa needs, and the church is thriving on the continent. African Adventists represent more than 40 percent of the world church (2019).
Communication Connections: A constant source of connection and community was communication via social media. Family, friends, and colleagues were only a click away. The global community was ever-present with its joys and sorrows. In the past few months and years, the Internet has seen a resurgence for positive, spiritual, domestic, and humanitarian ends.
It has been an honor to serve.
Leadership Logic: We live in a constantly changing world that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA). Successful Adventist leadership requires a VUCA response: vision, understanding, clarity, and agility, based on Bible and Spirit of Prophecy principles. The Joseph Principle has been a successful stratagem, in which we operate in God’s providence, while remembering lessons of the past, maximizing opportunities in the present, and proactively preparing for the future.
Mission Mindedness: Believers committed to the gospel will go from strength to strength. Regardless of the conditions and crises, in Christ believers can go on being resilient, robust, and unbreakable. The effectiveness of the gospel is powerfully evident in Africa.
Ubuntu, Race, and -isms: Though separated by thousands of miles and multiple cultures, the George Floyd incident struck a chord in Africa. Unfortunately, racism in its various forms finds resonance with tribalism, nationalism, classism, and other -isms. The Bantu term ubuntu, popularized by Nelson Mandela—“I am because we are”—is an alternative to -isms. It emphasizes that humanity finds purpose and personhood in each other and God. It speaks to the principles of justice, mercy, and humility (Micah 6:8).
The world needs people to serve in common and creative ways, at home or abroad. The message of the gospel and serving humanity is relevant and urgent. Consistent with the strategic theme of the church, the current appeal is for those who say: “I will go!”
Delbert W. Baker served as vice chancellor of the Adventist University of Africa from 2015 to 2020.