Love of children brings $800,000 gift to Zimbabwe

November 17, 2022 | by Kathy Gilbert

Love of children brings $800,000 gift to Zimbabwe

In 2001, the Rev. John Holler and a mission team from South Carolina traveled thousands of miles to work at the Fairfield Children’s Home.

They fell in love with the orphans and The United Methodist Church’s Old Mutare Mission that was caring for them. Holler promised to return.

On Oct. 21, Holler walked back on the campus. He also brought a gift of $800,029. 

“For 20 years, it was a promise unkept,” he said. “It is amazing to return to this place.”

More than 80 United Methodists traveled from the U.S. to celebrate the 30th anniversary of United Methodist-related Africa University and the inauguration of the Rev. Peter Mageto as the university’s fifth vice chancellor.

The visit to Old Mutare Mission was also in the plans.

“Africa University is called the ‘School of Dreams,’” said Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, episcopal leader of the South Carolina Conference. “The Old Mutare Mission is across the way in the ‘Valley of Hope.’”

Because Africa University originated in Old Mutare, Holston continued, “we have no choice but to embrace the Old Mutare Mission.” The university was built on land originally belonging to the mission and donated by the church in Zimbabwe. 

Many of the donors and visitors on the journey, organized by the Africa University Development Office, came from the South Carolina Conference. Holston said he wanted the people to “see with their own eyes how the money they give is making a difference.”

The gift to Fairfield came from a campaign to raise funds for the Epworth Children’s Home in South Carolina where Holler, who recently retired, was president and CEO. Holston agreed to the fundraising idea but asked Holler to add a foreign mission component and give a tithe of 10% of whatever was raised. They both thought Fairfield would be the perfect recipient.

Holler wanted to make a difference for children. It was his dream to build an Institute for Child and Family Well-Being in South Carolina.

“I began to think about The United Methodist Church with our organizational structure and how it is sometimes underutilized,” Holler said. “I went to the bishop with the idea of trying to see if as a church we could really make a difference in the whole issue of child care.”

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Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service. Heather Hahn, also United Methodist news writer, contributed to this story. Contact them at (615) 742-5470 or To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.