Perpetual Education Fund a Growing Miracle
As a recently returned missionary, Brother Viwe Xozwa’s schedule was demanding. The education-driven convert in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, attended school from 8 a.m. to noon, worked from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., then studied until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. on a regular basis.
Brother Xozwa was never bothered or upset by the busy schedule he maintained, though. In fact, he was grateful just for the opportunity he had to study and learn, which was made possible by others’ generosity.
Brother Xozwa is a recipient of a Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) loan, which made obtaining an education a more realistic possibility than it would have otherwise been. Now a 27-year-old computer engineer and the executive secretary in his stake, he attributes many of his blessings to the PEF.
“I would not be where I am right now in my life if that inspired program was not established,” he said.
A Chance to Overcome
President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) announced the PEF at general conference in March 2001. The program was designed to help young people obtain skills that would allow them and their families to rise above poverty and make meaningful contributions to society and the Church.
In many nations throughout the world, young missionaries with modest backgrounds faithfully serve the Lord. In his address, President Hinckley spoke of the challenges these young people face when they return home:
“Their hopes are high. But many of them have great difficulty finding employment because they have no skills. They sink right back into the pit of poverty from which they came” (“The Perpetual Education Fund,” Ensign, May 2001, 51).
Based on the same principles as the Perpetual Emigration Fund, which enabled Saints to travel to the Salt Lake Valley in the 1800s, Church leaders hope the PEF program will help end persistent poverty.
By providing loans for vocational, technical, and professional training at a low interest rate, the program gives ambitious participants between the ages of 18 and 30 a chance to learn employment skills as well as self-reliance and independence without accruing a lot of debt.
Elder John K. Carmack, an emeritus member of the Quorum of the Seventy and Executive Director of the PEF, said the program facilitates learning and advancement for young people who just need a chance and some direction.
“We help the young people dream, we help them plan their careers, and we help them achieve,” Elder Carmack said.
While he always planned to attend college, Brother Xozwa and his mother lacked the funds to pay for school. A conventional bank loan was a possibility, though higher interest rates would have made it very costly and would have taken a long time to pay off. Instead, Brother Xozwa heard about the PEF from a Church Educational System couple in his area. He applied for and received a $1,150 PEF loan and enrolled in computer engineering classes at Damelin College in Port Elizabeth.
After about a year of study, Brother Xozwa was offered a job at an IT consulting firm. The company waited for him to finish up the school year and supported him in his continued studies. Because of his employment, he was able to pay off his loan the following year, and the company has sponsored his further studies for the past four years in disciplines such as labor relations, corporate governance, business administration and management, and advanced project management.
“The PEF program gave me the initial kickstart that I needed, and the rest I could do on my own,” he said. “It gave me an initial boost; everything else just opened up.”
A Miracle with More to Come
Since President Hinckley first announced the program seven years ago, about 28,000 young people, approximately half of them men and half of them women, have received PEF loans. The program premiered in Mexico, Peru, and Chile, and has now expanded to assist people in 40 countries throughout the world, including Mongolia, Cambodia, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, some Pacific islands, and virtually all of Latin America.
The program is funded both by members, who allocate funds toward the program on their tithes and offerings slips, and by friends of the Church who believe in the program’s purpose. The money collected (the principal) is never spent, with loans being made only from the interest earned on the principal.
“The members and friends [of the Church] have been extremely generous,” Elder Carmack said, adding that both President Hinckley and President Monson have called the program’s success “a miracle.”
“We have grown,” Elder Carmack said, and he expects the Church will see “more growth ahead.”
Repaying Sacred Funds
Knowing where his loan came from made Brother Xozwa dedicate himself completely to doing well in school and paying off his loan. He wanted to use the generous donations the best way he could.
“I realized these were sacred funds. Others had made a contribution to my education, so it was my responsibility to show appreciation by studying hard,” he said. “The money that was granted me was not mine to play around with. I was given the opportunity to make something of my life, to kickstart a good future, and it was my responsibility to grab that opportunity with both hands and not fail.”
In addition to giving young adults financial opportunities, the PEF enables them to grow in the gospel and strengthen their countries and other members in need of an opportunity for education. Some graduates of the program have gone on to become leaders of the Church, Elder Carmack said, and are fortifying the Church in their countries.
“As faithful members of the Church, they will pay their tithes and offerings, and the Church will be much the stronger for their presence in the areas where they live,” President Hinckley said (Ensign, May 2001, 51).
As students repay their loans, the money goes back into the fund to aid other individuals who need help financing their education, making it a “perpetual” fund.
Doing Wonders for Yourself and Others
Brother Xozwa understood this principle and was motivated to help others receive the same opportunities he had.
“The Lord is giving you the opportunity to progress, but also to help the next person,” he said. “It was my responsibility to repay the money as soon as possible so that the next person could have an equally good chance to study and progress. Think of how many people you can influence if you use the funds correctly. You can do wonders not just for you but for other people.”
His experience has taught him leadership skills and independence in addition to self-reliance and the ability to keep commitments.
“It’s not just education. It’s not just getting a diploma or getting a degree. It’s not just a career. It’s so much more than that. It opens doors for you to grow individually,” he said.
Pocket Change Changing Generations
Brother Xozwa said he will be forever grateful for the generosity extended to him that made a world of difference in his life.
“I would love one day to meet the person or the people who contributed to the program in the initial stages just to say thank you,” he said. “Maybe it was pocket change for them, but it changed generations. It has changed my family.”
New Area Leadership Assignments
The First Presidency has announced changes in area leadership assignments effective on August 1, 2008. All members of Area Presidencies are members of the First or Second Quorums of the Seventy unless otherwise noted.
Elder L. Whitney Clayton and Elder Jay E. Jensen have been called to serve in the Presidency of the Seventy following the call of Elder D. Todd Christofferson to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Earl C. Tingey’s release from the Presidency.
The First Presidency has also announced the combining of the Europe Central and Europe West Areas and the Australia and New Zealand/Pacific Islands Areas. The new areas will be called the Europe Area and the Pacific Area. The North America East Area has been divided between the North America Northeast and North America Southeast Areas.
Presidency of the Seventy
President Monson Dedicates Temple, Meets Leaders
President Thomas S. Monson dedicated the Curitiba Brazil Temple in four sessions on Sunday, June 1, 2008, the day after thousands of members filled a soccer stadium for a cultural celebration attended by the prophet.
The Curitiba temple becomes the fifth in the country of about one million members. More than 42,000 people visited the temple open house. On Monday, President Monson met with Brazil’s vice president, Jose Alancar.
President Uchtdorf Meets European Saints
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, met with members of the Church and guests in three European countries during a tour of England, Germany, and France at the end of May and beginning of June 2008.
He told members in France: “We are all united, all brothers and sisters. The gospel is the answer to the challenges in the world, to all questions faced by families, communities, and nations.”
President Monson Announces Three Temples in Arizona
President Thomas S. Monson has announced plans for three new temples in Arizona, USA. On April 28, 2008, he announced temples in Gilbert and Gila Valley, Arizona. On May 24, he announced a temple in Phoenix.
The temples bring the number in Arizona to five, and the worldwide total to 140, while alleviating usage of the Mesa Arizona Temple, which is attended by more members than any temple outside of Utah.
Elder J. Thomas Fyans Dies
Elder J. Thomas Fyans, an emeritus General Authority, died on May 18, 2008. Born on May 17, 1918, in Moreland, Idaho, he married Helen Cook on May 28, 1943.
He served as president of the Uruguay Mission from 1960 to 1964, as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1974 to 1976, in the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy from 1976 to 1986, and as president of the St. George Temple from 1992 to 1995 after receiving emeritus status in 1989.
Ideal Missionary Tool
As soon as we saw the beautiful March Ensign we decided to get additional copies for nonmember friends and family. It felt like the most ideal missionary tool to share the message of Easter.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to get a single additional copy of it, because the distribution center at the Preston England Temple sold out as soon as supplies arrived.
If you plan to do a similar wonderful Ensign in December to celebrate the Savior’s birth, please will you make enough copies available for members like myself in England, and in time for us to be able to mail them or hand deliver them before Christmas.
Christine Chadwick, England
Editor’s Note: We planned for a heavy demand for extra copies, but demand exceeded even our expectations. There have been two additional printings, and copies of the March issue should be available through distribution centers and stores (including those in the U.K.) or online at www.ldscatalog.com for those living in the U.S. and Canada. The timeless nature of this issue makes it suitable for giving at Christmas and Easter and for year-round activation and missionary work.
One wonderful memory of Grandma, who passed away two years ago at age 93, was of her sitting in front of her television on general conference weekends, dressed in her Sunday best and raising her hand to sustain the prophet and those serving with him. Inspired by a suggestion in Random Sampler in the April 2008 issue (page 75), we came together as a family on Grandma’s birthday to hold a general conference review where all were invited to share their thoughts on a conference talk. It was a very positive experience, and we hope it was the beginning of a wonderful new family tradition. Thank you!
Cindy Thomas, Utah