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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo
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Rhona Murungi: Uganda to America

Alumna shares story of God’s faithfulness.

From Uganda to America, Rhona Murungi's (‘10) life is marked by God's provision. 

"Looking back for me, I see God's hand at work,” Murungi said. “God connecting so many dots to the point where if you took one dot out the whole thing would collapse."

By no means was Murungi’s path to Taylor University a normal or easy one. 

It took the determination of many people over the course of years to bring her to America. But the Taylor University that stands today would not be the same without her. 

“I reflect in all honesty, the way God used so many people to make my showing up at Taylor possible,” Murungi said. 

Murungi's journey to Taylor began when she was attending a Ugandan boarding school in high school. Here she met a fellow student named Doris who, like Murungi, played a sport at the school. A few years older than Murungi, Doris graduated and came to Taylor.

"Every year, she would come back like every summer to Uganda and visit us in the secondary school and tell us all about her university and whatnot," Murungi said. 

Though this was Murungi's first time hearing of Taylor University, many events would transpire before she attended college. The next step towards Taylor came through another friendship she made at boarding school. 

At age 12, Murungi met and became best friends with a girl named Janet, who, unbeknownst to them at the time, would change Murungi's life. Though a sport only played by the wealthy, Janet's dad was a world-champion tennis player and taught his daughter to be the same. 

While at boarding school, Janet's father found his daughter someone to spar with by giving Murungi professional tennis lessons. 

"So I ended up getting these very expensive tennis lessons for free because he was trying to train me so I could become, you know, and I eventually got on the national tennis team with Janet," Murungi said. 

As the years passed, Janet and Murungi reached their last two years of secondary school. Janet's dad wanted her to take the SAT in hopes she could play tennis for an American University. So Janet asked her if she wanted to take the SAT as well. 

After her mother managed to find the money for Murungi to take the SAT with Janet, they both, without studying, went to the only SAT testing facility in Uganda. 

"So, I did the SATs, and I had to fill out some type of code linked to schools, and the only universities in the U.S. that I knew were Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Taylor," Murungi said. 

She was an accomplished tennis player by this time, and when Janet's dad had her make a video of her playing tennis to send to potential universities, Murungi did the same. 

Murungi then had an SAT score and a video of her playing tennis but had yet to choose a school. At the same time of the video, Doris, who told Murungi about Taylor, gave Murungi the book, “Servant Leadership” by the then-Taylor president Eugene Habecker. 

After reading his book, she decided to attend Taylor University. 

“I wrote [Doris] a letter to Dr. Eugene Habecker telling her that I wanted to come to his university, but I didn't have any money, and I'm from Uganda, I play a little bit of tennis," Murungi said.

After writing this letter, Murungi gave it to Doris to bring back with her, along with the DVD of her playing tennis, not knowing if Taylor even had a tennis team. 

Now two different people at Taylor had received something from her, as well as an application that Doris had helped her fill out. Somehow, these people began to discuss how to get the seemingly random Ugandan student to Taylor. 

All that stood in the way of Murungi coming to Taylor was the money. A problem that was divinely answered when Habecker felt led to give her file to Cindy Spencer, a donor who had resourced many Taylor projects. Though she didn't feel called to sponsor individual students, in faith, Habecker gave her the file.

“The way [Spencer] tells the story is, she spent that night at a hotel in Indy that night she was given the file, and she couldn't sleep and she woke up and looking for something to read, she opens her bag and takes out my file and starts reading and reading and starts crying," Murungi said.

After being moved on Murungi's behalf, Spencer went to LaRita Boren, another major Taylor donor, asking if she felt convicted after reading her file to split the cost of her tuition. They both then decided to pay for her education. Murungi's path to Taylor was now perfectly paved, and in 2006, she arrived in America for the first time. 

"I am forever grateful, really, for everybody that honestly had a small hand in me coming . . . being a part of a team that was my first sort of home and group of friends and helped shepherd through," Murungi said.

While attending Taylor, Murungi played on the women's tennis team, studied a customized degree in developmental economics and, most notably, started the Taylor student organization known as Global Engagement. She encouraged conversations about diversity and helped create the Global Engagement Center in the Larita Boren Student Center. 

After Taylor, Murungi used her degree in multiple positions, including as an editor for a Christian magazine. She currently sits on the board of numerous NGOs and has served at World Relief, a humanitarian nongovernmental organization, in multiple different positions for more than ten years. 

Now the director of finance and operations for the SCOPE Project, a program through World Relief, Murungi is making an impact globally. The SCOPE Project's goal is to reduce maternal and child mortality and morbidity in the countries of Haiti, Kenya, Malawi and South Sudan.  

She holds a B.A. in developmental economics from Taylor University and an M.A. in economics from Vanderbilt University. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in peace studies from the International Graduate School of Leadership Asia. 

“One thing for me that helped me career wise, is looking for people whose careers resonate with the way I feel God is leading me vocationally and with my calling, and then, either having conversations with those people or even tracing how they started,” Murungi said.

Though she is still young, Murungi hopes to be an example to students of what trusting God and having a strong work ethic can help one accomplish in life. Murungi has returned to Taylor multiple times to share her story and wisdom. 

Murungi states her story is a call not just to sit and let things happen, but to be proactive about your future and where God is leading you. Her story is an inspiration to anyone seeking to follow God's plan for their lives. 

"For this generation of students, what does it mean for them to live and work and be a part of conversations, spaces and life in the ways God is calling them to in this kind of environment?” Murungi said. “How can they do better than the generations that came before them?"