Yesterday I focused a lot of my energy around the covenant between the Kansas West and Zimbabwe East Annual Conferences. It was my responsibility to pull together the team that shared stories of the trip and presented the legislation. While not speaking, I probably got more anxious than was strictly necessary trying to corral the effort. It went great. Wonderful stories and testimonies shared, excellent video production, good discussion from the floor and in the end a unanimous approval. Following the presentation was the Taste of Zimbabwe dinner. I cooked up some of the vegetables over lunch break during conference and served sadza and rice during the meal. Bishop Nhiwatiwa spoke just the right amount and was encouraging, insightful and funny. I have found his words meaningful every time that he has addressed a group of which I have been a part.
A few other highlights from yesterday:
Starting off the day with a presentation of Godspell
Responding to Wesley’s historic questions in front of the annual conference along with the others to be ordained tonight.
Hearing the stories of the retirees in their own words at the retirement service last night. Especially, my Aunt Karen Osterman Fieser as she retired from over 25 years as a chaplain at Wesley Medical Center.
Meaningful conversations with various colleagues throughout the day.
Last night was the clergy session of the Kansas West Annual Conference. My name was raised under the following questions:
31. Who are elected as members in full connection? b) Elders
33. Who are elected for ordination as elders?
Along with 8 other elder and 2 deacon provisional members, I walked in to Mabee Arena at Kansas Wesleyan University. This was the first year that clergy session had been held at this location. All of the clergy were seated on the bleachers on one side of the arena with a table and podium set up on the court. Bishop Jones had us turn to face him, away from the clergy, while the votes were taken for each one of us. One vote as a member in full connection in the annual conference and one for ordination as elder. I remember looking up at the ventilation system, the empty folded up bleachers across the arena and glancing at Bishop Jones as he asked the clergy session to vote for my election. Then I heard, “He is elected.” I found out later from my Dad, that it was at 7:54 PM.
I was expecting the result of the vote to be affirmative. It wasn’t particularly overwhelming emotionally, however I do remember trying to soak in all the details of what I was seeing and hearing as I thought, “This is a marker point in my life.” It did feel good to turn around and see the clergy session applauding at the end of the election of all those to be ordained. I looked back and forth across the full bleachers as I wanted to look at everyone who was there, or at least in their general direction. I remember making eye contact with my Dad who was standing to applaud and wearing a brown United Methodist Shirt from Zimbabwe. Later in the clergy session, I remember looking at my Aunt Karen Fieser, who was retiring as she was voted on for retirement.
Later today is the presentation for the potential covenant partnership between the Kansas West and Zimbabwe East Annual Conferences. This evening is the Taste of Zimbabwe dinner. I am looking forward to both with a bit of anxiety and excitement.
As much as I have tried to explain in text what the trip to Zimbabwe was like, there is nothing like photos and locations to see what it was like. I created a log of our trip on Google Earth (http://earth.google.com/) which you can download below. You can “fly” to each of the locations that we visited day by day. In addition, I have uploaded all of the photos which I took to Flickr. You can browse them day by day with the link below. Please feel free to share and enjoy.
I was deeply encouraged by learning about the concept of chabadza. This is a custom of the Shona people of Zimbabwe in which a traveler stops to help anyone whom they pass as they are going on their way. If I am traveling from village to village and see someone working in their field, I will stop to help, even just for a few strokes of a hoe. Then a conversation may start in which I may find directions from the worker and the worker may pass along a message for someone in the next village. It is a mutually beneficial partnership.
Chabadza means that someone is working in the field and a passer by works alongside in the same field with the same goal.
I believe that this is a healthy understanding of partnership and is an excellent model for partnerships between annual conferences.
One of the first sites that we visited in Zimbabwe was a revival at Prospect United Methodist Church. We walked into some of the most passionate worship that I have experienced. In the singing, preaching, dancing and response it was clear that the Holy Spirit was active. While I did not understand the language of some of the songs, I was clearly able to worship God.
It was refreshing.
I was also struck by the commitment to discipleship. 80% to 90% of the people who attended worship on the weekend were also active in a small group, which was called a section. When I commented that it would be fantastic if there there were 50% of a worshipping congregation also in a small group in the United States, my comment did not seem to make sense. The response was, wasn’t that how Wesley designed the class meeting? so that people could grow in their faith? This is the way to do that.
In several of the districts that we visited in Zimbabwe there was a mission centre that in many cases was founded over 100 years ago. These were locations that started to be places of ministry when missionaries from the United States came to what was then Southern Rhodesia. These sites often had a hospital, school, sanctuary and other ministry sites. At Old Mutare Mission, the original site of United Methodist ministry in the country, it felt like an old school mission site, which is exactly what it was. I am not sure how to describe this feeling. I felt thankful for ministry taking place in that site for a long time, however this was mixed with an awareness that in the early 1900s the relationship between missionaries and native people was not always healthy. In any case, I am grateful that God sent and continues to send people to serve others in the name of Jesus Christ.
What area of ministry has continued for many years where you are?
Nicole and I are flying tomorrow to Zimbabwe. I will be away from internet access for a while and will take a break from blogging in the interim. I am looking forward to sharing more after our return from the trip on February 9. Will you please pray for safety, health, God’s vision and direction for us while we are away?