By KATHRYN WITTE, communications director
Mission trippers to the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area, August 11-24, found their partner churches making progress. Evangelism and new church starts, parsonage and church constructions are obvious signs of a vital and growing church. Great Plains United Methodist Conference churches can be proud of the contributions made in working alongside their Zimbabwe partner congregations. Participants on the trip learned what an energetic, spiritually imbued, Wesleyan way of doing ministry is taking place in Zimbabwe.
“One of the things that pleased me most about the trip was that so many people were able to spend time with their partner congregations. Unlike other conferences with a partnership with Zimbabwe, our people went and stayed with their partner churches. It was also significant that we had so many younger people take part,” said the Rev. Mark Conard, retired pastor and interim Chabadza Mission Partnership coordinator.
Those who made the trip included Dave Brant, Chris Cochran, Miranda Giessel, the Rev. Bryce and Keather Hansen, the Rev. Richard Lewis, the Rev. Kim Martin, Lance Patterson, the Rev. Kip Ryherd and Charles (Luke) Stephens. In addition to Conard, Conference staff and partnership representatives included Wichita West District Superintendent Linda Louderback; Mercy and Justice Coordinator, the Rev. Kalaba Chali and Conference Communications Director Kathryn Witte.
Lauderback said, “Having the opportunity to actually meet congregation members, stay in their homes and work and worship alongside them added a wonderful dimension to this mission opportunity. We became family.”
Bishop Scott Jones also traveled to Zimbabwe to be a featured preacher at a first-of-its-kind, area-wide Ebenezer Convention, Aug. 15-17 (see story page 9). The mission team also attended the three-day event held in Harare before making their way to Mutare and disbursing to host families in partner church locations.
The all-day, all-night Ebenezer Convention ended at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. The remainder of Sunday was a day of rest. On Monday (Aug. 18), the group set out for Mutare and partner churches. Mutare is located in highlands east of Harare and close to the Mozambique border. The landscape in some areas is rather Rocky Mountain-like, only with valleys of palm trees, banana plantations, avocado trees, tea fields and more tropical climate plants. It is winter there and temperatures were mild, ranging highs of 75-85 daily and lows between 50-60.
Developing congregations tended to have a parsonage or a church building — and if it had one, the congregation was working on the other. In Honde North, the parsonage was nearly complete, but because the worship space was also not complete, the congregation was worshiping and meeting in the parsonage. A motorbike purchased with Pratt UMC donations enabled Local Pastor John Mwaita to visit the members of the Honde North circuit (charge) in ways he previously could not afford (see link to video message below).
In Dambanda, the church is complete but the pastor was living in too-small, too rudimentary living quarters, with the new parsonage in the initial phases of construction. While there, Conard presented Pastor Ruth Maguta with school supplies, net balls and money for school tuition from the Pleasant Valley UMC (see link to video message below).
Chris Cochran and Lance Patterson are men of stature and put their muscle to work doing hands-on construction helping the Penhalonga UMC.
Louderback renewed her friendship with Mutasa/Nyanga District Superintendent Daniel Mutidzawanda. Mutidzawanda drove Louderback, Conard and Witte to various locations and served as the primary on-location host for the group.
Other notable United Methodist ministries visited by most while in Mutare included Africa University, an HIV/AIDS hospital called Project Tariro and the Fairfield Children’s Home.
Witte began training with a Mutasa/Nyanga District volunteer Lloyd Chaukura on providing partnership updates for his district and the Great Plains website. The goal is to get fresh news and information from partner churches for posting on the conferences’ respective websites.
The youngest mission team member Miranda Giessel, age 16, was encouraged to join the trip by her pastor Kim Ryherd. Giessel was amazed by the people and places she experienced.
The need for engaged churches continues. To find out the possibilities for a match with your congregation contact your district superintendent.
Kansas West partners with the Mutasa/Nyanga District. Watch the videos below to hear from those in the Mutasa/Nyanga District.
Honde North Local Pastor John Mwaita. Honde North partners with Pratt UMC, in Pratt, Kansas.
Dambanda Provisional Elder Ruth Maguta. Dambanda partners with Pleasant Valley UMC in Pleasant Valley, Kansas.
By LLOYD CHAUKURA, edited by KATHRYN WITTE, communications director
“This is the day of the Lord’s victory; let us be happy, let us celebrate!” (Psalms 118:24). The way a ceaseless stream of congregants flocked into the arena was beyond anyone’s comprehension. The procession started on a high note at 9 a.m., on Aug. 15, with all 13 Zimbabwe districts — Marange, Chimanimani-Chipinge, Mutasa-Nyanga, Mutare, Chitungwiza-Marondera, Murehwa-UMP, Mutoko-Mudzi, Makoni-Buhera, Bulawayo-Midlands, Harare East, Harare West, Harare Central and Masvingo, raising their banners as a symbol of belonging. By mid-day on Friday, the crowd had swelled to 30,000+ people. The congregants were meticulously dressed in RRW (women’s group), MUMC (men’s group), UMYF (youth) and Ebenezer (attendees) regalia. Delegates from the U.S., U.K./Australia/New Zealand and Malawi were present.
From a bird’s eye view high in the stadium the ground was a hive of activity. No one could be deterred with what the other person was doing. It was a time of personal communication with the Lord. Sermon after sermon delivered from different preachers based their messages on 1 Samuel, 7:12. The main theme was centered on Ebenezer — the stone of help at Mizpah. On this day, for the Zimbabwe Area members, Mizpah was the National Sports Stadium, in Harare.
In Zimbabwe Area Bishop Eben Kanukai Nhiwatiwa’s opening remarks, he said that God is good all the time for blessing this successful event. He took the opportunity to thank his cabinet for the noble idea of bringing the Area together under one roof in this way to celebrate 117 years of the Methodist church in Zimbabwe. He gave the proceeding an episcopal blessing, “In the name of the Father the Son and Holy Spirit.”
He noted that when he was preparing the sermon, he exerted all the effort possible considering its importance and realized God’s guidance in preparing for this historic landmark event. He mentioned that he went through the sermon many times. He got tired to the point of abandoning it, but God insisted. He told the story of Samuel, where the birth of Samuel leads to the bringing of the stone which was named Ebenezer.
Two verses were used as themes for the Ebenezer Convention (1 Samuel 7:12 and Matthew 28:19-20). Samuel was used to encourage attendees to continue to work to overcome and to persevere all challenges. Matthew was used to remind attendees of their role in evangelism and spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.
“During this Ebenezer (convention) get something,” said Nhiwatiwa. He urged attendees to use this event as time to get past our pride and the feeling of being victimized by God, that God is always with them. He used the story of Samuel and the Ebenezer stone to communicate the need for overcoming challenges. He said that just as the Ebenezer stone communicated that God had been with them “thus far,” God is also with us thus far and will continue to embolden and strengthen the ministry.
Throughout his sermon he inserted short vignettes as he told the Samuel story to bring the point closer to home by relating it to something local. “When you are tired of praying do not condemn the church. Do not behave like a knife which can cut using both sides,” he said.
Nhiwatiwa’s closing prayer, “Ebenezer, Ebenezer. God is encouraging us to walk with strength and to be on the rightful position during this convention. We know how weak we are — get strengthened through the Ebenezer Convention. Let us move forward, Ebenezer, Ebenezer. The late Bob Marley sang, ‘No woman, no woman no cry, everything’s gonna be all right.’ Amen.”
Lloyd Chaukura is a volunteer communicator in the Zimbabwe area working to report for the partnership churches and other work of the Matusa-Nyanga district. He produced the following newsletters for the Chisipiti congregation. He did a recap of the entire Ebenezer Convention including Bishop Scott Jones.
Watch the video diary below of the Ebenezer Conference to experience the sights and sounds of the convention.
Editor’s note: Excerpts from a letter to Great Plains Conference partnership district superintendents from Chabadza Partnership Interim Coordinator, the Rev. Mark Conard.
Calvary greetings from your counterparts in Zimbabwe. It was a privilege to see and work with all of the superintendents of the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference on Friday afternoon, August 22. They were part of a leadership team meeting with Great Plains leaders and others from throughout the entire Zimbabwe Episcopal Area. Those of us representing the Great Plains Conference were Kalaba Chali, Linda Louderback, Kathryn Witte and me.
We discussed a variety of possibilities for the growth of the Chabadza partnership. All of us hope that we can build stronger relationships between the existing partner churches or circuits, and we want to expand the partnerships in districts that have only a few such relationships or none at all. In fact, one of the possibilities under consideration is to move toward partnering the entire episcopal area in Zimbabwe with the Great Plains Conference as a whole. There is not a specific proposal for doing so, but it was lifted up as a possibility.
We hope to develop a way that congregations in either Zimbabwe or the Great Plains Conference can initiate a Chabadza covenant. We want to move toward mutuality in as many things as possible.
I encourage you (those with existing partnerships) to be in regular communication with your counterpart in the Zimbabwe East Conference. Email is probably the best way to do so, although Zimbabwe district superintendents are adept in the use of text messaging.
Zimbabwe Area district conferences are usually a day-long meeting (typically 10-12 hours in length). An extensive booklet is produced, and it would be worthwhile for you to ask your corresponding district superintendent to provide you an electronic copy of the proceedings. I think you will find the reports fascinating to read (you are encouraged to share them with your congregations).
Please let me know ways in which I can be of assistance, including attendance at any district clergy meetings you may have scheduled.
Thank you for your commitment to this international mission partnership. I look forward to working with you and others in helping to “claim higher ground.” Mukomborerwe (Be blessed).
For information contact the Rev. Mark Conard on his cell at 620-727-1716 or firstname.lastname@example.org.