The necessity of two-way mission partnerships


(With this post, Bishop Jones is beginning a weekly blog which should appear most Mondays.)
I leave today for Zimbabwe where I will participate in the Ebenezer Convention Aug.15-17. Please pray that the power of the Holy Spirit will be felt by all of the people gathered there! It should be a great time together.

My presence as one of the speakers and the presence of our team from the Great Plains Conference is part of the Chabadza partnership we have with the Zimbabwe East and West Conferences. Every August, the RRW (Zimbabwean equivalent of UMW) sponsors these conventions as an evangelistic and spiritual renewal time for the United Methodists of that country. There will be powerful worship, preaching, teaching, holy communion, hymn singing and fellowship. Normally these are held in open fields in various locations. This year the two conferences are holding one Convention in Harare, the capital.

When I attended before, I was moved by the spiritual fervor of the participants and the power of the preaching. With so many people gathered in one place, I can only compare it to the revivals, camp meetings and other spiritual renewal gatherings which used to characterize our life together as United Methodists. Sometimes our annual conference session rise to that level of spiritual power. But it does not happen often enough.

In fact, that is why our mission partnerships are so necessary. We are re-learning from our African sisters and brothers what our foremothers and forefathers taught them a century ago. Since that time, our enthusiasm has too often grown cold and our faith grown weak. When we see the Wesleyan version of the gospel lived out in Zimbabwe, we are inspired and we realize that the same God just might do that in our communities in Nebraska and Kansas. We have much to learn from our friends in Africa.

At the same time, we have much to offer them as well. We have financial resources that can help them build buildings. We have practices of financial accountability that can improve their administrative systems. We have educational resources that can make a difference in their growth and development. We are still working to strengthen Christianity in Africa.

We describe our partnership with a special word. “Chabadza” is a Shona word (one of the two main languages of Zimbabwe) that means offering help to someone working in the field. Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa taught me the word by using a hoe. If someone is already working in her field, she takes an extra hoe along. A passer-by can see her hard at work and say “May I offer you chabadza?” You don’t offer chabadza to someone who is not already working. It means to come along side someone already hard at work. This is the nature of our partnership with Zimbabwe. They are serving Christ, and we are offering to work along side them.

The unity of Christ’s church means that one part of the body can strengthen another. God is at work in Zimbabwe and I want to be part of those blessings. At the same time, leaders from that country can offer us the same kind of help that we so desperately need.

That is why our partnerships with Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Haiti are so necessary to our vitality as the Great Plains Conference