By Susan Cooper, Kansas communications associate director
In the spirit of the Chabadza Covenant, four United Methodists from Zimbabwe travelled to Kansas to share how they make disciples of Jesus Christ. The trip was sponsored by the Wichita East and Wichita West districts.
|Portia Kanoyangwa explains Zimbabwean section meetings at Wichita Woodland UMC. (photo by Susan Cooper)|
|Daniel Mutidzawanda talks about the things Jesus commands Christians to do during the class meeting at Wichita Woodland UMC. (photo by Susan Cooper)|
The Shona word, “chabadza,” means helping one another through working side by side. The Chabadza Covenant between the Kansas West Conference and the Zimbabwe East Conference was established in May 2010 and was intended to help people in both conferences.
During their time in Kansas, the Zimbabweans offered fresh ideas for making disciples through John Wesley-style class meetings. They also led a revival-style celebration, known as a “convention” in Zimbabwe, and performed mission service by working at Camp Horizon near Arkansas City.
Eight class meetings, called “section meetings” in Zimbabwe, were held at churches in the Wichita districts over four days. Two Zimbabweans led each of the meetings. Kanoyangwa and Mutidzawanda led meetings at Burchfiel United Methodist Church, Douglass UMC, Pratt First UMC and Wichita Woodland UMC. Mafunda and Musharu led the Arkansas City First UMC, El Dorado First UMC, Kingman UMC and Wichita East Heights UMC meetings.
John Wesley believed small groups were essential to building Christian discipleship through prayer, Bible study, mutual support, fellowship and accountability. The Zimbabwean United Methodists have embraced this concept through their section meetings.
Kanoyangwa told the attendees of the meeting at Wichita Woodland UMC that “in between Sundays” United Methodists in Zimbabwe meet each week in section meetings to pray, share the word of God, teach each other about Christ and encourage one another in the way of God in order to stay away from sin. The section meetings usually last one to one and a half hours.
“In section meetings, we watch over one another. We are asking one another, ‘How did you do today?’” Kanoyangwa said. “We are meeting as friends. We are a family of God. We are helping one another – to watch over one another in love, which is very important.”
Mutidzawanda, also at the Woodland meeting, explained that the groups meet at different homes each week. That way, hosting is a shared responsibility.
Kanoyangwa said the United Methodist churches in Zimbabwe are growing because everyone attends their section meeting every week and invites new people to attend the meetings. The responsibility of growth lies with the congregation, not with the pastor. It is important that everyone should feel welcome in a section group, including newcomers.
“If a new member comes, we don’t just look at that new member and say, ‘Who is the new member?’” Kanoyangwa said. “The section leader greets the new member. The new member gives [his or her] address to the section leader, so we can come to your home, and you are not very lonely.”
Section groups are small, no more than 12 families. If the section gets too large, it’s divided. Sections are determined geographically, not by age or by personal interests. Even children participate in the section meetings.
|Simon Mafunda introduces people to the concept of section meetings at Wichita East Heights UMC. (photo by Britt Bradley)|
|Phillip Musharu speaks about the interactive nature of section meetings at Wichita East Heights UMC. (photo by Britt Bradley)|
Mutual support is an important element of section groups.
“If there’s a sickness, we go there and support you. If there’s a funeral, we go there and support you. We give gifts. We cook for you,” Kanoyangwa said.
At the East Heights meeting, Musharu pointed out that during section meetings no one person is designated as “the speaker.”
“We know that each and every one of us has something to say,” he said.
Musharu said that trust and acceptance, even of differences, are very important in section groups.
“That’s how everyone can speak in sections,” he said.
Bible study is included in section meetings. Musharu said there are many ways of doing Bible study. It can be done chronologically, starting with Genesis, chapter one, verse one. It can be a random study, where someone picks up the Bible and opens it to choose the subject matter. Bible study also can be thematic or comparative.
Another element of section meetings is singing to praise God. But Mafunda issued a warning about singing.
“Be careful not to sing like you’re half-dead!” he said.
An offering for the poor is usually taken at section meetings. The final thing always is to end in prayer together. After the meeting is a time for fellowship and, often, a “tea meal.”
“The tea [meal] does not need to be important if the people can’t afford much,” Mafunda said.
He also pointed out that section meetings offer something quite different from worship services.
“In a worship service, there’s no chance to ask questions; you can do that in the sections.
“It’s also easier to rebuke one another in love. We tend to be open more to one another in a smaller group level. We can encourage one another,” he said.
“It’s the chance to testify what Jesus is doing for us. That will in turn encourage others and grow their faith. We can see the manifestations of the fruits of the spirit.”
Musharu offered a simple explanation of the spirit of section groups.
“God binds us together.”