A postcard home from Zimbabwe: ’How Great Thou Art’
By Melissa Lauber
Thirty members of the Baltimore-Washington Conference – 15 laity and 15 clergy – have traveled to Zimbabwe to help teach at a Pastors School and to help build the partnership between the BWC and United Methodists in Zimbabwe. Melissa shares the story of their journey in her ‘Postcards home from Zimbabwe.’
In English and Shona, the bishops of the Washington and Zimbabwe Episcopal Areas joined voices to sing “How Great Thou Art,” during worship July 16 at Mount Pleasant Preaching Station.
Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa welcomed Bishop LaTrelle Easterling to his future home church in Harare, Zimbabwe, as the two Areas prepared to collaborate on a week-long Pastors School for the clergy of Zimbabwe.
The preaching station, Nhiwatiwwa explained, started about seven months ago as the daughter church of Inner City UMC. It now has approximately 100 members.
In her sermon, Bishop Easterling assured the congregation that God has prepared a future of hope for them. Like any parent, who looks into their baby’s eyes and writes a script for them, God has a plan for us. “Watch the miracles God will lay out for you,” she said. She told the growing congregation that Hope can mean “Handling Obstacles with Prophetic Exuberance.”
Several of the BWC pastors also preached on Sunday at churches around Harare. They included: the Revs. Conrad Link, Wanda Duckett, Gerry Green, Joseph Daniels, Marion Easterling, Sarah Schlieckert and Maidstone Mulenga.
During the worship service at the preaching station, the Rev. Lena Dennis prayed and the Rev. Melissa Rudolph prayed and delivered the children’s sermon. She told the children how God will always be there when they need help. In her sermon, she used several words in Shona, one of the primary languages of Zimbabwe.
“Ndibatsirei” in Shona, she said, means “help.”
Bishop Easterling teared up when she shared with the congregation that this is her first trip to Africa. Being on the continent has an exceptional impact.
For the Rev. Gladman Kapfumvuti, a BWC pastor, this trip to Zimbabwe is a homecoming of sorts. A native of Zimbabwe, he worked for the Zimbabwe bishop in 1997, when the BWC-Zimbabwe partnership was formed. He remembers working with the Rev. Joe Daniels to help “sow those spiritual seeds.”
He saw his son at the airport for the first time in 10 years. The reunion was an emotional one. His son’s name, he said, is Munyaraclzi. It means “comforter.”
Those spiritual seeds may continue to sprout this week as unexpected fruit begins to come forth.