Two United Methodist episcopal areas in Africa have become pioneers of 21st-century ministry, exchanging experiences, knowledge and ideas.
The partnership, envisioned by resident Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, Zimbabwe Episcopal Area, and Bishop Kasap Owan, South Congo Episcopal Area, Democratic Republic of Congo, is resulting in networking within and outside conference boundaries.
A delegation of eight conference leaders from the South Congo Conference, led by the Rev. Francois Chipeng Kayemb, recently visited the Zimbabwe Area for 10 days of training in church growth and administration. They hoped to share experiences in ministry and learn from each other, particularly about the Zimbabwe Area’s strategies for advancing the gospel.
The leadership program focused on finance and stewardship as well as pastoral care, building projects, fundraising, health and education.
The training combined theory and practical observations as the team studied policies in a classroom setup and then saw how various circuits implemented the policies. As Nhiwatiwa reiterated that “seeing is believing,” the team witnessed how their classroom lessons were put into practice in the congregations they visited.
“The visit has been a wonderful experience,” said Simon Mafunda, Zimbabwe East Conference lay leader. “It should see teams of Zimbabweans visiting the DRC in return.”
He added, “We need to learn from each other as we walk side by side in this journey. The laity should take responsibility and play our part in growing the church of Jesus Christ.”
A delegation of eight conference leaders from the South Congo Conference recently visited the Zimbabwe Area for 10 days of training in church growth and administration. Photo by Chenayi Kumuterera, UMNS.
Touring the conference, participants saw projects, celebrated accomplishments and discussed how the church in Zimbabwe is working to build structures through fundraising activities, church support and pastoral care. Financial policies are maintained and adhered to through audit and transparency on handling offerings, tithes and donations, as well as other local church fundraising initiatives.
“Transparency and honest practice go a long way in poverty alleviation and empowerment of the congregants as the church engages … agencies and boards for scholarships and funding,” said Solomon Chiripasi, Zimbabwe Area treasurer. Teaching the importance of giving is vital, he said, if congregations are to understand giving as a form of worship.
Gerome Seza Mulombe, South Congo project manager, noted that such efforts as the production of materials for all church members was impressive. “Farmers at Old Mutare (and) church building projects show the importance of good use of funds and organizing” he said, encouraging others to follow that example.
Charlotte Luzolo Kenge, South Congo associate lay leader and conference evangelism chairwoman, also voiced optimism. “I have faith,” she said, “that our church in the Congo will change and the members will understand us and adhere to the change in terms of transparency in the execution of decisions made, develop sincere love in Jesus for the progress and development of the church and live in unity.”
Kayemb told the delegation that the Zimbabwe Area has strong, transparent, equitable management and administration systems. He asserted that pastors, no matter where they serve, can live well within the guidelines.
Participants, he said, recognized that political contexts in Zimbabwe and Southern Congo differ. Some expressed surprise that in Zimbabwe, the relationship between the church and the state is cordial as the state pays teacher and nurse salaries in church-related schools and hospitals and is involved in supervising church construction and ensuring buildings meet government standards.
“The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe is solid, with a solid structure,” added the Rev. Hilaire Shete Lukonde, who chairs the pension board. “Clergy and laity work in a well-coordinated and coherent manner,” he continued. “The system is structured, transparent, auditable and very equitable with good checks and balances.”
In the future, a Zimbabwe delegation will visit South Congo, assist with future training programs and learn more about evangelism efforts there. The South Congo delegation’s next visits to the Zimbabwe Area will occur during conventions and the harvest-thanksgiving season.
“The visit by the team from South Congo,” said the Rev. Alan Masimba Gurupira, administrative assistant to Bishop Nhiwatiwa, “rejuvenated … our endeavours to support the church. We have benefited immensely through self-actualization as we are aware of our great potential to do better in church ministry.”
Kumuterera is a communicator with the Zimbabwe West Annual Conference.
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