May your summer be filled with rest, Sabbath, inner discoveries and engagement in different kinds of ministries. Summer is often a time when churches have a slower pace, or perhaps just a different pace. The same is true for my calendar in the coming weeks. I will be taking some of the summer off as a renewal leave.
During that time I hope to dedicate much time to prayer and contemplation. During part of the renewal leave I am scheduled to be at the Bon Secours Spiritual Center in Marriottsville, Md., for a silent retreat. I appreciate your prayers for my discernment, wisdom and a closer walk with the Lord.
During another part of the summer I will teach a course on “Disabilities and the Church” at three of our United Methodist Women's “Mission U” gatherings. “Mission U” is the new name for what used to be the School of Christian Mission. Two years ago I was contracted by the United Methodist Women to write the text for this study, and I am happy to say that a study guide was added to it. The “Mission U” participants will have an opportunity to study how we as a church can do a better job in ministry with people with disabilities.
There are over 54 million people in the United States and as many as 200 million people in the world with disabilities. It is one of our most under-served populations, and the gifts and graces of the disability community are our un-mined precious gold. Christian education, when it is done best, results in personal and missional transformation. Please pray that our various schools each bear fruit, "fruit that will last." (John 15:16). There is still time to sign up for Mission U in Pen Del (July 17-19) and in Eastern PA (July 25-27). Do yourself this favor.
Finally, I will travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo in August to complete an exchange of episcopal visits with the East Congo Area of the United Methodist Church. Bishop Gabriel Unda Yembe was the preacher at our May Annual Conference in Eastern PA. I will travel with a group of general church agency leaders and other bishops to tour this newest episcopal area of our Church.
We will be on hand for the dedication of the bishop's office and residence and several university classrooms. We will also visit a number of UM mission sites, including: health clinics, educational institutions, a sustainable agriculture program and homes with foster parents for orphans dislocated by war and disease.
The people called Methodist in East Congo are strong and resilient in spirit and faith. I ask for your prayers for this pilgrimage, for those who will welcome us, and for more needed resources to help the many people who are experiencing extreme poverty, health risks and deadly political unrest. In some areas that unrest has forced people from their homes and into refugee camps.
I will be praying for you as well, as unforgettable sights, sounds and sensations of my African journey are imprinted on my mind like postcards to share with you when I return.
May you have many postcards to share from your summer activities as well. In all that we do, may we follow the leading of the God's Spirit and keep our missional goals ever before us, as we tell more and more people about the love of God experienced abundantly through Jesus Christ.