Thursday, August 28, 2014

How Beautiful!

Christian vocalist Twila Paris recorded a song entitled “How Beautiful” a number of years ago.  In it she describes the body of Christ, not only Christ himself but his body, the church.  One line from the song came to mind during my recent visit to the Congo: “How beautiful when humble hearts give the fruit of pure lives so that others may live.” 

Bishop Johnson with Rev. Kumbe,
a D.S. in East Congo for six years
I saw this happening every day in the Congo during my 10-day tour.  Many are sacrificially preaching the gospel there with little or no salary.  One of the District Superintendents who just completed six years on the cabinet received $10 per month as her total compensation.  She has had no modern vehicle for transportation.  But even with the hardship of walking or riding a bike to visit her churches she also established five new congregations on her district during her tenure.
Our team had dinner with a Congolese pilot, Gaston Ntabamo, from the “Wings of the Morning” aviation ministry one evening.  He is one of our United Methodist missionaries who serves in the Congo.
Gaston Ntabamo, pilot

He makes numerous flights from the remote villages to the only full-service hospital in the area at no charge to the patients thanks to our United Methodist Mission giving.  He has saved hundreds of lives during his years of ministry.  In addition he serves as the pilot for many of the United Methodist bishops as they travel to areas where there are no passable roads. During the war in the Congo 10 years ago this pilot risked his life to evacuate stranded missionaries. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Standing our ground: 'We are all accountable'

On August 9 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed African American youth in Ferguson, Mo., was fatally shot multiple times by police officer Darren Wilson. Bishop Minerva CarcaƱo, president of our General Commission on Race and Religion, responded in a public statement that, “We are all accountable for his death and accountable to the African American young people in our communities everywhere.”

That is so true. Michael was our child. So were Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, two other teenagers killed by gun shots in 2012, their assailants acquitted of their deaths by Florida’s notorious Stand Your Ground law.  
Nine-year-old Antonio Davis of Chicago was slain just last Wednesday, August 21, by gun shots that tore through his young, innocent body as he likely sought to escape gang violence. He too was our child. And so were too many others taken from us in recent years in Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and other cities and towns across our nation.
The quaking ground on which we must stand is our accountability to children and yes, adults, of African American and other races, who are victims of violence-random and senseless or premeditated and prejudicial, by law-breakers and law-keepers. We must assert clearly, loudly that every life has value and promise, especially every young life, even in the most unpromising circumstances.  
And the loss of each life, no matter how distant or disparate from us, diminishes us nonetheless. In the course of our prayers and anxious discourse, or even in our bewildered silence, that undeniable truth must strike a deep, solemn, reverberating chord in each of us.

Monday, August 11, 2014

My memorable visit to Smith Island

Perhaps the most unique appointment in the Peninsula-Delaware Conference or maybe even the entire connection is the Ewell-Smith Island Charge, located on the Salisbury District.  This three-point charge (Calvary –Rhodes Point, Ewell and Union – Tylerton) is served by the Rev. C. Richard “Rick” Edmund, and he is beginning his 15th year there as pastor.  It is accessible only by a 45-minute boat ride and every week
Pastor Rick goes by foot, by boat and by car to his churches, making the entire circuit each Sunday.  My husband Mike and I traveled there for a weekend in June and were joined by District Superintendent, Rev. Fred Duncan and his wife, Pat.  We were treated to some amazing hospitality.  These people are master chefs!  Imagine having crab omelets, Smith Island cake, maple-cured bacon, home-made rolls and peach ice cream!  
Everyone there travels around by golf cart, and there is a general store, a museum, an elementary school (with only 12 students), a few bed and breakfasts, and a lot that has to do with the work of watermen.  The main business on the island is of course catching crabs and oysters.  Everywhere you look there is water and fields of reed grasses and cranes and gulls gliding over-head.  No city noise, no glaring lights here….just sheer silence and the voices of nature.