Friday, April 25, 2014

Africa University’s Good News

It is a joy to be a part of the United Methodist family because together we can do so much good.  Recently a team from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry visited Africa University in Zimbabwe and one board member from our Episcopal Area, Mr. Demetrio Beach, was able to meet the students who received our scholarships. He presented them with Bibles (see photo below) and encouraged them to continue serving the Lord and improving the lives of people in their countries.

Here is one of the “thank you” letters from a student who received our scholarship money:

My name is Banza Mutunda Mimie.  I am female and the first born in a family of seven—four girls and three boys.  My father’s name is Kasongo Ndalamba Kate, and he is a pastor in the United Methodist Church in the North Katanga Annual Conference in Kamina, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I am a second-year student in the faculty of Health Sciences doing management studies at Africa University in Zimbabwe.  My objective at Africa University is to fulfill my dream, which I started in my country at the secondary level.  I have done nursing and would like to continue with the same idea, but majoring in management in order to become a manager in one of the medical organizations in my country (DRC). …(My country) has become vulnerable to diseases such as: HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Cholera, TB and others.  Due to these matters I was inspired to do my studies in the medical area in order to be a part of the development process that aids in the prevention of these diseases.

It is a great pleasure and an honor for me to write to you, my sponsor.  This letter is to inform you that you have made my dream alive in providing me with the scholarship.  Regarding my family possibility, I was hopeless to achieve my goals, but you have made it possible.  For this reason I and especially my family are really grateful for such unforgettable action that has inspired us.  Our prayer is to see God showing his blessing upon you and all your family.  Africa University is a blessing to me and the hope for the best future of my family and my country.” 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

'Let It Go'

At this year’s Academy Awards the soundtrack single that took first place was “Let It Go,” from the Disney movie “Frozen.”  This is a defiant song of liberation as Queen Elsa no longer holds back her ice-making powers.  She sings of freedom as she builds a spectacular palace of ice with flicks of her wrists.

Some of the lyrics whisper words of resurrection to me: “The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.”  And “I’ll rise like the break of dawn.”  

The main message of Easter is resurrection, not only resurrection from bodily death but from death to our souls.  It is quite possible to be brain dead and yet bodily alive due to medical science.  It is equally true that people can be dead spiritually and in need of resurrection through faith in Christ. 

Christ not only brings us life eternal in heaven but spiritual resurrection of our earthly souls and minds while we are here walking on the earth.  Paul writes to the church in Ephesus: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved.” (2:4-5) Through faith we have the power to be free of sin and the bondage it holds on us.

Like the ice queen in the movie, prior to her liberating change of heart, we sometimes are bound by fear, by guilt, by doubts.  Even those who know the Lord fall back at times into an attitude of worry, having flashbacks to times when we have failed, looking around at friends and comparing ourselves, or casting a judgmental eye on the ministry of others or their theological beliefs.  All of that brings spiritual death, and we so easily allow it to entangle itself around our souls.

Let it go!  Let it go by once again claiming the freedom and deliverance that Christ offers us on a daily basis.  Let it go by giving up the need to “fix” others who disagree with us.  Let it go by living a life of thanksgiving and gratitude for the enormous cache of blessings that God has bestowed on us.   

This Easter as we sing “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” let us also sing “Let it Go!” And then let us go forth and live resurrected lives in Christ.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Choose Life

Easter is all about life!  I enjoy Easter the most when it falls later in the spring because the flowers and trees look so much more resurrected than when we have Easter in late March.  Easter is all about life and not just the rebirth of the nature around us but most importantly about the spiritual life that comes when people experience a resurrection in their soul through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Spiritual resurrection is what the church is all about but sadly at times the church can become stagnant and more about preservation than about outreach and transformation.  When that happens it is on a path of death and uselessness. In a recent visit from the General Board of Global Ministries Rev. Patrick Friday addressed our mission conference with a compelling call to becoming a “movement” once again.  He showed a YouTube video clip (produced by ConnectnMission) entitled “The Movement” in which he described the resurrection decisions that John Wesley made that changed the world forever.  Wesley was a priest in the Church of England and for the Methodist movement to happen Wesley had to decide between:
  • The status quo (institution) or the uncertainties of a movement
  • The comfort of tradition or the adventure of experience
  • The security of a building or the passion of the people
  • The organization of the rich or a church of the poor
  • The life of stability or the life of unending persecution

Wesley chose the latter because of his “heart-warming” spiritual encounter with God and the Methodist Movement was born.  Still today the choices are before us.  The one brings sure death to our beloved church the other brings life, growth, transformation.  Ask yourself how does your church stack up against the choices that John Wesley made.  Where can you make some changes? The call is every before us to choose life…now is the time.