Wednesday, October 17, 2012

You Arrive American; You Leave Angolan

Registering for nets under baobab tree
Robin Ball reflections

What good can come from our travels to the West Angola Conference of the United Methodist Church?  Why spend the money and the time?  Would it be better to just send the money?

For me the most important outcome is the sharing of culture, world views, church issues and faith journeys.  A clear affirmation of our connectedness as United Methodists.  How we address family, economic and work issues may be dependent on our culture but the issues are the same.

Exchanges like these provide the framework for discussion of church issues – stewardship, participation, organization, theology.  So, stimulating to look at your faith journey while talking with another member of the faith who may have a bit different view.

As we build our global church, these experiences help us understand each other and move forward together.  Listening to each other.

Bishop Elaine J. W. Stanvsky reflections

Worship at Bethel United Methodist Church

Sunday I was invited to preach at Bethel United Methodist Church, where Rev. Bernardo Neto is the senior pastor.  About 1,000 people gathered in a bright sanctuary with two levels of balcony.  Four choirs blessed worship.  Everyone who had celebrated a birthday in September came forward to bring a special thank offering and to receive a blessing from retired Bishop Fernandes from East Angola.  The recently elected Ministry of Higher Education for Angola and his wife were also brought forward for prayers of blessing. 

When I was introduced and gave a brief greeting, I was ushered down below the altar to receive greetings from leaders of the congregation.  After two lay leaders offered greetings the women’s choir, seated in front of me rose up like a wave from the ocean to overwhelm me and lift me up with unbounded joy, to strip off my jacket and vest me in traditional garb:  wrapped and tied skirt and head dress and long tunic – OVER my long black skirt and clergy shirt -- at the beginning of a 3 hour worship service!  Before we came Bishop Domigos said that we would arrive American, but leave Angolan.  The transformation has occurred.

I preached on John 10: 10.  I came so that they might live and live life fully!

What a challenge to join Jesus’ great good work of making it possible for every child born to grow in the grace and love of God to become all God intends them to be.   Kingdom of God.  Transformation of the World.  This is the purpose of the church; the call of each disciple.

Margaret Novak reflections

In Luanda – The American Church Lady
Forgive me, God of this garden
  • For the plastic bags in the baobab trees
  • For the soda cans in the field
  • And the teeth lost to the sugar we refined
  • For the scarred hillside left by the mining bulldozer
  • And the marshes  drained and mis-placed by the crops we introduced for our harvest
Oh, God, I am so sorry.
Thank you, God of us ALL
  • For children, delighting in the school we helped to furnish
  • For the folks in the sanctuary, queued up, waiting eagerly to give
  • For the goodness of rice and beans and goat stew
  • For the generous spirits – health worker activistas in their own communities
  • For the women dressing me, making me Angolan
  • For the ones who have never seen this place who give, for that’s what we’re made for
  • For this church and its Simple Rules
Oh, God, you are SO good.

No comments:

Post a Comment