The Watchwomen and Watchmen
Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church - Outreach - Blogs - TEEZing Out The Roots
My first step out of Zambia was into Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, representing MAPC in this beautiful part of the CCAP Synod of Harare. I cannot think of a better way of transitioning! I was welcomed fully into Matabeleland with nsima, worship, fellowship, and love.
Rev. Jared and Deborah Mwale, a familiar face to MAPC, send their greetings!
My last journey into Zimbabwe was a year ago in Harare and Rock Haven, a very different part of the country. Then Andy and I did an African Indigenous Christian Counseling training with adults. This time around I was asked to help lead a conference for the Bulawayo Presbytery youth. I came with very little idea of what the schedule might be, what topics should be discussed, what exactly my role would be, and how many youths to expect. Yet, I was excited for the opportunity nonetheless because after my emotionally exhausting farewell in Kitwe I needed some youthful energy. And of course all things worked out for the good. We managed to plan something together onsite. I was informed that the presbytery youth had an ongoing theme of being watchwomen and watchmen as portrayed in Ezekiel 33. In conversation with the youth leaders I learned that the biggest issues facing Christian youth in Zimbabwe are the desperate economic situation (over 80% unemployment) and the allure of false prophets and the prosperity gospel. Youth are going through school, working hard, dreaming of futures, and then seeing those dreamed-for futures dying because of the impossibility of finding jobs. Add this to all of the complexities of being young in today's world to begin with, and you have an environment that makes it very hard to thrive, very hard to keep faith, very hard to have hope.
Hearing this, I developed three sessions. The first was Watching for Jesus, which involved going through Jesus' calling of the first disciples in Luke 5. We talked about how Jesus sees people's greatest strengths when they feel like they are at their lowest, just as the disciples felt with empty nets. So, when we are at our lowest is when we should most fervently watch for Jesus. The second was Watching and Warning. We talked about the attributes that make a real prophet, using evidence from Miriam, the major and minor Hebrew prophets, Mary, John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul. We used their examples to take a critical look at the wildly popular so-called prophets who dominate Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia in order to figure out how to discern a true prophet from a false prophet. Attributes of a true prophet included always taking the side of the poor and oppressed, fighting against powers of oppression, turning people back to God when they have fallen away, communicating with God, performing miracles that serve a purpose, being despised by the powers that be and maybe even by one's own community, and being human like all the rest of us. The third was Watching out for Each Other. We used Paul's salutations to the Philippian church to discuss how we must support each other in this journey of Christianity. Just as Paul was in prison, Zimbabwean youth often feel stuck behind bars of unemployment, State violence, health crises, and patriarchy. We said we've got to have each other's backs so that we can break these chains. That is the only way we can survive and thrive. As a special privilege, I was also asked to preach this morning. Running with the theme, I talked with members from across the presbytery about Watching Out for the Next Generation, encouraging the Church to listen to the youths and to begin the process of passing the mantle of leadership onto them.
The Bulawayo Presbytery Youth + Yours Truly at our host congregation Sizinda CCAP
The highlight of our time together was dubbed "Cross Talk." This was an opportunity for us to have free cross-cultural conversation in question and response format. I was able to share much about my context in the USA, and the youths were able to share much about their context in Zimbabwe. We discussed everything from Beyonce to evangelism (not that those two have to be mutually exclusive!). The most challenging and inspiring topics were the "American dream," U.S. American attempts to force "democracy" on other countries, U.S. American perceptions of Africa, sexuality and the Church's response, the biggest challenges faced by Zimbabwean youth, programming that keeps youth in the Church and indeed makes the youth the Church, true worship, and advice and encouragement for the U.S. American church. One piece of advice that came up is that we should have more cross-cultural interactions between MAPC youth and Synod of Harare youth. I agree completely!
With Sarah Gama, Evangelist Ida Banda, and Rev. Rabson Gama at one of several prayer house stands for the CCAP Sizinda congregation. Over 100 people worship at this stand, led by Evangelist Banda. It is placed so that they don't have travel long distances to the main congregation, which is overflowing to begin with. Talk about inspiration for evangelism!
Posted September 11, 2016