Meeting for holy conferencing.
“Now you know!” said the Africa Central Conference (ACC) and the College of Bishops President Bishop Eben Kanukayi Nhiwatiwa at the opening of the ACC Young People’s Gathering organised by the United Methodist Women Regional Missionary Initiative from the 17th to the 22nd of April 2013, in Harare Zimbabwe.
“Now you know that you are important as the young people in the United Methodist Church (UMC)…and you are the hope of the continent to break these barriers of strangeness in Africa.” The bishop said this to a thundering applause from the young people coming from 5 Episcopal Areas in the Central Conference.
Bishop Nhiwatiwa said this in the context of Christ’s resurrection. “We are gathered as young men and women because Jesus rose up…” and he implored the young people that once they know that they believe in the risen Christ they will do exploits for their denomination.
The gathering is the second following the one held in South Africa in 2009.
“This is a time, we as young people are glad to be here coming from different countries of Africa…”said Finda Quiwa the ACCYN (Africa Central Conference Youth Network) Regional Missionary. “The young people are saying, ‘bishop we want to play our part’ in the affairs of our Central Conference” she added in response to the bishop’s opening address.
“When we come together, we reason together and we also celebrate as young people…and the network serves as a platform aimed at bringing together young people…”said Edson Julio, the ACCYN Chairperson (2009-2013).
Isabel Pinto Muhongo, a 26-year old young lady from Angola West Annual Conference who was thrilled about finally coming to the gathering after encountering visa challenges said, “I am so excited to finally show up at this event to participate in this platform granted by the church. In an era where young people are battling for space in the church and the world, it is good that my church (UMC) is opening space for us.”
For some the gathering has become an eye opener, while to others it is a moment of brainstorming for the good cause of the Africa Sub-Saharan church.
“We will definitely come from this place empowered and be able to stand on our own as the youth and claim our position, particularly us from Botswana and Zambia, where the church has challenges of being perceived as a foreign church. Our encounter with some young people from East Africa Annual Conference which consists of a number of countries and languages will help us cope with the language issues back home and evangelize the Botswana nationals.” The 16-year old Wilfred Chasi one of the youngest participants at the ACCYN gathering said. “…and this is my first time to attend such a meeting in my church; am so excited”. He added.
By coming together and sharing experiences, the young people have created a web of connections that will see them contributing meaningfully in the affairs of their Annual conferences, Episcopal areas, Central conferences and the entire global church.
“The UMC is truly an international church because of its connectional nature. By just being a UMC member you have put yourself in connection…” said Rev. Forbes Matonga the ACC Secretary and a member of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. “If anything at all, what we cannot lose is being a worldwide church and putting ourselves in small compartments is fragmenting the church.” He added in encouraging the young people to remain united and resolute.
“I have a dream…”
This year’s theme for the gathering is “I have a dream…”Genesis 37:5; a replica title to the speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to over 250 000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The “I have a dream…” speech became a defining moment for the American Civil Rights Movement.
The gathering of the young people from the Africa Central Conference in Zimbabwe coincides with the nation’s celebration of independence from British rule attained on the 18th of April 1980. And as the Zimbabweans celebrated their Independence Day, the African young people joined in solidarity calling out “freedom!” in their own languages – “Uhuru, Liberdade, Obwetaze, and Kgololosogo”; the words of “freedom” in Swahili, Portuguese, Luganda and Tswana respectively. Back then the natives had a dream for freedom and that dream was realized. Today, young Africans are gathered in holy conferencing to see their dreams come true and make them relevant in the communities they exist and in the church.
“Dreams are meant to be interpreted…” implored Rev. Alan Masimba Gurupira, the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area Deputy Administrative assistant to the Bishop. “Just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr had a dream to do away with racial segregation, then you as young people must make this gathering a defining moment for the ACCYP” he added.
Speaker after speaker continued to encourage the young people to remain purposeful in their quest for relevance in the 21st century.
Education was underlined as a major contributor to the successes of young people in Africa. “Education breaks the cycle of poverty…” said Mr. David Njike, a lecturer at Midlands State University and Layleader for the Bulawayo-Midlands District in Zimbabwe West Annual Conference, in his presentation on “Education, Science and Technology – Empowering young people”.
The Honourable Saviour Kasukuwere, the Minister of Youth and Indigenization in the Zimbabwean government who graced the occasion and presented a paper on “Breaking the cycle of poverty”, echoed the same sentiments.
“I am glad the church has offered us the young people the opportunity to learn and we must create a new breed of Africans that strives for political, economic and social freedoms…it will be a sin if the youths in Africa do not change their circumstances”.
The minister motivated the gathering by the message of “Breaking the cycle of poverty”, but the young people however bemoaned the kind of education received in secondary and tertiary institutions. “We are taught to be workers and not employers…and Science subjects are not taken seriously” said most of the young people. “…and the girl child is at the receiving end of this uneven playing field.”
Mr. Njike confirmed the challenge. “Most tertiary institutions were at some, at the verge of closing their Science departments because very few students are taking up sciences…most school heads are focussing on Arts and Commercial subjects as a way of ensuring a 100percent pass”.
Dance and expose’ of African song, dress and acts characterized the “culture night” which has become a signature event of such gatherings. The room exploded with the vibrations of Sub-Saharan Africa as the young people showcased their traditional garb, the marriage ceremonies, funeral rituals and the spectacular Masai springing jump-dance.
Africa University Tour
The Africa Central Conference Youth Network had the privilege of touring the Africa University and Old Mutare under the guide of Mr. Shepherd Machuma the church historian, as the 2013 Gathering came to a glorious close. Each of the young people got the chance to come closer to the dream of Bishop Hartzell which he said, “I see Africa meeting…” and today the whole of Africa is coming to study at Africa University. Among the participants four young people are Africa University alumni.
“Get away and go!!” exclaimed Rev. Dr. Marewangepo, the Administrative Assistant to the Bishop in the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area in the send-off message.
The goals of the gathering were;
• To bring young people who together with their adult workers who could be inspired and challenged to live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ and returning to their Annual Conferences and communities as agents of transformation.
• To create space where young people and especially young women in the Africa Central Conference could meet and identify critical issues affecting them and work together to address these issues
• To receive, discuss and act upon reports from the executive committee on the activities of the network during the 2009/12 quadrennium
• To elect youth/young adults and recommend them to the Africa Central Conference to serve on the various boards, committees and councils of the Central Conference and General Agencies of the church
• To elect members of the ACC youth executive and develop programs and activities for the 2013-2016 quadrennium
• To equip youth leaders and adult workers with youth with basic leadership skills to make them more effective in their ministry and service to the church and society
• To introduce the concept of School of Christian Mission, now Mission U and the Ubuntu day/week of service for young people in Africa Central Conference.
Pastor Taurai Emmanuel Maforo | (Zimbabwe Episcopal Area Communicator and News Reporter at the 2013 ACCYN gathering) Email: email@example.com