Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What I Learned in Africa, Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts in which I'll share some of the important things I learned in Tanzania.  You'll recognize some of this if you heard my message at Covenant this past Sunday--but keep reading, because I plan to add to and expand on what I shared that day.

Second thing I learned in Tanzania: I'm actually PROUD OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH! 

I saw so many wonderful things that the UMC is doing in Tanzania. We're starting new churches. The people in these churches are reaching out to their communities. They share food with their neighbors. They go door-to-door to tell people about Jesus. They're starting small businesses to help people work their way out of poverty. They're ministering to street children

And the UMC is doing this kind of thing all over the world

This is Angel House Orphanage, started by a United Methodist Church in Carlisle, Ohio. It houses almost 60 orphans. 

Right next door is Angel House Secondary School. Remember what I said yesterday about education in Tanzania? This school meets a real need.  

It was started by Eric and Liz Soard, the missionaries with whom I lived and worked in Tanzania. 

Eric and Liz have been in Tanzania for four years, two years as volunteers and two years as full time missionaries with the United Methodist Church

In that time they’ve started the Angel House Secondary School, planted seven churches, trained pastors and church leaders, led several construction projects, led a well project, and started the Emmanuel Center for Women and Children.

And they’re only 26 and 27 years old!

After living with them for 2 ½ weeks and seeing what they do, I’m proud to be part of the United Methodist Church!

Now you may be wondering: "Claude, if you're so proud of the UMC, then why does your church not have 'United Methodist' in its name?" The answer is that we are missionaries to the culture we live in, just like Eric and Liz are missionaries to theirs. 

In Tanzania, a denominational name is a selling point. People there don't trust independent churches. They see independent pastors as charlatans who just want to take people's money. They are attracted to a church that's part of a larger, reputable organization. 

But in the United States, it's exactly the opposite. People here don't trust large institutions. Denominationalism is all but dead. Most of the growing churches in this country are independent.

One reason we say "Covenant Community Church" instead of "Covenant Community United Methodist Church" is because the second one is just way too long of a name!

But another reason--in fact, the main reason for everything we do at Covenant--the reason we dress casual, sing to a praise band, use video and visuals--is to reach our culture -- to create a place where people who are un-churched, de-churched, and hurt-by-church can come home to God. 

Eric and Liz have worked hard to adapt to Tanzanian culture. They've learned to speak the language (Swahili). They've learned the customs. And by now they've probably eaten over a thousand pounds of ugali. They're doing what it takes to reach the culture they're trying to reach. 

And we at Covenant Community are doing the same. 

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