Today was a super enlightening day on several accounts. It was our first day of Roundtable meetings. If you missed a post -- this is the first meeting like this since 2012. Representatives from the annual conferences of Germany, Virginia, NY (virtually), Global Board of Ministries for the UMC, UM communications in Nashville, Missouri, South Africa, and Mozambique were all represented.
The start of our day was amazing. In the same room were folks who I've spent 4 trips and 9 years getting to know. Joao Sambo, Ezequiel, Bishop Nhanala, Naftal Naftal, Naftal Guambe, Edson, JJ, Alzira, Julio, and the list goes on and on with so many of my Mozambican ministry friends. For this, I was amazed and in awe the entire meeting for the amount of local friends I had in the room.
I had been anticipating this meeting -- colleagues from across the world, literally, who share the same passion about Mozambique as I do. However, there are challenges with holding these sorts of meetings. Cultural differences, different expectations, a variety of discussion items to solve, and all in the name of spreading the word of Jesus throughout the globe. Since when is there a meeting involving a church and not some sort of tension be present?
Missouri should be proud. Yes, I realize this is a common theme among my posts -- but I mean it more each time I say it here. When we discussed the Advance (Methodist jargon, yes -- but this really means approved projects that have support and can be funded through the global missions arm of the Methodist church) - we have individuals and congregations that are in direct support of more than half of these. We also do (most??) projects outside of the Advance system (like safe water, building primary schools, pastoral support , microfinance projects). During the meeting, we also discussed the importance of globally moving toward a 50/50 partnership -- where the Mozambican annual conference and churches monetarily support items to work toward sustainability. Again, thanks to my predecessors and hard work by Ezy -- we are leading the way by doing these types of things. Missouri is leading the way.
An example might help here. When MI pivoted a few years ago to move toward our current system of transforming the mind, body, community - we had a similar discussion as to what was had today with the global conferences involved. Today, semi-annually, churches who are not able to financially support in full their pastor's salary are able to apply (through their district superintendent's office to the conference office) for a salary grant. This way, churches that are sustainable can be sustainable by paying the pastor's salary. Those who aren't yet to that point can receive some help with a justified reason. This was a huge change from a local church in Missouri directly supporting a sister church. This change empowered the Mozambique church.
My biggest personal lesson today was humility and love. It's so important for us to be considerate and culturally sensitive to those who we are in ministry together in. As Westerners, we often think we have the answers to how to "do church." Our partners in Mozambique often want to mimic our system. We heard many stories of how the Church in Mozambique is outreaching to the needy (poor, sick, and socially banned). Our brothers and sisters in Mozambique need not take a path of Christianity that is like ours. Doing so will lead to declining churches with buildings too large for the worshiping population and potentially where they are unable to support their pastors. Instead, they need to CONTINUE to focus on what they are doing that is growing their church: evangelism and outreach. This is done through serving, educational avenues or indirectly by supporting health initiatives that eradicate malaria or HIV/AIDS.
We like to believe we do, but Western culture does not have this "Church" thing figured out. Our family in Mozambique know the best way to spread the Gospel. Any advice (pressure) "we" as Westerners provide as to our colleagues in Mozambique should be taken with extreme caution. Here's why: I'm excited to listen and work toward ways of enabling us together to harness our collective strengths in order to reach more people in Mozambique. By reaching more Mozambicans, I believe we will even bring more people to understand the love of Christ in Missouri. We won't grow the church in Missouri or Mozambique by teaching or preaching 'our' ways. Western ways are failing in winning hearts. Mozambicans are winning hearts. (See: Blog post from yesterday re: church plant I visited).
I'm proud to be a part of the Mozambique Methodist Church. Evangelical. Wesleyan. Caring. Missional. These are words to describe our friends. Each day I am here, I'm humbled in what they can teach me if I ask and listen to their story. In hearing their plans, hopes, and dreams -- I buy in. I pray our other Methodists partners do too.