Methodist Bishop visit Africa University


Bishop Jonathan Holston

IT is a special day for Methodists in my district. United Methodist Bishop Jonathan Holston is completing his last engagement before taking his long planned trip to Zimbabwe and Africa University this week.
Holston is accompanied by his wife, Sister Felicitas, the Reverend James Friday, a superintendent of the church, the Reverend Jeri Snipes (Ms. Kathy) and a lady Judge J. Thomas.
The US Methodists have a long association with the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and Africa University.
Zimbabwe has always inspired big dreams for Methodists. The first Bishop Hatzell shared his dream of African boys and girls carrying books to school and turning every tree shade a place of study. Cecil Rhodes took Chief Chikanga’s land and gave it to the Bishop in 1893.
The official history of Africa University says that two African bishops, Emilio Cavalho of Angola and John Kulah of Liberia proposed to the idea of Africa University at the Methodist General Conference in 1984.
Carolinians say that Bishops Edward Tullis and Joseph Bethea, who died in 1995, just before his planned journey to Africa University made the dream a reality by their practical support. Every Methodist supports the University through an annual levy collected from each church.
Ms. Kathy has the looks of a college freshman, but looks are deceiving. She is a powerhouse behind the Imagine Malaria campaign.
Zimbabwe is in the red zone where malaria affects 25,000 out of every 100,000 citizens.
Methodists everywhere have been energized to see malaria as an evil, and Bishop Holston is an activist. He won’t take things lying down.
“Well, don’t lose your cool when you hear the figure of US$1 million.”
With 200 000 members in the Carolina Conference, the numbers will add up.
The numbers are the least of Holston’s worries. He confided in us how South Carolina has just passed through the eye of a storm literally and survived. In its survival strategy, the governor realized that she must call on the hidden strength of the church.
On June 15, a white racist, Dylan Roof, chose Emmanuel Methodist Episcopal as a target for his race crime.
Having joined the Bible Study group for one hour, he turned on the saints and shot dead 12 of them, leaving only one wounded to tell the story.
Emmanuel (God with us) was founded by freed slaves in 1816. It was burned down two years later when it was identified as the centre of a freedom movement.
Members kept their worship services underground until 1865. Dr. Martin Luther preached there.
So it was that Holston and other bishops heard about Roof’s abomination.
The Movement, Black Lives Matter, was willing to create an inferno, no justice no peace. But Holston and other black bishops came together with civic leaders and decided to call on the Holy Spirit of forgiveness.
It was a trying time, as they had to talk and walk the walk, thus saving an incendiary situation.
Four women whose husbands had been murdered offered Roof their forgiveness. “It was hard,” the Charlestonians told this reporter, “but it was the only way out.”
Then it rained, dumping 14 inches in three days in the capital city and surroundings. This was the heaviest rainfall in 100 years. Again the governor found hidden strength in the churches.
When you hear Holston talk about these trials and tribulations, it looks like the Malaria challenge is the easy part. “Well, the figures will creep upwards. Some churches may have to pay say US$2,000 perhaps US$12,000.”
To me, the most moving part was the communion, in which your reporter was asked to assist the bishop. As the “littlest” among the saints, it was a great honour.
“And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice.”
So, this was the connection between the Imagine Malaria Campaign and our part as people of faith. Each member was asked to give US$10 as part of his (her) living sacrifice. It is good to be the “littlest” among the righteous.
I am told Holston and his team will live in tents in Zimbabwe, as part of their living sacrifice. If you see them it is alright to walk up to them and say, “Welcome Bishop and Reverend Friday.” They are armed with nothing but love for God’s people.