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Stomach of a guest smaller than horn of a goat

   

Peter Rempel is the Council of International Anabaptist Ministries Coordinator and Mennonite Church Canada Facilitator for Partnerships in Africa and Europe. This article has been adapted from a sermon he delivered at Bethel Place in Winnipeg, Man., on August 25, 2002.

 


Sue Moyo dishing out supper. "The stomach of a guest is smaller than the horn of a goat." In other words, a guest is easily fed, says Peter Rempel, noting the warm welcome and hospitality of Brethren in Christ churches.


Ronald Lizwe and Su Moyo from Bulawayo worship on Sunday morning.


Daniel and Sophia Seemani from Nakempa, Zambia. Daniel is a village minister, traveling to villages by bicycle two or three hours away from home. Already in his seventies, Daniel Seemani hopes to find someone to take his place soon.

September 10, 2002

Winnipeg, Man.—Our Christian brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe, the Brethren in Christ Church, are inviting the members of the Anabaptist family to gather in Bulawayo in August 2003.

In early August I visited Bulawayo for a meeting about the formation of a Global Mission Fellowship of Anabaptist-related churches. Based on what I heard and observed in Zimbabwe I offer three reasons for Mennonites and Brethren in Christ in North America to send members from their churches to the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) Assembly in Zimbabwe.

Honouring our brothers and sisters

Our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe have invited us to experience their hospitality and friendship. We should honour that invitation. We were told of a local proverb: "The stomach of a guest is smaller than the horn of a goat." In other words, a guest is easily fed.

They are ready to host us by transporting, lodging, and feeding us—even with the prospect of a food shortage. Nelly Mlotswha demonstrated the depth of their welcome by suggesting that each household in their congregations could start setting aside a small portion of salt or sugar. Then in one year there would be enough to serve the guests at the Assembly. Is this idea naïve or realistic? Practical or sacrificial? Probably it is all of these. But most importantly, it is faithful.

They are also praying for our safety and courage. Will we honor their cultural values of hospitality and their trust in God’s provision by celebrating with our Zimbabwean brothers and sisters?

Live in solidarity

There is no doubt that conditions in Zimbabwe are difficult. There are already shortages of certain food items. If rains do not come in October and November then basic foods will be lacking. The country has political tensions and problems. The eviction of white farmers from the land is but one of the potential flashpoints. Other actions and policies of the current government are causing discontent among the population in general.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 was drawn to our attention during our meetings in Bulawayo. Here the writer declares readiness to rejoice in the Lord though the fig tree does not bloom and the fields do not yield food. The brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe want to live according to this word. We from the lands of wealth and stability are called to accompany them in their attempt to rejoice in God in a time of material deprivation. Will we join them in a difficult time and circumstance?

A spiritual adventure

At the outset of the Book of Revelation, John declares the three things which he shares in Christ with the churches of his time: the tribulation, the kingdom and enduring patience (Rev. 1:9). Many, if not most, Brethren in Christ and Mennonite churches around the world share these attributes. Attending Africa 2003 will deepen the level at which we from North America can share these attributes with our brothers and sisters in the Anabaptist family today.

Placing ourselves into the difficult situation that exists in Zimbabwe today and attempting to express our faith through worship and fellowship there will be a challenge. Our faith and our discipleship will be tested when we join brothers and sisters from Zimbabwe and other countries who live with these tensions continually. This is an opportunity to join in a spiritual adventure to learn and grow in our discipleship. Are we up to the challenge?.

Send or be sent

For recent MWC Assemblies most attendees from the North have decided to attend on an individual basis. Attendance at Assembly 14 is a measure of our faith and faithfulness as a people of God. Deciding to go to Zimbabwe in 2003 should not be only a personally influenced decision based on personal factors such as funds, time, and interest. Mennonites and Brethren in Christ in North America should officially send members from our congregations and other organizations to the 14th MWC assembly.

As congregations, institutions and even families, let’s encourage at least one of our members to go to Zimbabwe. Perhaps we should be selecting the ones who seem especially gifted and inclined to learn at a global gathering, so that they are emboldened to cope with the stresses that might befall them. For one individual the stresses and risks of travel to Zimbabwe may seem overwhelming. With the encouragement and support of a community these can be overcome. Perhaps we should be contributing to the costs of their attendance so that personal financial limits do not prevent them from this experience.

From an individual perspective the costs of attending the MWC Assembly may seem extravagant, but from a community perspective it can be justified. Let’s send members from our churches to Africa 2003.

Joint release by Mennonite Church Canada and Council of International Anabaptist Ministries