By Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor
Recently, I have become more aware of the enormous impact of this Methodist movement begun by John Wesley.
In August, I attended the World Methodist Conference in Durban, South Africa. The thrill of the opening ceremony was incredible as banners and leaders from the 77 member churches were introduced. Our Methodist family is found in 135 countries. As the Africa University choir performed with passion and enthusiasm, I had a deeper appreciation for the global nature of our church.
It was like a family reunion, where I kept discovering cousins I did not know I had. On Sunday afternoon, there was a huge parade of more than 3,000 Methodists filling the streets of Durban and ending with a rally at the City Hall. There was singing and dancing in the streets accompanied by drums and bells. Traditional costumes and matching uniforms for others indicated that we were from all over the world. The majestic trumpets and trombones of the Salvation Army Band with Onward Christian Soldiers invited us to join in the march.
The presiding bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, the Rev. Ivan Abrahams, was elected to become the new General Secretary of the World Methodist Council in 2012. He and his family will become our neighbors as they relocate to the World Methodist Council office at Lake Junaluska, N.C.
Wesley would be proud of his followers. In the Methodist family, there is a sense that we have been called to this work by God. We share a mission of evangelism, education and social action.
One afternoon, I volunteered to pack meals to feed the hungry in Africa. It was joyous to work with others in measuring, assembling and sealing packets that would feed a family of six. Each day, the television was filled with news of the famine and the children who were dying in Somalia. I received an email from our United Methodist Committee on Relief about the need for assistance to the Horn of Africa. And there we were offering hope.
It was incredible that during the meeting, volunteers from the conference packed 100,000 meals through Stop Hunger Now. Even more amazing is that the mission in South Africa is the same in South Carolina. For example, I know that during the Revolution youth event in February, our youth and adult leaders packed meals through Stop Hunger Now, as well.
One of my friends and heroes is Bishop Joaquina Nhanala, serving in Mozambique. She is the first woman elected a bishop in Africa. Last week, she told me that she had recently dedicated three group homes for witch daughters who have been abandoned and accused of witchcraft by their families.
The practice of sending away elderly women, especially widows, has become common in Mozambique. There is no truth to the claims that they are witches, but it is happening just the same. Bishop Nhanala said the women have a great deal to emotionally and physically overcome. While we were together, she received word that one widow, traumatized by her family, had committed suicide.
The United Methodist Women in Mozambique began caring for these abandoned women in 1982. As one witch daughter received the keys to their new home, she proclaimed, I thank God for bringing me into the hands of The United Methodist Church. I have a family which I did not have before.
Yes, God calls this family of Methodists to care for widows, orphans and those in need. Through Wesley Commons, The Oaks, the Methodist Manor of the Pee Dee, Aldersgate Special Needs Ministry, Killingsworth Home, Bethlehem Centers, Shalom Zones and Epworth Children s Home, the people called Methodist in South Carolina continue to do just that.
I hope you realize, as I do, that we are part of a big family, and God enjoys big families.