What is this all about? What does Morrisburg have to do with Africa? I asked myself that question, too, before I traveled to Durban, South Africa for the 2011 World Methodist Council and Conference in July/August.
Representing one denomination in the whole family of Methodism, where John Wesley said, “the world is my parish,” is a bit intimidating. Over 150 denominations worldwide claim their lineage from the roots of John Wesley’s Methodism.
By way setting the meeting and Methodism in history, the first meeting of Methodist Council and Conference took place in London, England in 1881, one year after the completion of the existing Methodist Church in Canada church on Lakeshore Drive, now Lakeshore Drive United Church.
The subsequent councils and conferences met every 10 years at sites around the globe, and since the 1980’s have begun meeting every five years. Committees constituted by people from various Methodist denominations report on their worldwide work in areas such as family life, global relations and evangelism. And Methodists gather to re-affirm their identity and connect with one another.
As any other gathering of over 2000 people, it is such a Spirit filled place to sing, dance, and worship God together! In so many languages with such vibrancy!
Besides Bible study and world class speakers like Archbishop Elias Chakour, all the delegates and friends could participate in mission work. All of us were asked to bring school supplies for children so that the churches could distribute them as needed throughout South Africa.
The Methodist Church of South Africa operates many day-care centers, orphanages, preschools and day schools for youth. African churches are instrumental in the work to eradicate the spread of HIV/AIDs.
We were able to participate in the daily work at every site we visited.
I also chose to fill food bags for the program called End Hunger Now. It is a 10-year old food aid organization which the Methodist Men in the United Methodist Church have taken on as their mission project.
The goal for the conference was to fill 100,000 packages, and we exceeded that goal by 33,000 packages. Even high school children from Durban helped in this effort.
Each package contained a cup of rice, a cup of vegetable protein, two tablespoons of lentils and a package of vitamins and minerals. Mixing six cups of water with this dry mix produced a well balanced meal for more than one child.
End Hunger Now received permission from the Somalie group El Shabab, to deliver 25,000 packages to the starving thousands in Somalia.
Even in Africa, the church and nation know that in order for a child to learn well they need a full stomach. For some children the meal that they get at school is the only really filling meal that they get on a daily basis.
So remember this when you or your church is raising funds for food in Africa, especially at this critical time in the life of the drought in the Horn of Africa.
But hunger is also close to home here in Morrisburg. We have children and families where nutritious food is not always available.
There is a lunch/breakfast program at Seaway District High School. At our elementary schools, our children receive little bags of dry cereal or crackers and fresh fruit to supplement their diets.
So that is why we need to connect Africa and Morrisburg.
Africans say that it takes a whole village to raise a child. What they know is that it takes everyone taking an interest in the welfare of our children to ensure that they grow up as healthy, educated, responsible adults.
Our various denominations know that we all celebrate the Eucharist, Holy Communion, The Lord’s Supper, in what I like to call the “meal that feeds the world.” And as we are fed at the Lord’s Table so we are called to be disciples to also feed the world with the Word that nourishes our hearts, mind and actions, and calls us forth to put our faith into action.
We are thankful to be able to support the Food Bank, Canadian Food Grains Bank growing projects in our community and other programs that ensure that children and adults here and in foreign countries receive healthy meals.
We have just celebrated abundance in Thanksgiving. We give thanks for gifts received and gifts shared. God’s Peace.
Rev. Arlyce Schiebout
Lakeshore United Church