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Nigerian United Methodist Bishop Mavula dies


United Methodist Bishop Kefas Kane Mavula of Nigeria records an interview while visiting the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries in New York in this undated file photograph. Bishop Mavula died Jan. 11 in the Jos (Nigeria) Hospital.
A UMNS file photo by Mary Beth Coudal, GBGM.

A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
Jan. 11, 2008


Bishop Kefas K. Mavula

United Methodist Bishop Kefas K. Mavula of Nigeria died Jan. 11 of an undetermined illness, less than a year after his election as bishop. He was 40.

Mavula died at the ECWA Evangel Hospital in Jos City, Plateau State, Nigeria. He was taken to the hospital Jan. 8 after complaining of stomach pains and vomiting blood.

An autopsy will be performed, according to Mavula's administrative assistant, the Rev. James Besau Vocks.

Mavula is survived by his wife, Jessica, and six sons between the ages of 4 and 19. Funeral arrangements are to be made during a Jan. 14 meeting with his cabinet staff.

He had just presided over the Jan. 2-6 annual conference gathering of the Pero Provisional Conference and attended a function at Junior Seminary, a secondary school, located a mile from the episcopal office, according to Dauda Marafa, a United Methodist communicator in Nigeria.

According to Vocks, Mavula took medication on Jan. 4 for a fever and awoke Jan. 7 with a body rash and stomach pains. After he was hospitalized in Jalingo, Nigeria, it was determined that the bishop would receive better medical care at Jos City, an eight-hour trip by car, but mechanical problems with the bishop's automobile delayed his arrival and treatment.

The bishop's condition improved after being treated at the hospital, but he died Jan. 11 after a setback.

Condolences shared

Houston Bishop Janice Riggle Huie expressed sadness in behalf of the Council of Bishops. "He was so full of life, the love of the Gospel and of Jesus Christ, and was passionate about spreading the Gospel in Nigeria," said Huie, president of the council.

Elected bishop on March 3, 2007—his 40th birthday—Mavula "quickly garnered the love and respect" of the people of the United Methodist Church in Nigeria, she said. "He had already earned a reputation for fairness, for spiritual depth and for his deep commitment to The United Methodist Church."

Mavula succeeded Done Peter Dabale, who died of cancer and was elected the first United Methodist bishop of Nigeria in 1992. The church in Nigeria has more than 400,000 members.

Iowa Bishop Gregory Palmer, who presided at Mavula's election as bishop and has had Mavula as a guest in his home, called Mavula "a man of genuine Christian piety" who possessed all of the tools needed for effective episcopal leadership: "personal piety, love for the church, administrative ability and capacity to build relationships."

After his election, one of the first things Mavula did "was to fall to his knees in submission to God in acknowledging that he had been called. It was so genuine and assuming. He just exuded humility and grace," said Palmer, president-designate of the Council of Bishops.

"We had great hopes for Bishop Mavula," said Peggy Sewell of the episcopal services office at the United Methodist Council on Finance and Administration. "We had a really good relationship with him, and his death is a tremendous loss for the church."

Ethel Johnson, a retired professor of church administration at the Methodist Theological School in (Delaware) Ohio, had known Mavula since her travels to Nigeria in 1985.


Mavula receives a Book of Discipline from
Bishop Ernest Lyght during a May 2007 Council of Bishops meeting.
A UMNS file photo by Linda Green.
 

"I trained him to be an administrative assistant (to the bishop) so that he would be equipped to do his job," she said, offering thanks for his life. "I give praise and thanks that he served as a bishop for 10 months because he was a man of deep faith, had a willing spirit and an ability to reach out to everybody. He had a kind, loving spirit."

Bishop Felton May described Mavula as "a man of compassion, energy and wisdom, with an exhibited and unshakable faith in God."

May, interim top executive with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, said Mavula's "life's journey from home to the episocpal office reflected a spirit of Christ-like radiance. We will remember his beloved family in our prayers and we pledge our continued spiritual and financial support."

Growth and training

Mavula was born March 3, 1967, in the village of Nyaja in Taraba State, Nigeria. He became a Christian in 1976 and was baptized June 27, 1977, by the Rev. Jonah B. Matindi.

He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in theology from the Theological College of Northern Nigeria. He was ordained a deacon in the Nigeria Annual Conference in 1993 and an elder in 1995.

Mavula served as teacher, vice principal and principal at Kakulu Bible Institute in Taraba State. He was principal of Didanga Bible School from 1992 to 1995, then administrative assistant to Bishop Dabale from 1995 to 2003. Until his election, Mavula was principal at the UMCN (United Methodist Church in Nigeria) Junior Seminary.

Among other responsibilities, Mavula served as a member of the Board of Governing Council, Theological College of Northern Nigeria, from 1993 to 1995. He also was a member of the Africa University board of directors and chairman of the Peace Committee of Lau, Taraba State.

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Resources

Nigeria Annual Conference

Council of Bishops

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