|Bishop brings message of hope to Zimbabweans|
Worshippers at Hilltop United Methodist Church dance in
praise in Mutare, Zimbabwe, as they prepare to hear a visiting
preacher, Bishop John R. Schol of the Baltimore Washington Annual
Conference. UMNS photos by Shaun Lane.
By Shaun A. Lane*
June 28, 2007 | MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)
A boy receives a prayer blessing during the June 10 worship service.
David sat in the balcony of Hilltop United Methodist Church as Bishop
John R. Schol preached to 2,000 congregants about Jesus Christ’s love
and compassion for 10 lepers.
The story from Luke 17 was one with which he could relate.
The 35-year-old resident of Mutare was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS nearly
five years ago. He says that because of the lack of medicines in
Zimbabwe, he is on the verge of death.
Following Schol’s June 10 sermon, David was among nearly 1,500 people
who accepted the bishop’s invitation to come to the altar for healing.
David said he had no choice.
"I wanted the bishop from the Baltimore-Washington Annual (regional)
Conference to pray for me," he said. "His sermon was exactly what I
needed to hear today––like he was reading my mind. I am going to read
that passage again and again.
"I know that I am going to die soon––maybe in less than six months.
And my son, who is also sick with AIDS and malaria, will be without his
father. I wanted the bishop to make me one with Jesus. When he placed
his hands on my head and prayed for me, I was ready. My worries were
A timeless message
Speaking to a congregation ravaged by AIDS and malaria, Bishop Schol
said that despite suffering from diseases and poverty, Hilltop and its
community have the richness of Jesus in their lives. The congregants at
Hilltop, one of the oldest United Methodists churches in Zimbabwe,
"Hearing a sermon like this gives many
people hope. There are so many people crying right now. Sometimes all
they need to hear is a word of hope."
--The Rev. Tazvionepi Nyarota
"When going down the street, (lepers) were required by law to tell
people that they had the disease and had to do everything at a
distance," the bishop said. "So they were surprised when they saw Jesus
come closer to them, even as people yelled 'leper,' Jesus wanted to
bring the power of healing to their lives."
The Rev. Tazvionepi Nyarota, superintendent of the Mutare District,
said the bishop’s sermon impacted people at Hilltop because many feel
"Hilltop has many people who suffer from AIDS and malaria," she said.
"It has devastated a lot of our community. Hearing a sermon like this
gives many people hope. There are so many people crying right now.
Sometimes all they need to hear is a word of hope. The bishop has
provided that word for us today."
People sang and danced as they came to the altar and waited for Schol
and one of five other pastors to pray for them. The worship leaders
spent 30 minutes praying for congregants wanting prayer. When the last
person left the altar, Schol praised the people for their resolve in the
face of a nationwide crisis.
Delivering nets to fight malaria
Schol was part of a 13-member delegation from the
Baltimore-Washington Annual (regional) Conference that joined with the
United Nations Foundation for an 11-day mission to distribute 7,125
insecticide-treated sleeping nets in rural Zimbabwe, where
mosquito-borne malaria is another deadly reality.
They delivered nets to more than 15 churches, orphanages, clinics and
hospitals. According to the foundation, the treated bed nets can
prevent malaria transmission by 50 percent and are a cost-effective way
to fight the disease.
United Methodist churches and ministries throughout Africa are expected
to play a major role in ensuring that the nets get in the hands of needy
children and pregnant women through the Nothing But Nets campaign, of
which the people of The United Methodist Church are a founding partner.
Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa translates for Bishop Schol.
Between 350 and 500 million people are still infected each year,
mostly in Africa. Every day, nearly 3,000 people on the continent die
from malaria. Seventy-five percent of those deaths are children younger
than age 5. Every day, 25 million pregnant women risk severe illness and
harm to their unborn children from a malaria infection. The 2005 World
Health Organization’s World Malaria Report says only 3 percent of
children under 5 in Africa sleep under a long-lasting,
The Baltimore-Washington Conference team also conducted a school for
300 of Zimbabwe’s clergy, most of whom have had little formal
theological education. As part of the school, the pastors were taught
about the threat of malaria and how sleeping under the nets can curb
spread of the disease.
Schol, who first visited the Hilltop church and the Zacova community in 1995, said "my faith has grown" with each visit.
"We will pray with you so, together with Jesus, we will eliminate AIDS," said Schol.
David said he will pray with the church and the bishop to eliminate AIDS, even if it is too late for him.
"My son may be helped," he said. "And my friends may be helped. So I
will still pray. I know that it is too late for me and I will soon die.
But still, I am healed. I am one with Jesus. I thank the bishop for his
*Lane is director of communications for the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
Delegation delivers nets to malaria-infested township
Faith and sacrifice build new church in Zimbabwe
Fight against malaria needs everyone’s attention, United Methodists say
United Methodists to launch malaria prevention program
Zimbabwean ministries get boost in communications skills
Nothing But Nets
Malaria Initiatives of The United Methodist Church
Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference
Baltimore-Washington Zimbabwe Partnership
United Nations Foundation