|'I have never typed my name,' says communications trainee|
Greg Nelson teaches the Rev. Gertrude Makombore computer skills. A UMNS photo by Linda Green.
By Linda Green
Jan. 8, 2007 | MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)
When the Rev. Margaret Mukundu, 41, sat down at the computer on
opening day of a communications training exercise, she typed her name
for the first time.
“I have never even used a typewriter,” she said. “I managed to type my own words, my own name.”
Twenty-nine members of the Commission on Communications, including
staff from United Methodist Communications, are meeting in Africa Jan.
4-11. The commission members traveled to Zimbabwe to explore how they
and United Methodist Communications can be helpful to African
During the training, they provided instruction on basic computer
skills, use of e-mail and the Internet, PowerPoint presentations, news
writing and editing and newsletter editing. Two journalists from
Zimbabwe led the writing instruction.
A member of the United Methodist Zimbabwe East Annual (regional)
Conference, Mukundu writes her sermons and other documents in longhand.
She said she appreciated the training opportunity as well as the
patience of the commissioner providing the training. “We are the
learners and this is our first time. They have very big patience.”
The Rev. Margaret Mukundu types her name for the first time. A UMNS photo by Linda Green.
She and at least eight others attending a communications training and
skills development course had never used a keyboard or a typewriter.
They are among 30 United Methodist pastors and laity from across
Zimbabwe who participated in the Jan. 8-10 training experience at Africa
Eight members of the governing board of United Methodist
Communications, with diverse skills in computer technology, media and
communications, led the training.
Following opening exercises, the commissioners divided the group into
skill levels to give participants the attention they need. The guidance
was sometimes reminiscent of Typing 101.
Mukundu plans to use the experience as a stepping stone for more
training to improve communication with others. “This training encourages
me to take more classes to do better than I am doing,” she explained.
“Communications means communicating with others in Zimbabwe and out of
Other commission members participated in a mission volunteer exercise
at the Zimbabwe Orphanage Endeavor, where they unloaded food for
distribution to schools and mission entities.
Mike McCurry, a commission member, communications expert and former
press secretary for President Bill Clinton, provided the trainees and
the commissioners with his five “secret Cs” for effective
He told the pastors and laity to have:
- Credibility. Be reliable and accurate in communicating;
- Candor. Be honest in admitting the shortcomings in the
system and “have the ability to tell the truth when difficult things
- Clarity. “A clear message that will break through distractions and reach people.”
- Compassion. – Strive for “authentic dialogue with those who are skeptical” or critical.
- Commitment. “Stick with it.”
Domingos Antonio of Luanda, Angola, wore two hats at the training event.
As a member of the commission, a journalist and radio program producer,
he taught pastors and lay people. He also was trained by his fellow
“When you don’t use computer skills often, you forget them,” Antonio
said. “I am here to learn. I am here to revive my skills on the computer
and to help others.”
Playing a dual role is exciting, he added. “When we teach, we also
learn. My double role here makes me more humble because I think I can
get more in learning than by teaching.”
Greg Nelson, a commissioner from Salem, Ore., journeyed to Zimbabwe
for two reasons: to learn about the realities of communicating in
Zimbabwe and to show the people of Africa that the Commission on
Communications “is part of their United Methodist Church and is not just
an institution in the United States.”
Nelson told United Methodist New Service that if the denomination is
going to continue its journey towards becoming a fully global entity and
enhancing the participation of delegates from outside the United States
at sessions of General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative
body, then boards and agencies must meet their needs as well.
Acknowledging that cultural and economic differences make it
challenging and common ground needs to be found, he said, “we need to
find the right way to reach those cultures and economies where they are
on the ground. Jesus met people where they were at and the United
Methodist Church needs to do that, too.”
Antonio believes the church cannot be global “if some people are too
high and the others are too low.” Africa, he noted, is behind in
“As I see here, some of the participants have never seen a single
computer and some don’t know how to write,” he said. “Africa must be
helped in developing communication technology, in improving writing
skills, so that we can work together as members of the same church.”
Antonio said he appreciated the training event in Zimbabwe and is
requesting that United Methodist Communications continue this type of
training across the continent.
Gift Mudambo, a member of the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference,
attended the training “to understand how to communicate with one another
in different languages, cultures, and to understand tradition.
“This training is a privilege,” he said. “To be able to teach others
about how my church drives me from one place to another using others
from overseas is a privilege.”
The Rev. Gertrude Makombore, also from Zimbabwe East, said she “came
to get knowledge about communicating to other people. This is important
because you can know people you did not know before. It is a program of
Martha Matharuka, Zimbabwe West, sees the training as a tool to enhance
her ability to pass knowledge on to others. “I hope to take the training
back to my district in Bulawayo…so that we can all communicate from the
top to the bottom.”
She was grateful to United Methodist Communications for providing a
start to enable her to communicate with people in rural areas. As others
do across Africa, she sends mail on a bus and hopes that it reaches the
intended recipients after days or weeks of travel.
The Rev. Tafadzwa Mudambanuki, coordinator of the Central Conference
Communications Initiative at United Methodist Communications, told those
at the gathering that they “have been called by God to exceed
limitations. You have been set apart to be the prophetic voice . . . to
proclaim the good news to the people of this area.”
The training will help local people respond to “those off the grid,”
have beneficial information for their lives and be connected to others
for sharing and problem-solving, he added.
Mudambanuki also said he expected participants would overcome any
limitations – such as a “can’t do attitude” or fear of what others think
– to become effective communicators. “You can do all things through
Christ. Liberate yourself,” he told the group.
During the commission meeting, the Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive
at United Methodist Communications, bemoaned the familiar story lines of
diminished budgets and membership decline that often are used to
describe the United Methodist Church and other mainline denominations in
the United States.
“I do not accept this as the only story line, not even the one that
must be used to tell our story,” he said. “It is a search for death. I
am interested in life.”
There is a clear indication that people are “hungry for a vital,
life-giving, life-sustaining expression of the Christian faith, one that
is spiritually mature and relevant to the concerns we face in this new
century,” Hollon added.
In addition to Antonio and Nelson, other commissioners providing
training were the Rev. Alvin J. Horton, Richmond, Va.; the Rev. Cynthia
Harvey, Houston; the Rev. Thomas Clemow II, Oneonta, N.Y.; Candis
Shannon, Fairbanks, Alaska; Paul Black, Springfield, Ill., and Bill
Norton, Raleigh, N.C.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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