By Kathy L. Gilbert
United Methodist News Service
Pen and paper are about the only tools he has right now; he is not even assured he will always have a table to write on or a chair to sit in.
Barbara Nissen and Tafadzwa Mudambanuki, members of United Methodist Communications’ Communications Resourcing Team, met with church leaders in
The meeting was part of the Central Conference Communications Initiative approved by the 2004 General Conference. The
Working in partnership with central conference church leaders, United Methodist Communications is helping those areas not only meet their own needs but also the needs of the larger church “for hearing, embracing and sharing life-transforming stories,” said Nissen.
“The leaders of the church in
Covenant of mutual help
The Foundation for United Methodist Communications is working to raise funding for establishing communication centers in each conference. The Mississippi Annual Conference has pledged $14,000 to establish a center in
Teams of Mississippians have traveled to
After Hurricane Katrina, Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, resident bishop of
Nhiwatiwa preached and led a workshop at the 2006 Annual Conference Session in Jackson, Miss. At the conference, the Chabadza Covenant was celebrated. “Chabadza” is a Shona word that describes a partnership in which one observes another at work in a field and joins in the work.
The bishop will serve as honored theologian in residence in
“Nothing can supersede communications in spreading the gospel,” Nhiwatiwa said. “Communication is the hallmark of doing ministry in all its various facets.”
Struggling to survive
“On Sunday, everyone goes to church - it is the center of communication,” said Betty Spiwe Katiyo, lay leader of the Zimbabwe West annual conference and a member of the communications board.
However, the bishop’s office in
“There are only two phone lines, and the switchboard does not have enough extensions for the conference staff,” she said. The office lacks computers and Internet service is almost always “down.”
“We need telephones, faxes and other vehicles as a means of communication. When you see what we have, you will not think it is normal because of what you are used to,” she told Nissen and Mudambanuki.
Communication outside the urban areas of
The Rev. Elijah Kabungaidze, superintendent of the Murange District, has a phone in his house that doesn’t ring and a cell phone that can only be used if he climbs a high hill several kilometers away.
Because of the severe fuel shortage in the country, he uses a bicycle or walks when he needs to visit his 14 circuits and 65 churches.
“I used to be able to get fuel once a week, but now I am lucky to get it once a month,” he said. He is working to get a computer in his office, a small room behind his garage, but he has to wait for electricity in his area. He has two old typewriters but often has trouble getting paper.
When he wants to send a letter, he waits on the side of the road for a bus to come by and gives the letter to a passenger, who promises to get it to the person he is trying to reach.
Schoolchildren often become the means of communication, said the Rev. Joseph Zinhanga, pastor for Nyakatsapa primary school. Mavhu Chishakwe, teacher in charge, demonstrated how frustrating it is to try to get through on the school’s party line.
“Most phone calls don’t go through,” she said. “We have to wait for other conversations to end. The code for school’s calls is three short rings and one long ring.”
Most of the 438 children enrolled in the primary school are orphans. Zinhanga calls the children together and selects the “head boy” to hand out mail to students to take to family, friends and neighbors.
Jack Chipfiko, head master of Nyakatsapa secondary school, sends students to collect the mail about 5 kilometers away. Children take mail home about 5 to 8 kilometers away.
“The roads are very bad and haven’t been attended to in the last six or seven years,” he said. There is no phone line in his office, and he mostly uses a cell phone. “But it’s hard to get a connection.”
Working on solutions
“One size will not fit all,” Nissen said. “Through the initiative, we have begun to work with conference leaders in each episcopal area to identify needs and approaches to building and enhancing communication infrastructure in the church.”
“From what we’re hearing in
A two-week course of study will be held at
“It is exciting to hear about the possibilities of having communication offices in all our Episcopal areas,” said Makwenya. “It is my prayer that God will continue to open possibilities.”