By Woody Woodrick
Sitting in the living room of a home in Vicksburg, one could easily sense it was a special moment for Lloyd Nyarota.
Nyarota was talking about his home country, Zimbabwe, with Twick Morrison of Vicksburg. “It meant so much to us to have someone stand with us who was not even there,” Nyarota said later, referring to Morrison’s commitment to helping develop United Methodist communications centers in Zimbabwe.
Nyarota, a United Methodist pastor, serves as communications and projects coordinator for the Zimbabwe Area. As the former president of the Foundation for United Methodist Communications Board of Trustees, Morrison spearheaded efforts to aid communications in the Central Conferences, which include Africa.
“This was someone who loved you and you didn’t even know her,” Nyarota said of Morrison. “She showed that you don’t only have to do things for people you know.”
Morrison was also excited to meet Nyarota. “To see the fruit of our labor embodied in a committed and talented individual, to pray thanksgiving with him, to feel his joyous spirit as we talked about the church in his country, could not have bee a greater blessing to me,” she said.
The communications centers cost $14,000 each. The Mississippi Conference contributed $33,000 to provide two centers – one for each conference in Zimbabwe – and additional resources.
Nyarota was in Mississippi as one leg of a journey related to his communications role. He received the Helping Hand scholarship from United Methodist Association of Communicators to attend its annual meeting in Indianapolis, Oct. 18-21. His first stop in the U.S. was Nashville, where he visited United Methodist Communications. Following the UMAC meeting, Nyarota spent five days in Mississippi.
The Mississippi Conference and the two conferences in Zimbabwe entered in June a “Chabadza Covenant.” Chabadza is a Shona word meaning to join someone already at work. The covenant’s intent is to build a relationship between Mississippi and Zimbabwe United Methodists. Zimbabwe Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa attended the 2006 Annual Conference to join Bishop Hope Morgan Ward in signing the covenant.
In addition to meeting Morrison, Nyarota spent time in the conference office and visited the Gulf Coast to see Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, The United Methodist Hour in Hattiesburg, Millsaps College and several Jackson-area churches. He also attended the West Jackson District clergy meeting.
Nyarota said he was touched by his visit to the Gulf Coast. He had brought with him letters written by Zimbabwean school children to the survivors of Katrina. He said he’s eager to find ways for churches in Zimbabwe to help those affected by the storm. He took pictures of a tent church to share with churches back home.
Nyarota said his visit to Mississippi will help the Chabadza Covenant because he now has a better understanding of churches in the state.
“When you are working with people you know, it is different from working with people you don’t know,” he said. “I can now understand where they are coming from.”
Nyarota spent time at Parkway Hills UMC in Madison, Anderson UMC in Jackson, Wells Memorial UMC in Jackson and Trinity UMC in Brandon.
He would like to see churches in the Mississippi Conference partner with churches in Zimbabwe to meet mutual needs.
For example, he said, a church here might help finish a church building in Zimbabwe or share how it took its ministry beyond its walls. He also said he would like to see U.S. colleges work with school children in Zimbabwe.
“Give us two or three years and that kind of partnership will have an impact on Zimbabwe,” he said.