By Woody Woodrick
LaKeadra Coffey has never flown in an airplane. She’s picked a doosey of a trip for her first air travel.
Coffey will be among 26 people, mostly youth, from the Mississippi Conference traveling to Zimbabwe on a mission trip. The trip is part of the Chabadza Covenant signed last year at Annual Conference creating a relationship between the Mississippi Conference and the United Methodist conferences in Zimbabwe. The group leaves May 27.
“I’m excited and anxious,” Coffey said. “This is my first time flying and it’s a pretty long flight.”
It’s actually about 20 hours flying time to Harare, Zimbabwe.
Once there, the group will be involved in service, worship and other activities with youth, children and adults. The group will also visit some tourist sites.
“Our purpose is to live out the Chabadza Covenant,” said the Rev. John Richardson of New Albany, conference youth coordinator and one of the adults going on the trip. “This is not a one-time thing, but something that takes work over time.
“For us, it’s really about exploring what that means and finding ways (to work together) particularly with youth and young people in Zimbabwe.”
“Chabadza” is a Shona word meaning a partnership in which workers in the field are joined by others with common purpose.
Coffey, a graduating senior at Weir High School and a member of First Unity UMC, said she became interested in taking the trip when Ward brought up the possibility at the 2006 Annual Conference. Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa of Zimbabwe preached at the conference and was guest speaker at the youth dinner.
Ironically, Nhiwatiwa is currently in the U.S. and is scheduled to be on the same flight with the Mississippi group for part of the journey to Africa.
“When I first heard Bishop Ward talk about it at Annual Conference last year, I thought that sounded neat,” Coffey said. “It became real when I received my acceptance letter in December. I thought, ‘I’m going to Africa.’”
Coffey said she knows several of the teens going on the trip from her involvement with the conference Council on Youth Ministries.
She’s eager to learn about the lives of folks her age in Zimbabwe and to visit an orphanage, an AIDS clinic and “see the little children.”
The mission team has met three times, Richardson said.
“We’ve not only taken care of details, we’ve worked to make sure the foundation is laid for a good trip,” he said. “People who have traveled to Zimbabwe before have come and talked to us. A Jackson State University professor from Zimbabwe spoke to the group about the historical and political situation.”
Coffey said she’s also spent time praying about the trip.
“I’ve been praying for a safe trip, that everyone will be happy and that I will bring something back that will be life changing. I wan to learn something from them.”
The group is scheduled to return just prior to Annual Conference and will take part in the Mission Service June 11. “We’re going to be involved at Annual Conference in telling some of the stories, particularly Monday night at worship,” Richardson said.
“We’ll have a video and some members of the team will be sharing. We hope the same type of sharing will occur around the conference in churches.
“I’d like to see this become an annual event.”
Others on the trip include Eddie Amelung, Cari Casteel, Callie Creekmore, Warren Creekmore, Cody Donald, Lorenzo Fletcher, Xzadrean Gladney, Tish Glover, Hilary Glover, Chiquita Hewlette, Jasmine Hodges, Marshall House, Matthew Moore, Perri Morgan, Chelsey Overstreet, C.C. Robertson, David Shrock, LaDaysha Smith, Callie Stewart, Robert Stroup, Sam Tyson, Emma Ward and Ashley Williams.
Helping the mission
Churches throughout the Mississippi Conference can help the children of Zimbabwe by providing over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies for the youth mission May 27-June 7. Items needed include topical antiseptic, adhesive bandages, pain relievers such as children’s Tylenol, children’s aspirin or children’s Advil, etc. Bring these items to the conference office by May 24 so they can be taken to children in need in Africa.