The Church is of God
By Bishop James Swanson
I just returned from a 10-day mission immersion experience in Nairobi, Kenya and the Central African Republic.
While I was in Bangui, the capital of the Central Africa Republic, I heard two men tell about the beginning of the UMC in that nation.
Their story began in the late 1990s when a parochial school teacher heard a radio broadcast about the work of The UM Committee On Relief.
This teacher was so touched by what he heard that he instantly said to himself, “I must bring the UMC to Bangui!” He recruited his best friend to listen to the broadcast, and that led to correspondence with the Rev. Sam Dixon, deputy general secretary of UMCOR (Sam later died in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti).
Later, the two men and their wives journeyed to the Democratic Republic of Congo to study at the Methodist Theological School in Mulungwishi.
Today, they are both district superintendents leading the conference in planting new churches and developing strategies for the long-term growth and sustainability of the UMC in The Central African Republic.
Throughout our five-day visit in the landlocked country in central Africa, these devoted church leaders only asked for additional training. They merely wanted opportunities to be better serve Jesus. After years of war, they wanted peace. They wanted their children to be safe and to realize their potential. They knew this could only be achieved through Jesus.
These African church leaders understand United Methodism is a holistic gospel that sets people free from their own deadly impulses and frees them to unselfishly serve God and humanity.
The church was born on March 6, 2014, while war ravaged the country and deep despair hovered over the land.
In the most unlikely of times, God said, “Let there be a United Methodist Church in The Central African Republic.”
Can we not learn from this? God owns this Church, God sustains, maintains, expands, revitalizes, or makes new the Church, not us.
And it happens like the creation story, in the dark or even in the midst of war and confusion like the current state of noise in our Church now.
The Church is of God.
Bishop James E. Swanson Sr., president
The General Commission on UM Men