L.O.V.E. as an act of accompaniment (part 1)

I am on a plane flying back to Chicago from the African Descent Lutheran Association (ADLA) Assembly.  This year it was a joint assembly with Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE).  Though I had to leave before the end of the assembly, the three days that I attended were full of challenge to be more fully who we are as justice seekers.  There was also ample time for worship and fellowship.  I hated to go.  There were speakers like Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, who asked us, “what does it mean to organize?”  And Rev. Leah Daughtry who told us to, “recognize our strength.”  I know as I left that the challenge and a call to do and be more in our church and world are continuing until Tuesday evening.

Invited to the assembly by the Rev. Lamont Wells, who is the association’s president, I was able to talk about the exciting work I do with ELCA Global Mission.  It became an opportunity to lift up the values of accompaniment, extend an opportunity to the gathered community and give thanks to God.                                                    img_7236

I began by lifting up the opportunities for service including long term missionary service, Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) and volunteer opportunities.

I told the gathered community I was not sure of the values of accompaniment when I first started this work.  I am clear about those now: mutuality, inclusivity, vulnerability, empowerment and sustainability.  I showed the group these values in my PowerPoint presentation.  I also mentioned my understanding of living out accompaniment; when I was initially interviewed for the position of Area Director, I told the interviewers, that accompaniment is an act of LOVE.  This means for me whenever you entire a new situation, a new congregation, a new culture, a new country, or a new relationship you: L- listen, O- observe, V- value, and then E- engage.

This has been my way of seeing my work and function since I began my vocation of pastor.  This way of being, this way of thinking, has held me in a good position as I preached and led a congregation and it influences and guides the work I do now in the Madagascar, West and Central Africa region.

I issued an invitation for the community to accompany me on small volunteer missionary projects through The MWCA4MWCA project.  I told them of the first trip to Liberia that two community members were able to join me on and the success that was had teaching preaching to 82 pastors.  I ended by telling them that when the Holy Spirit shows up, the Holy Spirit shows out and that is certainly how I feel about the work I do.  I give thanks for  this global work and I give thanks for God’s possibilities as more and more people of color get involved.

MWCA 4 MWCA

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It isn’t often in our lives that our passions collide. This fall my passion for preaching collided with my passion for the work I do in West Africa.

The story begins when I was asked, the first time I visited Liberia, by the bishop of the Lutheran Church in Liberia (LCL), to bring Black American preachers to Liberia to teach pastors in Liberia their preaching style. This was amazing. He had no idea that I had received a doctorate of ministry in preaching. He had no idea that my thesis was about putting the best of Lutheran theology, with the best of the Black American preaching tradition to preach God’s love and grace.

It took me almost four years from the time of the request to facilitate this workshop in Liberia. With much help from my colleagues in Global Mission and the aid of some leadership development courses that helped me imagine a project, put in on paper and pitch this project in order to receive funds to make it possible, the project happened. img_1427

In November 2016, the first ever MWCA 4 MWCA Preaching Workshop took place in Totota, Liberia. It was part of the LCL’s regular pastoral training program. There were eighty two pastors present. This included pastors from two additional churches invited by the LCL; they were the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone and the Lutheran Church in Guinea. There was also a pastor present from Ghana. Of the 82 pastors, seven were women.

The workshop consisted of 15042205_10211353825990791_629561353844302200_ounderstanding who we are as Lutherans, claiming law and gospel as our starting place for preaching, talking about the freedom of being who we are as we preach, and celebration as we “repeat what is worth repeating.” The workshop was led by myself, Rev. Themba Mkahabela, regional representative for GM/MWCA, Rev. Yehiel Curry pastor of Shekihan Chapel in Chicago and Rev. Lamont Wells, African Descent Lutheran Association (ADLA) president.

Each day began with one of the facilitators modeling preaching law and gospel, and celebration. There were plenary sessions that centered us with worship, music and prayer; along with small group sessions that helped the participants explore scripture for the upcoming church season. There were six small groups.

The last day of the workshop was amazing; twelve pastors preached, two from each of the small groups. What was absolutely incredible is that of these twelve preaching opportunities four were taken by women.img_1410 The preachers were asked to keep their sermons to twelve minutes and they did! The sermon that absolutely blew me away was a sermon preached by a young pastor from the Lutheran Church in Guinea. He is French speaking; so, he read the scripture text in French and began to preach in English. In the middle of his sermon he broke out into song. This style of singing in a sermon was modeled by Pastor Lamont. This young Guinean Lutheran pastor preached law and gospel, celebrated and incorporated what he had seen modeled by one of the facilitators. This helped me call this workshop a success.

While this was the first workshop and it was focused on preaching the MWCA team and project guiding coalition are planning others. We are hoping to offer workshops that lift up women and girls, teach stewardship and Lutheran Identity. Pray for us in our work.

Readers, I am still westafricabound.

 

 

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