Monday, October 30, 2017

"Thank You, my Jesus. Wherever I Am Now is Just For Your Grace."

Memphis Annual Conference 
Residence in Ministry Group: Tanzania 2017

Memphis Annual Conference Residence in Ministry Missioners With Their Friends in Tanzania

"Thank you, my Lord. Thank you, my Jesus. Wherever I am now is just for your grace."
(words sung by the youth choir during worship at Gamasara UMC)

Covenant life is central to the Residence in Ministry experience. Residents build trusting community as they journey together toward ordination, sharing retreat and learning experiences, and gathering frequently within their residency peer group. Often, groups will rotate peer group meeting locations to experience the wide variety of ministry contexts across our Annual Conference. What to do though, if one group member's Ministry setting is beyond the geographical bounds of the Conference?  Way beyond.

For the second-year residents (RIM2) of the Memphis Annual Conference, this reality became an opportunity to travel beyond our expectations, to trust God, to see God more clearly in one another, and to see God more clearly in new friends far away.

Rev. Eric Soard is a General Board of Global Missions missionary serving and living in Tanzania, Africa. When Eric was commissioned as a Deacon, he became part of a peer group with Rev. Janean Tinsley (Provisional Deacon), Rev. Amanda Crice (Provisional Elder), and Rev. Amanda Hartman Westmoreland (Provisional Elder). Group Leaders, Rev. Mary Beth Bernheisel and Rev. Eddie Bromley have worked creatively and intentionally to ensure Eric remains connected with his group - making good used of technology to do so. However, electronic connections have their limitations and the group celebrates each time they can meet fully in person. The idea of traveling to Tanzania began with some tentative, prayerful pondering. When Rev. Daphne Moses, UMVIM leader, caught the vision, the idea began to take shape. The bold and faithful support from our Board of Ordained Ministry moved us from idea to reality. The Board's abundant sharing of prayer and encouragement, and approval for MEF funds to help supplement the financial cost, made this journey possible. We are deeply grateful.

The relationships within this RIM group inspired the opportunity to build relationships stretching across our global Methodist connection. While in Tanzania we worshipped with students at Wesley College, with congregations in the urban city of Mwanza, with the growing faith community in Gamasara, and with congregations in the rural area of Tarime. In each setting, worship was rich and vibrant as the Word was proclaimed through music and preaching, and as we came to the Lord's Table together - sacred moments of community and Holy Communion.

God's Spirit was present in worship, and in the conversations that followed. What a gift to connect, really connect, with brothers and sisters - true family bound by our faith in Jesus and our shared Wesleyan heritage. What a gift also to have our conversation reveal just how much we hold in common - our joys and struggles in ministry remarkably the same.

We all give thanks for the opportunity to see God more clearly through God's people in Tanzania. As RIM group leader, Eddie Bromley reflected, "It was incredible to see the bonds of community deepened as the members of our RIM group participated in an international mission trip together.  The profound impact it had on these new pastors cannot be overstated.  I simply cannot think a better way to engage a group in the process of spiritual formation than to allow them such an immersive experience as we had in Africa."

Thanks be to God! Blessings!
Rev. Renee Dillard, Residence in Ministry Coordinator
Board of Ordained Ministry, Memphis Annual Conference

Hear From the Missioners!

Janean: "Before going to Tanzania, I had a preconceived idea of what it would be like - dirty, impoverished, needy. And yes, those adjectives can still be used. But what I found was so much more. It's a place full of people who are beautifully and wonderfully made by the same God who created me. We have much in common. And these commonalities far outweigh the differences. We each have very personal stories that need to be told. I met people of incredible faith and love for neighbor. The truth is, I fell in love with Jesus Christ all over again through every encounter with the Tanzanian people.... To see the connectionism with United Methodists on the other side of the world reinforces the importance of who we are as a church..... And to experience Eric's work will only deepen the covenant created in our RIM group. Now that we have experienced life in Eric's context, we can better understand how to support him in prayer, conversation, and accountability. Neema ne mungu."

Amanda H W: "During my time in Tanzania, I experienced God's grace through the relationships I made with the people we met in churches, schools, and homes. Though separated by a difference of language and life experiences from opposite sides of the world, we found common ground in dancing joyfully, singing praises to God, and having deep conversations about our faith and church. As a resident in ministry preparing for ordination, I am thankful for this international mission experience that opened my eyes to the fruitful and faithful potential for intentional partnerships with those living in developing nations across the globe."

Amanda C: "While in Tanzania we had the chance to meet other groups of pastors who were also understanding how to work together to cultivate kingdom work ... I believe pastors from both countries left our time together with a new depth of understanding of God's Kingdom and how we are each invited to participate in it.  We left better equipped to strengthen the connection of our United Methodist church locally and globally.  We understand more about healthy mission partnerships and disciple making.  And, I believe we see the fruit of a cooperative/team approach to ministry as opposed to ministry as "lone ranger" work.  I believe we will all be better for our time in Tanzania together.  I also believe an experience like this would grow and equip every pastor and I hope to see future RIM groups have similar opportunities."

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