During the month of July most of my time was spent traveling in southern and central Africa where I discovered anew what Pliny the Elder, Roman scholar and scientist (23-79 AD) meant when he claimed; “there is always something new out of Africa”.
It was a good time to be in South Africa to celebrate the 95th birthday of the global icon and titian amongst struggle heroes, Nelson Mandela. I also had an opportunity to meet with South African church, political and civic leaders to reflect on developments in sub-Saharan Africa.
It was a privilege to share a platform with Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, South African Deputy Minister of Economic Development, and Advocate Thuli Madonsela, Public Protector, to speak on the topic, “Young Women in Transformational Leadership”. Many of the women in leadership that I met were exemplars of the hope expressed by Malala Yousafzia, on her 16th birthday when she delivered a speech at UNESCO on women’s rights and girls education; “one child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.”
The highlight of my trip was my pastoral visits to the Free Methodist Church of Rwanda with Bishop Samuel Kayinumura, and later, the Free Methodist Church of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Bishop Josue W’elongo Luheya. Many readers will remember that the World Methodist Council covered a story of Bishop W’elongo Luheya’s capture by rebels in Eastern Congo. It was evident that my visit on behalf of the WMC showed a clear commitment to accompany and confirm that these churches are a part of the global Methodist/ Wesleyan family.
So often reports on Africa tend to focus on the negative, but according to an International Monetary Fund forecast, “Africa is the forefront of global growth where many sub-Saharan countries have a gross domestic product growth of 5-7% annually” and “seven of the ten fastest growing economies are African.” The report goes further to back the view of missiologists that the centre of gravity of Christianity has moved to the global south. This however does not mean that chronic destitution, lack of good governance, corruption and human rights violations are a thing of the past in many African states. I ask you to especially remember Zimbabwe, Egypt, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia in your prayers at this time.
I left Africa more convinced that Steve Bantu Biko was right when he, more than thirty years ago commented, “In the long run the special contribution to the world by Africa will be in the field of human relationships. The great powers of the world may have done wonders in giving the world an industrial and military look, but the greatest gift still has to come from Africa, giving the world a more human face”.