The visit of church global leaders to Northern Ireland under the theme ‘Kingdom Voices’ has been a great blessing to local church leaders, local churches and mission agencies such as CMS Ireland and SAMS Ireland, writes Archdeacon Paul Dundas, chair of Connor Council for Mission and rector of Christ Church Parish, Lisburn.
We were blessed to have Bishop Aime Joseph, Bishop of Gitega, Burundi, and Mama Benigne Kimararungu stay with us in Christ Church, Lisburn, and in the rectory for four nights.
They had a busy time, as we went to the Global Fun Day at Lady Dixon Park on the Saturday after a trip into Belfast and then to a picnic in Wallace Park on the Sunday with other churches in Lisburn. They also had dinner in the homes of Beverley and Beth on Sunday and Monday.
I valued the opportunity to be part of the Leaders’ Day on the Wednesday in Belfast with 100 local and global leaders. We had three seminars led by the global leaders as we reflected on the Five Marks of Mission.
I was struck by the message from Bishop Moses from Maridi Diocese, who shared about children being educated under a tree, building houses for clergy and the Mothers’ Union evangelists who go out on bicycles.
On the Friday night, St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, was filled with such joy and celebration in worship and sharing stories of hope amidst the context of the church in Africa, South America and Asia. I heard of the church being hope amidst conflict and political unrest, the church challenging leaders to pursue peace, but building new communities of hope.
At morning worship on Sunday August 14, Bishop Aime Joseph and his wife shared some information about their family, Mama Benigne’s work in an organisation dealing with childhood protection, their favourite verses [Romans 12:15, Matthew 6: 33], the work of the MU literacy programme and education. They have three children – Kayla, Bright and Ezra.
The Bishop preached about forgiveness from Matthew 18: 21-22 and the interaction between Jesus and Peter. Should we forgive seven times or 77 times? Jesus challenges us to offer unlimited forgiveness and then the Bishop shared about the conflict in 1993, when more than 115,000 were killed in ethnic violence in a couple of months.
He talked about one boy who was orphaned, filled with hatred, but who found in Christ a new way of living. The Bishop was talking about himself, now a leader in his society.
He said: “I am free from hatred, I have no place for any kind of divisions in my heart, I am a new creation in Jesus Christ. I am a repented sinner. I am already reconciled with our former neighbours and their descendants.”
Bishop Aime Joseph also used a saying from his land, ‘The way to heaven passes through the sitting room of your enemy.’ He quoted Hannah Moore who said ‘Forgiveness is the economy of the heart. Forgiveness saves the expenses of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of the spirits.’
Our final farewells took place at the Tuesday coffee morning with further conversations and sharing.
As a parish we have valued strong partnerships with St Apollo School in Uganda, Luwero Diocese in Uganda and Matana Diocese in Burundi. We, as a rectory family, offered our home to a visiting bishop in conversations with CMSI and were delighted that Bishop Aime Joseph and Mama Benigne came and stayed with us. We know St Mark’s, Ballymacash have entered into partnership with the diocese of Gitega. We as a parish will also hold them in our hearts, prayers and giving.