Jabula International Conference, Harare, Zimbabwe – August 2015
The 90 minute flight between Harare and Johannesburg offered the perfect opportunity to reflect on the 3 day whirlwind of inspiration that was the Jabula conference, hosted by Bishop Tudor and Chichi Bismark; After a marathon conference of early mornings and late nights, my real intention was to doze off, however the beverage service enthusiastically offered by the flight crew, kept me wide awake. Just when I was about to drift off to sleep, I was being offered either chicken or beef.
Whilst I vacillated between sleep and wakefulness I re-imagined the Harare City Sports Centre packed with thousands of hopefuls ready to receive a word from the Lord in the bitterly cold Harare winter. I replayed the music ministry from the legendary Micah Stampley and South Africa’s own Hiram Koopman mesmerizing us with each and every note. Even though I was half asleep 40, 000 km above sea level I could recall particular phrases and statements which challenged and channeled me. For me, however, the highlight of the event, without a doubt was the panel discussion that went beyond expositing scripture to look at its application on contemporary 21st century challenges faced by the church.
Despite the richness of the experience, there was a good dose of drama thanks to our driver and chaperone, Kudzai. Kudzai, I am sure meant well, but she got us into a bit of a pickle (several pickles actually). On her first assignment of hotel pick up and drop off at the morning service, she never pitched. We were later told that she was stopped by the police for jumping a red light. On the way back from one of the services she did manage to drive us to, she got lost in her own home town and we were suddenly facing oncoming traffic in a one way street in downtown Harare. As if that was not enough of a shock, Kudzai’s car broke down near Pennefather Avenue in the middle of Friday night rush hour traffic. At this point she was so exasperated that she started shaking, and simultaneously inhaling and exhaling uncontrollably. I honestly did not know what to do. Kudzai was beyond me and like all things that are beyond my natural ability to handle, I handed her over to the Lord.
Determined to shake off the spirit of Kudzai from my Jabula experience, I focused intently on the remaining services and immersed myself in the proceedings. The truth of the matter is that on the first night I went back to my hotel room with more questions than answers. It felt to me that Jabula New Life Ministries had perfected the art of conferencing and I was left wondering what more there was to it? There were excellent international speakers, a big budget (I am sure), a 4000 seater auditorium, a comprehensive program and state of the art technology. As far as church conferences go, they had mastered it. I am sure pastors who have churches of their own were furiously taking notes; exchanging business cards and getting “contacts” and ideas they could use immediately they got back home. I don’t have a shred of a calling into pastoral ministry, so what was I really supposed to go back home and do? I am at a stage where I am honestly beginning to doubt the value of simply attending yet another conference which has no bearing on what I do when its all over. If you are pragmatic like me, you want to know what the next steps are. Being inspired without knowledge of how to translate the inspiration into tangible action and forward movement just doesn’t help me anymore.
Needless to say I left no stone unturned and no statement unexamined in a bid to go back home with “something”. My “shift moment” came during the panel discussion. Bishop Bismark; Dr. Molapo and Dr. Otabil provided the much needed intellectual and spiritual invigoration. I was enthralled by how they were comfortable to express their unscripted and differing opinions on issues like homosexuality, conspicuous consumption in the church and the glaring division that is rampant in the Body of Christ.
So this is what I ( thankfully) went back home with : The notion that the Body of Christ is divided and often incoherent in the way it approaches social and political problems is not a myth it is a reality (in so far as the experts in the room were concerned). Here were three international speakers with years of experience in between them, admitting that the Body of Christ was indeed divided and that we often failed to act and speak decisively with one voice on key issues. These larger than life personalities made a call to those of us in the audience to organize; collaborate and rally behind specific social and political causes beyond the four walls of the church.
The mandate of our organization, Kingdom development Initiative (KDI) is to improve partnership and collaboration between Faith Based organizations (largely churches) in Southern Africa. Based on the discussions during the Jabula conference, it seems to me that there is space for organizations like ours to add value to the Kingdom by focusing more on what can be achieved collectively rather than what individual churches can do on their own. Lets face it, we probably have more churches than hospitals , but how many organizations can one count that are provincial, national, regional or global in nature which seek to develop the whole Body rather than one member? This is my question to you, in your experience is the Body of Christ divided? If so, why and what should we do to remedy the situation? These are important questions because scripture says “a house divided against itself shall not stand”. I am going back to the Jabula conference in 2016 (and secretly hoping for another panel discussion).