Written by Bishop Carl Buffinton.
I stared out the open window watching curve after curve take its turn and toll on my dozing. We were winding our way to Gisenyi. This was my third visit there for Apolo2, and probably my 5th or 6th trip since joining Anglican Mission.
It’s right on Lake Kivu and the Congo border is literally a stone’s throw, or toss, or roll away. You can see Goma across the lake. What happens at Gisenyi is in one sense practical and in another very mystical.
This year about 25 leaders from 4 dioceses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo met with us to look anew at the Nicene Creed and the Baptismal Covenant. This is the practical piece. The members of our team had split up different pieces and would share partly in lecture format and partly in small group exercises – sometimes asking them to write a song to present, or to do a Bible study – but the idea always was to get them interacting with each other. And it worked. They loved it and laughed a whole lot.
This year our time began with presentations from “Man in the Mirror” and “The Purpose Driven Life.” One evening I did, upon request, a rather impromptu presentation on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit which we followed with a time of prayer ministry. During the prayer time several people experienced healing including Bishop Bahati from Bukavu diocese.
Archbishop Kolini, Bishop William from Boga, and soon-to-be Deacon Vicki did the translating for our other team members – Fr. Andy Doan, Canon Christopher Caudle, Bishop Kevin Donlon, Ms Amy Elliott, and me.
The reason I say something mystical happens there, I dare not say magical I suppose, is that our time together borders on sacramental. There is of course the language barrier, and every year I wish I had studied French, assuming Swahili is out of my bounds, and yet there is good communication. I remember once doing an 8-day silent retreat at a Jesuit Center in PA, and how at the end I felt I knew the other retreatants though we never exchange a hello. And so it’s not so much the hello or “Jambo” that ties us together during the time as much as the hand shakes, hugs, laughter, and tea breaks. Somehow God puts flesh on the bones of our partnership; it comes alive in a fresh new way. For me, it’s like watching Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones begin to come alive. Something happens inside of those who share time and a focus of ministry together. Our hearts are strangely warmed.
What a blessing!
Bishop Carl Buffington is the rector of New Covenant Church in Winter Springs, FL. He has participated in three Apolo2 Formation Programs, and you can view his Winter Conference 2017 talk about raising up leaders overseas on the Anglican Mission YouTube Page.