Global Praise in the East Africa Conference
April 27-May 12, 2007
by Rev. Debi Tyree
The first impression we had of Uganda was the warm moist air coming off of Lake Victoria. The beauty of the countryside soon became apparent as we rode from the airport. In that first hour we experienced a view of Lake Victoria, the greenness of the countryside, the capital city of Kampala, the bustle of Saturday morning roadside markets, and the unique place in the crossroad of Uganda that the city of Mukono holds.
The East African Church Music and Worship Leadership event began with an invitation from Bishop Daniel Wandabula. His desire was that the Global Praise Program would develop the leadership and curriculum to enable teams of pastors and musician from all across the conference to participate in an intensive music and worship training. Bishop Wandabula also recognized that the leaders would become students as they learned East African music and worship from the pastor/musicians delegates. A last request was that the children of the Humble School, where the training was to be held, would be given the opportunity to sing in a choir.
The team from the United Sates, Eileen Guenther, Patrick Evans, Greg Scheer, Fa Fields, Debi Tyree, Jorge Lockward, and Chris Heckert, met together for the first time the night before the flight to Uganda. We were joined in Mukono, Uganda, by the rest of the leadership team: African church music specialist Patrick Matsikenyiri (Zimbabwe) and David Basoga, ethnomusicologist (Uganda.)
East Africa is comprised of 5 countries: Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan, and Kenya. Delegates were chosen by the leadership of the conference and represented each of the five countries. Every day of the training was filled for leaders and delegates. Each day began with worship led by the delegates reflecting the music and worship styles from their faith communities and cultures. The variety of song and worship styles was exciting and Spirit-led. Worship was followed by a plenary led by one of the leaders. The delegates then gathered into three groups for intensive classes in keyboard, music theory and voice/sight singing. Specialized classes in song leading, children's music, and guitar/bass followed after lunch. Children from the Humble School became a lab choir for the children's music class and met together for choir rehearsal each afternoon. At the end of the day roles were switched, as leaders became students; leaders and delegates met together with David Basoga to learn about East African instruments. The time was filled with song as the delegates taught the leadership team and each other the songs, drum, and other instrument patterns from their faith communities. The delegates had several hours of homework each night in all classes. Bishop Wandabula presented each delegate with a certificate of participation at the end of the training event. Chris Heckert has created a video that shares an overview of the experience. View the video at http://web.mac.com/christopherheckert/iWeb/Site/Movie.html
One of the unexpected blessings that happened as a part of this experience was the sharing of songs and understanding between the participants. The delegates represented the 5 countries that comprise East Africa and also represented many different tribes. Songs were shared from tribe to tribe and country to country. A strong sense of unity as a conference of The United Methodist Church began to arise by the end of the first week. Lasting friendships between pastors and friends have been created in the name of Christ across the boundaries of country and tribe. The seed that was planted during the first week continued to grow as the East African Annual Conference met on the property of the Humble School near the end of our time together. The leadership and participants were honored to be able to be guests of the session of the East Africa Annual Conference that coincided with the last two days of training. The delegates led songs in several of the native languages of the members of the Annual Conference. The seed of unity and solidarity that was planted has become more important in 2008 as Kenya experiences fighting within its county.
Impressions from Three Members of the Leadership
In his last audio report he shares, "The last day of classes was wonderful and sad. We ended chapel by anointing each other with oil around a circle while singing "Send Me Jesus." It was a really powerful moment. Our last meal together included a special treat--soda. Then we packed up and said our goodbyes.
I hate goodbyes. They either come off as flippant or melodramatic, but they never seem to communicate "even if we never see each other again, I'll carry a part of you with me for the rest of my life."
I'm still processing my time in Uganda, and probably will be for years to come. But here are some things I'm thinking about:
Rev. Debi Tyree participated in the East Africa trip prior to coming on staff at the General Board of Global Ministries, Global Praise Program. Bellevue United Methodist Church, Nashville, TN, supported her in her goal of being a part of the leadership team. The church has continued to support missions in the months after the trip in many ways. This winter, the Fourth-Fifth Grade Sunday school class at Bellevue is working on Prayer Bears for the children in Humble School in Uganda. Jeff Shearer, co-teacher of the class shares, "We've been studying prayer during January. As part of that, the kids decided they wanted to reach out to kids in another part of the world. They chose Uganda because of the recent news about Africa and they knew Debi had been over there. The Prayer Bear idea came from a video they watched in Sunday school about a church that made Prayer Bears as an outreach program. The kids plan to write a prayer as a class to attach to beanie baby type bears and send them to kids their age. "The seed of faith and understanding of our call to mission has grown to impact all ages in this congregation.
Dr. Eileen Guenther shares that she is still singing the music, especially the songs that each country group offered at the morning worship services, songs that everyone else was soon singing as if the songs were their own. She has used some of the songs, principally "Shukuru" for in her classes and in services at Wesley Seminary. She has led other songs and plans to continue to expand the seminary community's repertoire with songs from East Africa.
Eileen states, "Relationships with other members of the team continue as do relationships with participants, and all would be even deeper and stronger if I spent more time corresponding with both sets of people! In terms of the team, I am confident we will see each other again, work with each other, share the songs we learned and, I hope, work together in publishing them. I would love to think we'd encounter some of the participants again, but that's not as easily accomplished - although it would be an indescribable blessing if it ever happened! Correspondence with the pastors from Kenya in the wake of post-election violence in the winter of 2008 has been heart-rending and moving; their faith is rock-solid even in this crisis. After describing the burning of homes and church and deaths in his community of Naivsha, Pastor Moses writes that they will survive because in his words, 'Our God is more than able.'"
"My own faith was expanded as I see the strong, unwavering faith of people who have suffered greatly, who live in poverty and who have endured unimaginable hardships," said Dr. Guenther. She continued, "Such is the faith of those I met in East Africa. Each time I encounter people whose life experiences are vastly different from my own, I grow in my sense of the world that God created and the different gifts that have been given to each of us - regardless of the extent of "creature comforts" that we have in our own lives. I find that those who have the least in the way of material goods have the greatest faith - and that's something I consistently work to understand and communicate to students at Wesley Seminary."
Rev. Debi Tyree, author, is introduced at new.gbgm-umc.org/resources/globalpraise/about/staff/
Date posted: Feb 20, 2008