When bridges lead to a 'new creation'by Gordon Houser
One day, when Danisa Ndlovu was a boy in Zimbabwe, he and his mother crossed a bridge. He was so scared he wanted to crawl, even though his mother held his hand.
Later he learned that even though crossing bridges can be scary, bridges “enable us to discover what’s on the other side, to communicate, come together and eliminate the us-and-them mentality.”
Ndlovu, who is president of Mennonite World Conference, addressed the adult worship session on Thursday with stories from his native Zimbabwe.
In 1965, leaders of the country, then called Rhodesia, met on a bridge that spanned Victoria Falls to declare a commitment to work toward an independent Zimbabwe. That independence finally came in 1980, after more meetings on that same bridge.
Other nations came to Zimbabwe to help rebuild a country ravaged by war. When peoples, nations and believers reconcile, Ndlovu said, “they are able to walk together into the future.”
“The church is called to serve as a bridge to bring together different tribes and nations,” Ndlovu said. At the center of the gospel is the message of reconciliation, he said.
Such reconciliation can be difficult. He said that at one time his church in Zimbabwe faced the question of footwashing when some members had AIDS. Those with AIDS felt shamed. Then, after a heated debate, a woman stood up and said, “Then we should stop all baptisms.” The debate ended.
Have you faced discrimination? Ndlovu asked. He said that when he was a boy, another boy told him, “You are made of burnt wood.” Later a lady spoke healing words, “You are beautifully and wonderfully made.”
Another woman who had been assaulted and consequently could have no more children told him she found freedom when she forgave the men who attacked her. The person who offers forgiveness, Ndlovu said, “has taken the risk to be in a new relationship.”
When the Lutherans asked forgiveness from Mennonites for their persecution of Anabaptists, it changed their relationship, he said. “We can no longer speak of Lutherans as enemies,” he said.
The New Testament calls us to bear one another in love, Ndlovu said, even while it reflects a church with diverse views. “When we build bridges,” he said, “the world will know there is a new creation.”
On the other hand, divisions among Christians become a stumbling block to the church.
We cross bridges, he concluded, to meet at the cross of Christ. Reconciliation must begin in the household of faith.
Following Ndlovu’s talk, the assembly took an offering for the outreach ministries of Pittsburgh Mennonite Church.
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