Lenten Meditation: John 9:1-41
1 Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?" 3 Jesus said, "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.John 9:1-3, Eugene Peterson’s translation
John 9:1-41 is the Gospel Reading for this coming Sunday in this Season of Lent. The story of the healing of the blind man is deep, with many layers of holy truth. This week, however, I simply want to share with you that I am at this moment feeling that I have been like the man blind from birth of John’s gospel, but today I am seeing what God can do!
I write to you from Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. I am privileged to be a board member of this great United Methodist institution that this year celebrates its 25th anniversary. I have been here before, but I am seeing some things that I had been blind to and it brings me great joy because I know that what I am seeing is what God can do.
My first visit to AU was in 1998. The campus was then a great expanse of rural land with high grasses, Acacia trees and rolling hills. They tell me there were three buildings back then, but I only remember seeing one. Today AU has 5 teaching facilities, a grand chapel, a library, an IT Center, a student union and dining hall, faculty offices, a retreat center and a Health Center plus 12 residences and 16 staff houses!
When AU was getting ready to open its doors 25 years ago I understand that there was real fear that there would not be enough students on that first day to even justify the electricity bill. But trusting God those early leaders of AU opened the doors and welcomed those who came. Today AU celebrates that it has graduated 7,000 young people now working in 32 African countries. More than half of its students are women.
On this trip, I have seen that which on all my visits I have been blind too. One night I took a walk and came upon a group of persons who were gathered under the great big canopy of a thousand stars. I was startled when I first came upon them, but I quickly realized they were friends. They were staff members of AU worshiping outdoors in the cool of night, praising God for all of God’s goodness. These are people who live in poverty, but are so committed to AU, believing that it is not any ordinary institution, but God’s own school that will provide leaders who will transform Africa and even the world.
Another night I finished my dinner and was drawn by music. I followed the music and it led me to the chapel. At first I thought I was seeing young people rehearsing for this weekend’s AU anniversary celebration, but as I walked into the chapel I could see that it was a large group of young people engaged in worship. They sang, they prayed, and gave witness to what God is doing in their lives. A few other board members had also been drawn to the chapel with me and when the students saw us they welcomed us with love and hospitality and I saw what a true community of faith looks like – joyful, bold in its witness, sure of its future because God is with us!
As I sat and watched these young people I realized that just a few days ago one who not that long ago had probably been in this chapel leading worship as an AU student is today a bishop of the church. On March 18th, Rev. Mande Muyombo was elected a bishop of The UMC at the Congo Central Conference and assigned to lead the North Katanga Episcopal Area which includes Tanzania. At 44 he is one of our youngest bishops. Oh, see what God can do! I could see that from those young people leading worship that night spiritual leaders will come not only for Africa but for the whole church around the world!
As the new Finance Chair for the AU Board, this morning I saw what God can do with deficit budgets when God touches the hearts of people. I saw the financial sacrifice being made by AU administrators, faculty and staff because they believe that God is building a school that will indeed bless Africa and all the world. They want to be partners with God, and how their faith shines through!
I have been blind but Jesus has given me eyes to see as I have been blessed to be at Africa University this week. What God can do is amazing! I want to invite you to consider coming to Africa University with me next fall when I return. Come and see what God can do!
Let’s pray for the students, staff, faculty and administrators of Africa University.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño