The Opening Address by Bishop Daniel Wandabula

The Episcopal address during the fourth session of the Burundi Annual Conference at Gitega Medical school in Gitega district from the 2nd to 4th September 2021 was presented by resident bishop Daniel Wandabula of East Africa Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church.

In his speech, he mainly  touched nine  major points ; welcome remarks , Conference theme of the Conference, Situation of the Conference, Covid – 19 pandemic, General Conference of the United Methodist Church, Completion of the Bishop Alfred Ndoricimpa Hospital, Future plans/ programs for the Conference, Request in preparation for General Conference 2022 and Evangelism.

Resident Bishop Daniel Wandabula welcomed all delegates to the 4th session of the Burundi Annual Conference of the United Methodist  Church. He thanked  the legal representative Rt. Honorable Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Sinzohagera and the entire team that they have worked round the clock to make this session possible. He was grateful to the government of Burundi for allowing churches to remain open during this Covid-19 pendemic. The resident bishop took this opportunity to thank former Rev. Ntahoturi Jean for having organized a peaceful and transparent elections of the position of the legal representative and most importantly for the smooth transition of power to current legal representative Rt Hon. Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Sinzohagera.

Resident Bishop Daniel Wandabula told the delegates present the meaningful of conference theme of the conference. He told delegates that the conference leadership decided on this theme as a guide to their work as a conference this year considering the situations and uncertainties they are going through as individual and as church. Some of these challenges include the covid-19 pandemic.

The resident Bishop said that conference theme this year is « Be strong and Courageous Amidst Uncertainties ». This Theme comes from Deuteronomy 31:6 where Moses is telling the children of Israel and Joshua to be strong and courageous and also trust in God as they prepare to enter the land of promise. « Be strong and caurageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you ». 
The resident bishop said that the Israelites faced such uncertainties and at the setting of Moses’ last day as leader of the children of Israel, delegates see in Deuteronomy 31: 6  that a natural response the children of Israel were faced with of fear considering the military and civil leader they had known from the time their forefathers left Egypt was not going to go with them into the land of Promise. When  resident bishop read this scripture, he  asked himself what created fear among the children of Israel that prompted God to encourage them with the words in Deuteronomy 31:6?.

The bishop said « This can be likened to the situation we are faced with now. Amidst the uncertainties we are facing as a nation and as a Church, our members are in fear of what is going to happen to them, their nation, and their church after all this is over. They are looking at their own strengths and abilities to deal with the situations at hand. This brings in the aspect of powerlessness and fear like it was with the children of Israel. Like Moses, it is our responsibility as leaders at all levels to call on the Church to be strong and courageous and to reassure them of God’s promise not to leave us nor forsake us. As your leader I would like to reassure you today that, “be strong and courageous amidst all these uncertainties” because we are not going to rely on our own strength which is limited but on the strength of the Almighty God who is the most powerful and has assured us of His continued presence and support ».

When the bishop talked about the situation of the conference he reminded  the delegates to flashback to what they have been going through as an Episcopal area and compare it to what they are are faced with today.He said , « I remember in 2012 when the GBGM and GCFA announced the suspension of funds from the General Church to our Episcopal Area, there was a feeling of fear and hopelessness, powerlessness and inability to do the work of God among many of you ».  He continued to say that many people thought the church was going to collapse, that programs which they were involved in as a church were going to close, that membership was going to go down, that many churches were going to close and so on as so forth. 

When the resident bishop relating this to the children of Israel he told the delegates that the Israelites had received food and water from God all those  years in the wilderness. They did not have to toil for the food, God provided them with the food and water through Moses. The resident bishop added that even  when they complained about eating the same food or the bitter water, God found a solution for them in the situation and they were now faced with a situation of a huge magnitude and they do not have their leader Moses, just like the East Africa Episcopal Area found itself in 2012 without funding from the General Church.

Bishop Wandabula said that church members shouldn’t be reckless and put the lives of church members at risk. He informed that, « Like it was in 2012 when the GBGM and GCFA froze all the funds to the East Africa Episcopal Area, today we are faced with a number of giants which a creating fear and a sense of powerlessness among us. One of these giants is covid 19. I would like to take this opportunity to inform you that covid 19 is real. We should avoid the many misleading messages on social media that covid 19 is not real. While we have lost fewer people in Africa, there many countries that have lost people in their hundreds of thousands ».

The bishop informed the delegates that the General conference which was supposed to take place in May 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA was no able to take place due to the  rising numbers of covid-19 cases in country members and added that countries and delegates will have to be vaccinated to ensure safety of all who will attend the conference.

About the Bishop Alfred NDORICIMPA hospital the Bishop thanked the GBGM and all other partners who provided the funding to complete the hospital, he wished to hear officially the hospital opened and completely refurbished and fully equipped hospital. He conveyed Special thanks to the Government of the Republic of Burundi and the able leadership of His Excellency President Évariste Ndayishimiye for the enabling environment, peace and the fight against poverty and backwardness in Burundi. 

About women development issues, the bishop said « Like you have indicated in the reports that you have sent me over the years, I appreciate the efforts you have all put in supporting the women, youth and children programs. I would like you to continue the consultations with the different stake holders to to initiate more programs that will lead to the growth and development of these particular interest groups and the church and community in general. »
When the bishop talking about evangelism he requested church leaders to  continue to support and empower members who have been called to be evangelists and provide them with the necessary tools to spread the Gospel, make disciples and plant more churches.

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