Our Ukama Partnership with Marondera Church
“The heart of a relationship is the love of Christ and the call ‘That they may all become One’. John 17:21.” Here you will experience the commitment of North Church of Portsmouth United Church of Christ and Marondera Church United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe “to walk together in faith” These quotes are taken from www.ukama.net which is linked to the New Hampshire Conference United Church of Christ (NHCUCC) and where you can also find a link to UCCZ.org. They speak to the heart of our partnership.
This successful venture started with a conversation between Peter Kinner and Bob Layton about having a mission involvement with a church in Central America. However, the New Hampshire Conference had an established partnership with Zimbabwe; it seemed to be the right direction for North Church. Pastor Dawn Shippee had experienced the process in her previous church. Rev. Mimi Hollister, the first coordinator of the NH Ukama Partnership, encouraged the idea while serving North Church during the summer of 2008. Rev. Kim McKerley, NH Conference Ukama Coordinator facilitated a meeting which featured “A Day in the Life of a Zimbabwean Woman.” The North Church Ukama Committee grew out of the interest expressed by nearly 25 people within the church.
In January 2010, North Church joined 41 other New Hampshire UCC churches that had become partners over the past 14 years. After working through the application process and gaining approval from its membership, North Church was partnered with Marondera Church. The committee, made up of these members: Co-Chair Bob Layton, Co-Chair Betsy Murphy, Barb Bolko, June Parker, Peter and Betsy Kinner, Nancy Layton, Mary Ann Drapcho, Harold Hapgood, and Nancy Winthrop worked for over a year to prepare and complete the necessary steps.
Several exchange visits have occurred between New Hampshire and Zimbabwe. During past visits, North Church has opened its doors to meet and greet visitors from Zimbabwe. We have had the opportunity to host regional welcoming meetings. We have shown them around the area and shared everyday events. We look forward to the day when visitors from Marondera Church will come to North Church in Portsmouth.
By March 2010, Betty Gilman had joined the committee and started plans to visit Zimbabwe along with 14 other people from several New Hampshire UCC churches. North Church members collected and donated many items to be packed in the three suitcases headed to Marondera in August 2010. One suitcase was to be distributed to UCCZ churches that are not partnered. One held gifts for Marondera Church including a digital camera and accessories, books for the children, bookmarks showing the North Church stained glass windows, a beautiful hand-made wall hanging of North Church done by Carolyn Layton, sea glass, salt water taffy and maple sugar candy. Most importantly, letters were written to Marondera Church members yet to be identified. Thus our walk together started.
The New Hampshire visitors to Zimbabwe were greeted with open arms. It was an amazing feeling to be greeted by Pastor Fredrick Thondhlana and host, Christine Peni, in the center of Marondera. For the next six days Betty visited Marondera Church and all the church families. Betty later reported, “I quickly realized that a church is a community of faithful members and not where one worships.” Although we did not know one another well, we were one in faith and strong bonds were formed.
Celebrating Ukama Sunday in October has brought new understanding to our partnership. Marondera Church is with us each Sunday with prayers in our hearts and with a gift to North Church of a small drum before our eyes on the altar. Communication continues via snail mail, email, phone calls and sending letters and items by travelers from UCC NH. Real meaning has developed in our partnership through the sharing of experiences and communication. It is true that the Ukama relationship requires that partnered churches be both givers and receivers of friendship and spiritual growth.