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The Rev. Maidstone Mulenga (standing) advises African communicators for The United Methodist Church as they do peer editing during a recent workshop at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. Photo by Sam Hodges, United Methodist Communications.

Photo by Sam Hodges, United Methodist Communications

The Rev. Maidstone Mulenga (standing) advises African communicators for The United Methodist Church as they do peer editing during a recent workshop at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

African communicators for The United Methodist Church worked in small groups, editing one another's articles, during a recent workshop at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. Photo by Sam Hodges, United Methodist Communications.

Photo by Sam Hodges, United Methodist Communications

African communicators for The United Methodist Church worked in small groups, editing one another's articles, during a recent workshop at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

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African communicators gain skills, make connections

By Eveline Chikwanah*
MUTARE, Zimbabwe | Dec. 17, 2015

Africa University Vice Chancellor Munashe Furusa told African communicators of The United Methodist Church, gathered here for a recent workshop, that the work they do is vital.

 “Your role is to tell stories and story-tellers are the sensitive needles of our church and society,” Furusa said. “They see extraordinary in the ordinary and can sense the future before it arrives.”

The “Communicating Faith through Content in the 21st Century” workshop, held Dec. 1-4 at Africa University, attracted more than 30 United Methodist communicators from Ethiopia, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Burundi, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Angola and Zimbabwe.

The Rev. Gezu Mosisa, of Ethiopia, said the workshop offered a chance to network, as well as to learn.

“The training opened new doors for all of us to be connected as one body of communicators.  Previously, we were operating in our own worlds, unaware of what other communicators on the African continent were doing,” said Mosisa.

Edinah Tumalu Oliver Ludoru of South Sudan said the workshop had equipped her to tell stories from her country, and to begin to fulfill her vocational dream.

“I have always wanted to become a religion journalist and the workshop has given me a good starting point.  I will continue to practice and improve my skills,” she said.

The workshop focused on reporting, writing, editing, photography and social media. It included a field trip and “peer editing” sessions.  

Reuben Replie Ososo, of Kenya, described the training as practical.

“I learned that a story should have focus. Initially I thought you could have many ideas in a story,” said Ososo, an alumnus of Africa University.

John Chikuta, 25, youth leader of the Zambia Annual Conference, said he was ready to employ the lessons he learned.

“I will be a pioneer in communications in the UMC in Zambia,” Chikuta said. “I have experience in compiling reports, and I feel the workshop exposed me to other styles of writing.  I lacked interviewing techniques, and the training was an eye-opener for me.”

Furusa’s address kicked off the workshop. The vice chancellor, top administrator at the United Methodist school, noted that because his academic specialty is literature he is keenly aware of the power of stories.

“Stories shape our behavior, our attitudes and mold our minds and feelings,” he said. “Simply put, stories build us.”

Furusa told the communicators that they must embrace social media, given that so many people get their news that way, particularly young people.

But he reminded the communicators that, as Christians, they have a special responsibility to research and write stories that both illuminate problems and offer solutions.

“To be a good servant of God means to love the people, share their lives, and encourage them to come into the kingdom of God,” he said. “It also means being constantly writing stories which help people to achieve freedom, dignity, creativity, justice, peace, development and meaning in the midst of all the problems they might have around them.”

The content training was sponsored by United Methodist Communications and overseen by the agency’s Tafadzwa Mudambanuki.

Leading the training were the Rev. Maidstone Mulenga, assistant to Bishop Marcus Matthews and director of Connectional Ministries of the Baltimore-Washington Conference; Sam Hodges, of United Methodist News Service; and Lea Otshudi, a writer and editor from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Chikwanah is a communicator of the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference.

News media contact: Vicki Brown, news editor, newsdesk@umcom.org or 615-742-5469.