Pastor calls African mission `wonderful'


July 15, 1999|By Judy Reilly | Judy Reilly,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IN THE MIDST OF THE recent heat wave, the Rev. Mary Kay Totty-Kublawi had the good sense to escape to a cooler clime.

The pastor of St. Paul's United Methodist Church in New Windsor spent two weeks in Zimbabwe as part of a short-term mission sponsored by the Methodist Church's Baltimore-Washington Conference.

The southern African nation is in its winter season.

"We had to be the only team from the conference not dressed warmly enough for the cool weather," the pastor said.

Good weather aside, Totty-Kublawi was in Zimbabwe in response to a higher calling. She taught the techniques of preaching at the pastor's school at Africa University, delivered sunscreen donated by her parishioners to albino children, and preached to and worshiped with local congregations.

"It was wonderful," she said.

Her 39-member team of pastors from the Baltimore-Washington Conference had the multiple mission of conducting training to African ministers, working at the church's orphanage in Old Mutare, and helping determine a response to ministry to the deaf. Africa has no standard sign language.

The congregation at St. Paul's is so enthusiastic about the mission that it is reaching out to a Zimbabwe church in suburban Mabelreign. The two churches are working out the details of a partnership.

"We had a pretty exciting time with this," said Totty-Kublawi, "and John Keck [from St. Paul's] and I kept in touch daily by fax about the project."

In addition to the work of the mission, the pastors went sightseeing.

"We saw Victoria Falls, and they are just beautiful. I know why they are considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world," she said.

In her 10th year of ministry and first year at St. Paul's, Totty-Kublawi expressed gratitude for the support of her congregation.

"St. Paul's is a wonderful church, and people prayed for the mission team every day. For that I am very grateful," she said.

Teens work in Puerto Rico

First airplane excursion. First trip out of the country. First time bridging a language gap.

Francis Scott Key High School students Kevin Mastalerz, Ben Leiter and Chris Palsgrove experienced these firsts on a recent trip to Puerto Rico. The boys were part of a teen mission sponsored by Church of the Brethren. They spent a week in Castaner, Puerto Rico, working on church buildings that had fallen into disrepair.

It was Ben's first trip on an airplane, the first trip out of the country for all, and the first exposure to speaking Spanish to natives instead of in an academic Spanish class.

"It was a lot different than it is in class," said Kevin. "The people speak a lot faster."

The youths got around the language barrier. A pastor at the local church spoke fluent English, and a mission counselor spoke decent Spanish, so they got along fine.

"I'm glad I went, and I'd do it again," said Kevin. "It was a lot of fun. And it was neat to see Puerto Rico and what people there are like and to meet other teen-agers from the church."

The Brethren youth from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia slept on mats on the church floor, spent their days digging trenches and painting buildings -- and had fun.

"There was a big swimming hole, with a waterfall and cave and rocks to jump off of. And the views were really good. We were in the mountains, and everywhere you could see was really nice," said Kevin.

But the best part was helping.

"It felt really neat to go down and help everyone," he said.

Day trip to Ephrata

Maybe it's not Africa or Puerto Rico, but it's a trip back in time and mood. The Ephrata Cloister, founded in the 18th century by the Seventh-Day Baptists, was one of America's earliest communal societies.

Ten buildings from the society are restored and open for tour on the grounds of the cloister in Ephrata, Pa.

On a recent visit, my teen-age daughter and I took a self-guided tour of the grounds and museum that illustrated the austere life led by the celibates of the cloister. After learning about the society's emphasis on spirituality (12-hour worship services), self-denial (a wooden block for a pillow, one vegetarian meal a day) and creativity (hymn composing, singing), my daughter was glad to glimpse such a life -- and happier to hit the outlet malls afterward.

Information: 410-733-6600.

Judy Reilly's Northwest neighborhood column appears each Thursday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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