Seven Begin Zimbabwe Immersion Experience
One clergyman and six women from Western Pennsylvania have arrived in Zimbabwe met with their host families in Harare and began immersing themselves in the culture by living with a family for five weeks. They were accompanied by Sandra Matoushaya, Western PA's Zimbabwe Partnership coordinator and a native of the country, and the Rev. Kimberly Greway, who organized the effort, and was traveling with others from Western PA to spend a few weeks at the United Methodist Mission at Nyadire.
Greway and other members of the Zimbabwe Partnership Team selected the participants from among several who applied to part of the 2012 group. They are:
- Ruth Ann Varrato, Kane District lay leader, certified lay speaker and a member of Sheffield UMC. A veteran of mission trips, Varrato, who works as vice president of finance at a credit union, is looking forward to the opportunity to build relationships with Christians in Zimbabwe. “I hope to learn about their culture, their lifestyles, but most importantly their worship. They have an enthusiasm in their worship that we in the USA have to develop…” she said.
- Jessica Speer, 28, a licensed clinical social worker who grew up in White Chaepl UMC and joined First Bethel UMC after moving to Pittsburgh. Speer has participated in mission trips to Russia, Bolivia and Nicaragua, as well as being part of an Appalachia Service Project team and working at Red Bird Mission. He currently sponsors two Zimbabwean orphans through the Home of Hope Outreach program of The Nyadire Connection.
- Victoria Moody, a student at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and member of Asbury UMC in Erie. “I want to learn and soak up as much as I can from… (the people of Zimbabwe) – experience the culture, the people and their faith,” Moody said. “ It intriques me when I hear that they, as a whole, are more churched than Americans. I want to see what is different there so I can learn and teach their ways of living in God back here in America.
- Donna Doutt, a retired administrative professional who served most recently in the Western PA Bishop’s Office. Doutt is chair of mission and ministry at First UMC in Rochester and has been a leader of a mission teams to Rwanda.
- Ruth Sabo, a retired secretary, prayer warrior and member of Greenock UMC, has “a desire to learn the culture, life and faith of the people of Zimbabwe. I know this experience would bless me greatly and hopefully would bless all those I could share it with. Sabo has been part of mission teams to India, Biloxi MS and Chiapis, Mexico.
- Victoria Konopasek, a biology student at Rochester Insitute of Technology whose home church is Faith UMC in Fox Chapel. She hopes to bring back everything she learns and share it with the growing youth group in her church. “I would like to lead a youth group later in life,” she said.
- The Rev. Erik Hoeke, who has served four years as pastor of First UMC in West Newton. “I have been on many mission trips, both foreign and domestic ,where the primary emphasis was physical labor to help those in need. These are wonderful,” he said. “However, over the last few years I have desired a different kind of trip –one in which relationship building is primary. I am excited about the opportunity to build relationships, to be immersed in an entirely different culture by staying with a host family and to do so over a longer period of time.
Hoeke explained that the Zimbabwe Immersion Program is a “key piece of the (United Methodist Church’s ) focus on developing principled Christina leaders. Most importantly, the partnership is not meant to be one conference helping another; it is each conference helping the other in mutual learning and support. “
Upon completion of ZIP, participants will share their experiences with local churches and groups in Western PA.