Chabadza: Sharing the Journey with a Friend

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton



Funeral services were scheduled at Riverside Church in New York City for Sept. 15, 2014 for New York Area Bishop Martin D. McLee. Bishop McLee's death on Sept. 7, 2014 at age 58 prompted his colleague Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton to reflect on those who come alongside us on the journey of life.

I lost a friend to death last week.  He was a special person.  His voice was deep and commanded attention. His musical ability was captivating and naturally drew the participants into a posture of praise and thanksgiving.  His laugh was magnetic and demonstrated the joy he found in life and living. 

More than all of that, his spirit was genuine and his presence reflected the grace and love of Christ at work in his life.  Although I knew Bishop Martin McLee less than 10 years, he provided for me and others a lifetime of fond, joyful, and inspiring memories.  How good it was to have this colleague and friend come alongside me on the journey of life. 
Many of you know that in our Zimbabwe partnership, there is a word that we use to describe the manner in which our collaboration unfolds.  It is a word that was introduced to us by Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, the resident bishop of Zimbabwe.  The word is Chabadza.
I have written about Chabadza before.  The concept is filled with blessing and inspiration.  Bishop Nhiwatiwa describes it this way: If a person is working on her/his crops in a field, you don’t approach that person and say, “May I plow your field for you?”  The right approach is to say, “May I help you plow your field?”  Chabadza describes the true essence of partnership and collaboration. 
For years, in the mission field, we would go to a foreign country and attempt to tell the people there how things worked, what machinery functioned best, and what techniques created the greatest impact.  Years later, we have discovered that there isn’t always just one right answer; that machinery brought from the United States to Africa eventually breaks down and there is no one to fix it;  that what works for us might not necessarily work well in a different context.
The goal in mission these days is partnership and collaboration.  It’s asking the right questions, listening for the right answers, and understanding how we can help, not dictate the most effective solutions.  Chadaza means coming alongside someone and sharing the journey with them.
The death of Bishop Martin McLee has been pretty sobering to me.  He was only 58, soon to be 59 years old.  His life ended far sooner than anyone had anticipated.  A premature death like this easily causes friends and family to reflect on how short the journey of life really is and how important it is to express daily, or even hourly, our thanks to God for the life we have and the blessings we have received.
Each of us has the blessing of life and most of us have the wonderful blessing of friends and family to share the journey.  Along the way, a loved one or a special friend comes alongside you and, before you know it, shares the adventure with you.  They laugh with you, cry with you, challenge you, bless you.  They show you the face of Christ and bless you with the feeling that you are not alone.  They plow the field with you and, as a result, share a lifetime of Chabadza.
Join me today in thanking God for the ways in which special people come into our lives and make the journey so much more joyful, pleasant and survivable.  Join me in thanking God for blessing us with gifts and graces that enable us to be that special person for someone else, offering what we have to make someone else’s journey deeper, richer, and more complete.  Join me today in thanking God for daily blessings, fully recognizing that every day is a gift that shouldn’t be taken for granted and ever aware of the grace that makes all things possible.
Join me today in opening our eyes and ears to the possibilities of how we might share the journey with someone else and make their burden lighter and their life brighter through the spirit of Chabadza. And, join me today in a simple prayer of thanks for the life, witness, and ministry of Bishop Martin McLee. 
I really enjoyed plowing the field with him in the time we had together.
The Journey Continues, . . .
Thomas J. Bickerton
Resident Bishop


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