Reflections on Writing

By Kara Oliver

Writers' Seminar for Members of the Anglophone group of AAUMTI

I love to write. I love to put pen to paper for daily journal entries or type out a poem. And I love that once in a while something I write gets published on a blog or in a magazine or book. It’s a thrill when doing what I love is also affirmed and shared with the world. And I love that I get to share that passion and that same opportunity with pastors and lay members of the local church in the Central Conferences of the United Methodist Church.

In June 2014 the entire DRI Team traveled to Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe, to meet with Anglophone members of the African Association of Untied Methodist Theological Institutions (AAUMTI). We gathered to participate in a Writers’ Workshop, learning and practicing the craft of devotional writing, producing resources for the local church, and preparing manuscripts for the academy. I went to the event, excited to meet lecturers and deans who were also excited about building and strengthening a culture of reading and writing across the United Methodist connection in Africa.

As we gathered, prayed, told stories, shared writing and fellowshipped over meals, I heard stories of ugly civil conflict, devastating church politics, severe illnesses and grief, lack of educational materials and basic medical supplies. And I began to wonder if my own call and passion for writing was not a luxury and vain project in the face of the magnitude of challenges that my new colleagues live each day.

But we kept writing and reading and listening to one another. And I heard a pastor’s devotional about God’s presence with her when her husband died, a devotional by a professor about the protection of God seen in the flight of a hummingbird when he was child. I heard the fire in another pastor’s voice as he presented his manuscript on community organizing in Nigeria. I watched as pastors clamored for assistance as they typed and posted their first blog posts on the state of college and graduate education in Liberia and Sierra Leone. I listened as the group encouraged a fellow member to submit his “Letters to Young People” to the local newspapers so that more people might hear his passion and wisdom. And I talked with a tired colleague at breakfast who had stayed up late helping a pastor with the outline for her book on empowering women.

And I came to see (again) that God calls people across the globe to write, to put their witness on paper, to find a way to publish and distribute the good news of the gospel being lived in orphanages in Zimbabwe and local churches in Uganda. Writing is not a distraction from life, but a witness to all that God is doing in life. Writing is not a luxury, but a necessity. Writing is not a burden, but a calling.

I love writing.