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Doug Roland
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by Cheri Roland Doug and I want to share with you the joy we experienced when distributing the darling pillow case dresses that you dedicated HPUMC members created and sent with the mission team last August. It wasn’t until now... Continue reading
Posted Apr 18, 2012 at Hyde Park Speaks
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by Doug Roland As part of our job at the Methodist seminary, we design probing questions about the field experiences our seminarians have each week volunteering in non-profit organizations. They work with disadvantaged and marginalized people. This term, we are... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2011 at Hyde Park Speaks
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by Doug Roland We planned for months and months to receive 8 members of our church (Hyde Park United Methodist, Tampa) and one exceptional friend of the church for a four day experience with us at the seminary. The verdict... Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2011 at Hyde Park Speaks
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Easter weekend we were treated to four nights in a lovely little cottage located on a very large family farm just outside Pietermaritzburg. The farm animals were fenced. The wild ones were not. There was an old school on the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2011 at Hyde Park Speaks
What a gift to be able to share in your worship from 9000 miles away via streaming video. It was kind of surreal. We seemed to hover from somewhere in the balcony and perched high on a wall. We shared your prayers, the lessons learned from Hannah and the joyous news from Sherlyn; and, of course, the elegant and peaceful music from our dear friends in the robes. We were troubled only by the odd bearded man in the back row of the choir. All our best from South Africa, Cheri and Doug Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2011 at Hyde Park Speaks
I met Sam within a few weeks after joining Hyde Park in late 1985. We sang together in the bass section for several years before being consumed by careers. 20 years later, we found ourselves back there to support the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2011 at Hyde Park Speaks
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by Doug Roland Cheri and I wish thank you for the spiritual and financial support that enables us to continue in our work with joyful hearts. God’s love is indeed real in our lives. The lengthy separation from our biological... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2011 at Hyde Park Speaks
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by Cheri Roland "Somebody’s going to die here!” A new student had leapt to his feet, shouting and stabbing his finger accusingly at me. The lecture hall air was electric. For a moment nobody breathed. Inwardly I sighed. I had hoped to get through my power point presentation during the seminary orientation without great confrontation. In hindsight, that was quite a naive expectation; I had just dropped a bomb shell. Per seminary policy, seminarians would not be able to see a doctor until they had been referred by me, the school nurse. About 100 folks were packed into the lecture hall, 90 of them our seminarians in training to become "transforming leaders for church and nation". They were required to attend my lecture, "Helps to Stay Healthy". Many of our students come from rural settings where education is imparted orally. Books, paper, computers and libraries are scarce. There are no courses in health and science from first grade on up; maybe somewhere along the way they have been lucky enough to have heard a professional teach about HIV/AIDS. As a result, there is wide spread ignorance and misconceptions about how their bodies work, let alone causes or prevention of disease. In jail vernacular, I had “dissed” my accuser and his fellow seminarians. What right did this white, old, American woman have to trash their health care traditions? Later – much later – I put myself in their shoes. How I would feel if suddenly informed that my wellbeing now rested in the hands of a witch doctor? Traditional healers, or sangomas, mirror the wide range of practitioners we have in the states, providing reputable to disreputable to downright dangerous treatment. Here healers work with a wide broad variety of techniques, from using highly effective herbal remedies to using witch craft, with all of its far reaching ramifications. But that is another story. Recently Western medicine has become available to outlying rural areas; for many, the manner in which a doctor is consulted has become wrapped up in its own set of customs. (Please understand I’m relaying a compilation of hearsay relayed to me after my presentation, and in no way meant to diminish the wonderful medical care provided for marginalized patients all over Africa and beyond.) These common cultural practices surrounding medical care put a new face on seeing the doctor. One such practice revolves around visiting the clinic. Due to the scarcity of doctors, villages must rotate specific days for the medical team to treat patients. Because of 80%+ unemployment in townships and beyond, folks often have little to keep them occupied, so clinic visits become an anticipated social event. This has nothing to do with being ill. Bathed, wearing their church clothes and armed with food for the day, they gather together to kibitz for the 12 hours it may take before they are seen by the doctor. And they are rewarded for their patience; they always are given a tablet with the assurance of “curing” their common complaints of “a mouse running around inside my tummy” or “bugs eating me from the inside”. If they are actually feeling sick, their expectation, at the very least, is to be given an antibiotic; but an “injection” is even better… No wonder many of my patients have been furious after their visit with the school nurse! In their experience, medical care = tablets promising a cure. But at SMMS they usually leave my office with patient education and (maybe) medicine to relieve their symptoms. The fact that antibiotics are ineffective against viruses is still too great a leap for them to swallow. Imagine their feelings of fear, frustration and loss of control over their health when I announce that a) they don’t need to see the doctor and b)there are no antibiotics that will fix their complaint! Hence my current reputation among the seminarians is, “All she does is tell you to exercise and drink more water.” So where does this leave me as school nurse? Obviously my clever power point presentation did not do the trick. It seems I forgot the number one principal of Missionary Training 101: I must shed my “western medicine has all the answers” attitude and appreciate the positive healing practices of the seminarians’ cultures before I can hope to affect any real change in cultural attitudes. In other words, it is I who must be transformed in order to help transform and empower them. How will I tackle this challenge? Early this morning God floated me His promise from 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will heal their land.” If I have been called by God, as I claim I have, I must humble myself, pray for forgiveness, and journey, not out ahead of, but along with these folks . He will do the rest. Guess I’d better get started. Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2011 at Hyde Park Speaks
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by Cheri Roland It’s not been a quiet week in Lake Wobegone, or at the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary, for that matter. Everything here at the seminary is brand new. Doug and I feel like midwives helping to birth this... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2010 at Hyde Park Speaks
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by Cheri Roland Something’s happening here – but this is the good kind of something. Such was the impression Doug I received the first time we drove up the tree lined main road into the township of Mpophomeni, just 40... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2010 at Hyde Park Speaks
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By Doug Roland We still get inquiries about what we missionaries are doing here. The common vision is baptizing savages in the jungle. It's not us and it ended nearly 200 years ago in this part of Africa. That said,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2010 at Hyde Park Speaks
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by Doug Roland The seminary has four chapel services each week. The last one is at 7:45am on Friday. It is customarily a service of singing, usually a combination of English, Xhosa and Zulu songs. Or, it may be a... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2010 at Hyde Park Speaks
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by Cheri RolandDearest Family and Friends, I pray this finds you all well and happy and enjoying your summer. Greetings to you from the beautiful Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary, officially opened Sept.4/5. My heart is full to bursting. We are so blessed and privileged to be here during this historic time for Methodism round the world. As you can imagine, life around here has been hectic and exciting in preparation for the opening. Thank God both Saturday’s and Sunday’s celebrations came off smoothly. By all appearances the programs flowed effortlessly, thanks to Dr. Peter Storey (responsible for our being here at SMMS) and his meticulous attention to a thousand details. Of course, he didn’t do it alone, and now our staff is breathing a collective sigh of relief. The weather was a big unknown. I’m quite uncomfortable bothering the Lord about the weather; but, in this case (and hurricanes)… The lawn of the amphitheater was already a marsh (due to a major landscaping faux pax) and would have swallowed the chairs WHOLE if it had rained. There IS a God! So, no rain, but it was hot-HOT-HOT!, even for a Florida girl. All the courtyard table umbrellas were pressed into service to prevent congregational heat stroke. Yet the poor officiates seated in front were unprotected from that sun at its most obnoxious angle. In the country for two short days and still reeling from jet lag, Dr. Greg Jones, our American VIP from Duke University, never caught the shadow afforded by the 4 ton wooden chapel doors. He was directly blasted for 2 ½ hours! And he still had miles to go before he slept. The seminarians processed both days in proper straight rows as if they had done so a thousand times, a much different picture than at Friday’s rehearsal. Our week long coaching and singing rehearsals had paid off. The whole group was fabulous, leading the hymns and liturgy like pros. Even Dr. Storey was impressed. They sang their big hearts out, whistling and clapping and jivin’. Even the congregation was jumping. We sang in English, Zulu, Xhosa, and Afrikaans. The Lord really got an earful! I know He still has a big smile on His face. And so do we. Continue reading
Posted Sep 7, 2010 at Hyde Park Speaks
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by Doug Roland In South Africa, a township is a designated area where black people could live, or, more accurately, had to live. Today, these places are still home to millions of people, many of whom are very poor. It is in these areas that the Nzondalelo was birthed by an African Methodist minister named Drummond to bring spiritual comfort to the community. For the second year, the seminarians from Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary traveled two hours to join in this effort. Cheri and I attended for multiple purposes - to experience on location a large segment of African life, to become acquainted with the students, and to participate in the activities of the campaign. It was a combination of revival, prayer meeting, evangelization in the neighborhoods and, for the young seminarians, intensive practice of ministerial skills. Sound scary, boring, or dull? Sometimes it was excruciatingly dull. Other times enlightening and fulfilling. Other times, frustrating. For me, the best part of the event was walking along the dry rutted paths to visit homes in the township. No one on our five member team knew any of the residents. Here, Drummond was a genius. With simple words and mannerisms, he connected with total strangers, several of whom opened up with a flood of issues in their lives. There was the man who lost two wives and now cares for a son who could not get out of the first grade in three tries. At another house lived 4 sisters whose mother had died and father remarried, then left. Ages 14-24, they ran the house alone, a sparkling clean house, with spirit and energy. We met another woman in her very humble little house. She offered us all the chairs then sat on the floor alone. Talking was difficult for her because of swelling in her throat. As well, she had been raped recently. Mind you, there are no phones in these homes, the roads are little more than wide paths, and the settlement was many kilometers from any city. There were others - one man probably suffering from prostate cancer, and not really sure what it was. Yet, in each instance, the host consented to or asked for prayers. Our 5 person team traded as to who prayed. Sometimes we all did at the same time. The experiences were humbling and sometimes hard because there was little we could do on a tangible basis. For the near future, it gave me a bird's eye view of what many of the seminarians will face in their careers. The worship services were another matter. I had been to a couple of Zulu services on prior trips to South Africa. They were profound, though long. At our three days at Nzondedelo, there were 4 services consisting of 13 sermons, most delivered by the seminarians. This resulted in each sermon given twice. It didn't seem to bother most of those in the congregation for they responded with overt joy as evidenced by the inspired singing and dancing inherent in the culture. Would that Christians across the globe could be so moved. In most American Protestant churches, the congregants do not sing or move without instructions. Mostly they watch and hopefully listen. In the Zulu and Xhosa cultures, the people are not spectators but participants. People rise from their seats, form small groups and "dance" in the aisles and in front of the alter. Hymnals consist of only words. While the music and dance was glorious, it seemed to me that the responses were not a result of the preaching, but were more like parallel services of their own. The first couple of times, I tried my best to understand and even embrace the style as a member of the congregation. But my sense of tolerance and acceptance waned. For me, the preaching got in the way, so much so that I began to wonder what is the point if there is no coherent message. I struggle with becoming critical because I am here to help all seminarians, nearly all products of another culture with few similarities to my own. Without doubt my analysis of the sermons were influenced heavily by my 40+ years in the disciplines of education and law. I expect presentations to be clear, logical, and have a distinct message. However, my ears did not hear a teaching moment. Somehow though, in spite of all this and the theological questions it might raise, God must welcome the unrestrained joyfulness of the worshipers, save perhaps those few of us huddled in the rear trying to comprehend how traditional Wesleyan teachings square with what we experienced. I'm guessing God will judge us more by our feet than by our minds. On the second day, the first sermon made reference to the home visits of the previous day where all of us, as volunteers, endeavored to make God's love real to people whose lives appear hopeless. To do that, we walked those rust colored roads. About 100 of us made our way to over 350 homes in those visits. We touched hundreds of lives. We walked in the dust. The point of the sermon that morning - to do God's work, we cannot sit idly. Sometimes, we have to step outside and get dust on our shoes. Whether it is a worship style that conflicts with my life experience, or an encounter with someone who is suffering, it obtains meaning only by faith. Continue reading
Posted Aug 16, 2010 at Hyde Park Speaks
by Cheri Roland It only happened once, that dreaded “church shopping”. Doug, little Nat, and I initially visited HPUMC in December of 1985. When we entered the Hyde Park courtyard, Ester Thames shook our hands, asking if we were visitors, took us to Nat’s Sunday school classroom, and then to our adult class, introducing us to folks along the way. And she was just one of several members who greeted us that morning. We felt special and genuinely valued as people. We felt like this church family cared enough about us to go out of their way to include us. And you know the rest of this story: we decided to make this our new church home. Contrast that to this past Sunday in South Africa. We visited a church for the second time, only this time we were not with any of the four people we know. This time we were on our own. And this time NOBODY said “Hello” or “I haven’t seen you around here. Let me introduce myself”, or “Are you a visitor?” or ANYTHING. Wow. I felt betrayed by my fellow Christians. I had forgotten what it felt like to be a stranger in a church! As an integral part of making God’s love real to the community, we have been trained at Hype Park to eagerly expect and care for visitors. A non-reception such as Doug and I received Sunday in PMB was enough for me to write off that congregation. As childish as it may seem, I must admit I even had a hard time focusing on worship because my feelings were hurt! This is my message to my Tampa church family: Be alert for the faces you don’t know. Be assertive and step out in fellowship. Visitors are silently pleading to be recognized and included. And what if you introduce yourself to someone who already is a member? The worst that could happen is you have made a new friend. When Jim or Bernie or Vicki or Matt admonish us to wear our name tags, introduce ourselves, keep closer parking spaces open for visitors, invite folks to our small groups, and help with the Connection Point, they are not making this stuff up. Jesus welcomed everyone. Our mantra must be “They will know we are Christians by our love”. That first impression is a lasting one. Continue reading
Posted Aug 16, 2010 at Hyde Park Speaks
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by Doug Roland Cheri and I just returned from a 3 day mission trip with about 70 seminarians. The event was actually a week long outreach and revival called Nzondelelo Home Mission. The location was a 2 hour drive into what was once called Zululand. The Mission was founded by a 72 year old retired Methodist minister who we got to know well. It's focus is bringing spiritual and material assistance to poor communities. We lived within the township during our stay, had a great deal of contact with the organizers of the event and met and spoke with a considerable number of local residents. There is (or soon will be) more about my personal reflections at our blog at http://behaghitstheroad.blogspot.com/ . Meanwhile, I thought you might like to see a piece of the last day's worship. You will hear and see a part of the last hymn prior to the benediction. It reflects typical music in this region done without instruments save a very distinctive bell. The video was taken with our handheld point and shoot camera, and without much forethought. But you can maybe get the idea. A youtube link is included in this post. Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2010 at Hyde Park Speaks
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by Doug Roland After a flight of 16 1/2 hours, we arrived in Johannesburg at about 10:15 pm. It was a long walk from the gate through passport control and collection of our 4 checked pieces of luggage. With the wobbly legs of passengers in a plane all day, we rolled our carts to the arrival lobby where scores of people stood waiting with hands raised, shouting out names, and carrying signs. I quickly saw a face I know, but it was the banner that grabbed my attention - "Welcome Home Doug and Cheri", accompanied by the waving flags of South Africa and the U.S. Cheryl Pillay, leader and heart of Come Back Mission, met us as she had twice before. This time was different though. The sign was wonderful, but what touched us was the other women there. They were not from Come Back Mission (CBM), they were from Heavenly Valley, dressed up as perhaps they had never been. None of them had ever been to the airport or seen a plane up close. Yet they wore smiles a mile wide for these "strangers" from the states. If someone had told me three years ago when I first visited this community of shipping containers, dirt and apparent hopelessness that this would ever happen, I would have questioned their sense of reality. But miracles began to happen three years ago through the stubborn determination of CBM, and the vision of Kim Roxburgh's for this community. Playing a large role in this was the generosity of members of Hyde Park United Methodist and Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church. We were picked up by a van, the one purchased with their donations. When the greeting was over, these ladies nudged us away and loaded our overweight luggage into the van. Their joy and show of hospitality was all anyone could expect. For us, it was better than any band or parade. Welcome Home, indeed. See the van at: Continue reading
Posted Jul 26, 2010 at Hyde Park Speaks
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by Cheri Roland I've been thinking a lot about angels. I used to collect them, or more correctly, they were collected for me. It started in 1978; it was a very bad year. I was hospitalized several times and the docs didn't know what to do with me. That's when family and friends began gifting me with angels of all sorts. And the more folks noticed a home full of angels, the more angels appeared. Like rabbits. You should have seen it at Christmas. In this preparation for leaving what we have known for 25 years, packing has finally funneled down to four suitcases, only 50 pounds each, plus assorted carry-ons. My angels have long been packed away. But I've never needed those figurines to remind me that I'm protected and cared for. The Lord has provided me with flesh and blood angels every step of my way. We read about Peggy McMichael's passing while we were off visiting, and it seemed to herald a passing of one of the greatest generations our church as known. I became acquainted with Peggy and Frank as soon as we joined HPUMC in 1985. In signing up for the Missions Committee, I had the pleasure of meeting in their lovely home at least monthly while they chaired the group. I can still remember Peggy's refreshments… But it was her prayers and sweet trust in Jesus that drew me in. She, like many others in our congregation, modeled a relationship with God that I wanted for myself. Our Hyde Park family lives up to our motto of making God's love real. There are so many angels flitting around Hyde Park that it makes me dizzy with joy. At the risk of leaving out bunches of super people, I send out a blanket THANK YOU to all who have pledged your prayers, support, and cheer to us! Without each one of you, this whole South Africa dream would never have come true. So many "God things" have conspired to get us to the plane tomorrow, driven by you, our angels, working out the details. The Missions Committee, the countless friends and family who have showered us with monetary and equipment and logistical gifts, not to mention the seminary's Flat #10, are serving God with their kindness to us. Our number one need remains your prayers, for guidance, wisdom, and safety. We are eternally indebted to you all and honored by your trust in us. This is an awesome responsibility, one that the Lord will have to fulfill. We certainly can't effect one positive step alone. Continue reading
Posted Jul 19, 2010 at Hyde Park Speaks
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By Doug Roland Writer, divinity school dean, and all around progressive thinker Len Sweet says that the things we surround ourselves with, our "stuff", should each have a story behind them. So what about those 30-40 boxes of books we've... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2010 at Hyde Park Speaks
by Cheri Roland It was 1986. We had only been in Tampa for a few months when Doug and I saw the movie "the Mission" at University Mall. I was already firmly ensconced in Hyde Park's Missions Committee and anticipated... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2010 at Hyde Park Speaks
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