At the conclusion of the recent Council of Bishops meeting in Mozambique, some of us bishops and spouses and other travelers went to visit Africa University in Zimbabwe. Jim Salley of AU had made arrangements for us to take a charter flight from Maputo to northern Mozambique, to land at Chinoio airport (really just an airstrip), and then to travel on to Mutare. This route was much closer than flying back down to South Africa, up to Harare, and then taking a bus for 3 hours in Mutare. So, it was a good plan, and 28 of us boarded the charter flight to take that trip. Our good plan was interrupted by bad weather, so bad that we could not land in Chinoio and we had to divert back to the coast to a town called Biera. That town had very limited options for accommodations, and so half of our group waited in the airport for several hours while the other half of the group traveled around in a van looking for lodging and food for our group. To make a very long story short, we eventually found some lodging, and some of our group spent the night in the airport and others were housed with the help of local United Methodists. The next morning, the charter plane returned, we left again for Zimbabwe, and we finally got to Africa University a full day later than planned.

Interruptions sometimes happen when traveling, and such interruptions are more difficult in developing countries like Mozambique. In spite of some grumbling and a difficult overnight in Biera, our group had some positive experiences from that interruption. We bonded as a group, and I know that from now on whenever I see anyone from that group of 28 we will always talk about our experience together in Biera. We also saw how much the local United Methodist people tried to respond and help us. And of course we were greeted with great enthusiasm when we finally arrived in Mutare and at Africa University. Word of our plight had reached there, and the United Methodists in that region were very concerned about us. I guess no one wanted to have to deal with the anxiety of losing 15 bishops and other guests.

Interruptions happen. Life is planned, and then something or someone comes along to interrupt our best plans. I never like it when my plans are interrupted, do you? And yet, new opportunities come with such interruptions.

I notice in the New Testament that Jesus dealt with interruptions by seeing the ministry opportunities inherit in them. When he was touched by a woman looking for healing, he stopped and healed her. When a cheating businessman named Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus, Jesus went to his home for a transforming encounter. Jesus responded to these and many other interruptions by taking the time to seek God’s will in the midst of such interruptions. Yes, Jesus also looked for ways to get away to a quiet place to pray, but he kept his life and ministry open to the interruptions and opportunities which happened along the way.

May God help us to see the opportunities in our interruptions.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner