In August I completed my first two years as general superintendent.* Africa was my initial regional jurisdiction assignment, and I fell in love with its people. The Church of the Nazarene on that continent is growing and maturing, with over 511,373 members not including children and most of the youth. Trained and educated leaders are emerging in increasing numbers.
During the past two years, I have had the awesome and humbling honor of ordaining over 300 African elders and deacons. Some of these were the first ministers to be ordained on their districts. Others were second- and third-generation Nazarenes.
It was a privilege for me to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Church of the Nazarene in the Kingdom of Swaziland in August 2010. The second Africa Nazarene University (Southern Africa Nazarene University) was formed in October 2010 by merging the Nazarene College of Nursing, the Nazarene College of Education, and the Nazarene College of Theology in Swaziland. In Africa, our educational system for training pastors has been decentralized from one location to many district learning centers that are now training the growing number of new pastors.
As I traveled throughout Africa, I was reminded of the many missionaries and pastors who have given their lives for the kingdom of God and for the development of the Church of the Nazarene. These pioneers took the gospel message into new countries. I had the opportunity to meet some of them. Also, I have become better acquainted with current missionaries who have dedicated themselves to spreading the good news of salvation in new areas.
In district assemblies across the U.S., I have met wonderful pastors who are faithfully serving God and reaching people for Jesus Christ. I have also encountered many laypersons who are praying, fasting, and sacrificially giving for the fulfillment of our mission: "To Make Christlike Disciples in the Nations."
I am thankful for those who influenced my life and taught me about Jesus: dedicated Sunday School teachers, like Bob Sanford, who came and watched my little league baseball games; youth workers, like Peg Oliver, who coached our basketball team and took a teen choir on tour around the Midwest; and a dad and mom, Harold and Bettie Graves, who faithfully and passionately preached the gospel and lived Christlike lives at home.
I am grateful for the Church of the Nazarene and for all pastors, missionaries, and laypeople who are investing their lives in service to Jesus Christ!
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?' (Mark 8:34-36).
David W. Graves is a general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, September/October 2011
Please note: This article was originally published in 2011. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.