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Africa coordinator visits Tampa church, shares news of Upper Room Ministries

Africa coordinator visits Tampa church, shares news of Upper Room Ministries

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Africa coordinator visits Tampa church, shares news of Upper Room Ministries

Oct. 12, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0384}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

TAMPA — Ronald Rink (left) and the Rev. Dr. James Harnish, senior pastor at Hyde Park United Methodist Church here, share a moment at the church parsonage. Rink was visiting from South Africa to share his work as coordinator of Africa Upper Room Ministries with members of the church on World Communion Sunday Oct. 2. Photo by J.A. Buchholz, Photo #05-252.

TAMPA — Roland Rink is truly spreading good news throughout Africa.

It all began for Rink, a native of South Africa, in April 1991 when he attended a new church leadership program called Walk to Emmaus that had just begun in South Africa.

"To put it bluntly, Emmaus changed my life. Forever," Rink said. "I remember only too well sitting at the table of St. Peter on that final Sunday afternoon, 18th April, thinking only one thought: I am available."

Since then Rink has devoted his energy and time to furthering the kingdom of God. A large portion of that journey has been envisioning greater involvement of Upper Room Ministries in Africa and working alongside African church and Upper Room leaders to provide accessible spiritual resources to laity and clergy throughout the continent. 

As coordinator of Africa Upper Room Ministries he is working hard to fulfill the mission "that every person in Africa be afforded the opportunity to spend time with God every day."

Rink shared his story with Tampa's Hyde Park United Methodist Church on World Communion Sunday Oct. 2. He talked about how a restless night in January 2000 birthed the business plan that "put into words exactly how we could begin to utilize the resources of the Upper Room in Africa."

"It was, and still is, an ambitious plan that takes cognizance of the fact that it is extremely expensive, because of import duties, taxes, freight costs and basic paper weight, to import printed Christian literature into South Africa," Rink said.

Rink and his team work from their headquarters located on five acres of land near Johannesburg. They have undertaken a huge operation of printing the resources of The Upper Room locally. Currently, they print and distribute more than 10,000 copies of the Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide to such countries as Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria, Congo, South Africa and Namibia. It is translated into French, Portuguese and an African/British version of English. Progress has also been made in the translation of the daily devotional guide into Afrikaans and Xhosa.

Writers use the American edition of the daily guide and take out words or phrases Africans would have difficulty understanding, such as snow, and insert local flavor.

Rink said the translation of the guide is important because the word of God can do wonders.

"Christ changed our lives, and He can change other people's lives," he said. "I am a firm believer that every person in Africa should spend time with God each day. The guide is means to that end. I mean, our spiritual lives require discipline each day, and once you're in that habit, you never lose it."

Not only are people in South Africa attempting to spend time with God each day, they are doing so in dire circumstances. Rink said it is not uncommon for four church communities to share one Bible.

Even though the average annual income of a South African hovers between $200 to $300 in United States dollars, Rink said it is important for the daily devotional to have a price. He said the cost is less than $2 (American dollars).

"I think it's important for people to actually pay for the magazine," he said. "It increases self-esteem to know it's worth something."

And for those unable to afford the daily guide, it will be broadcast on the local radio station in Zulu in 2006 to 9 million listeners, Rink said, making it accessible to deep rural areas in which many people can't read or write. It also ties into Africa's rich oral tradition of stories being heard and passed down from generation to generation.

SOUTH AFRICA — Wokers print No Cenáculo, the African Portugese edition of The Upper Room, at the Africa Upper Room Ministries headquarters ear Johannesburg. Photo courtesy of Africa Upper Room Ministries, Photo #05-253. Web photo only.

The current generation is also benefiting economically from production of the daily guide. Because it is printed locally the number of workers in the local print shop has increased along with the increase in the number of copies printed, Rink said. Retired clergy also earn extra money by distributing the copies.

Rink said there is excitement about product.

"To South Africans this is a brand new product," he said. " ... We're riding the waves of the newness, uniqueness. This could become an even larger global brand."

Team leaders have received requests for translations from groups in Lebanon, Malawi and Liberia.  A partnership has been formed with the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, and a relationship is in place with the Church of the Nazarene.

"The Upper Room is 70 years old," he said. "It was started ... at Travis Park United Methodist Church in San Antonio, Texas. The spiritual hunger that started it still exists."

That is a hunger Rink and his team are trying mightily to fill.

"It's all about listening to God, taking a leap in faith and leaving it to God," he said. "God will provide. God will lead us. God will show us. I mean, just look at all the wonders God has already done."

Rink continues to be optimistic about the expanding future of the daily guide.

"This is our passion," he said. "This is the work we know we have been called to. This is our new life, the life that God originally intended for us when He saw us long before we were born. We must bring people closer to God by the wise distribution and deployment of the resources of The Upper Room. This is our passion."

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This article relates to Spiritual Formation and Outreach.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.