Posted by: morgan1965 | December 9, 2013

Nelson Mandela: In the Presence of Greatness

Bishop Janice Huie escorts Nelson Mandela and his wife, Gracia Machel, as Bishop João Somane Machado leads the way. A UMNS photo by Stephen Drachler.

Bishop Janice Huie escorts Nelson Mandela and his wife, Gracia Machel, as Bishop João Somane Machado leads the way. A UMNS photo by Stephen Drachler.

Nelson Mandela, a world citizen and past president of South Africa, died on December 5, 2013. He lived ninety- five years that were punctuated by 27 years spent as a political prisoner.

We mourn the death of Nelson Mandela, a man of peace and reconciliation.  As we examine the annals of history, we note that God periodically will raise up leaders who are prophetic beyond their borders and nation. Mandela was such a man.

In November 2006 The United Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops met in Maputo, Mozambique.  Nelson Mandela and his wife, Graça Machel, graced the Council with a surprise visit. At that time I was serving as the secretary of the Council and had the privilege of meeting them and sitting at the dinner table with them.

President Mandela graduated from a Methodist boarding school, and in his remarks to the Council, he acknowledged his gratitude for the positive foundation that his early education provided him. Graça Machel is a Methodist of long standing, so they have an historic relationship with Methodism.

While sitting at the round dinner table with Nelson Mandela, I realized in a profound way that I was sitting in the presence of greatness. First, President Mandela acknowledged that he came to the Council meeting just to be with his wife who was the featured speaker. In other words, he was just hanging out with his wife. He did not come to our gathering to be a celebrity. Second, he did not seek a special place of honor, but was pleased to sit among a group of bishops and spouses.

Third, I was struck by his genuine humility. I was in the presence of a former freedom fighter, former political prisoner, past president of South Africa and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Immediately he put all the people around him at ease with his instant humor and infectious smile. His humor included the ability to laugh at himself.

Perhaps the most striking quality about him was the manner in which he received some of the children who were present at the dinner. As we were engaging in conversation around the table, several of the children approached us. They were not sure whether it was okay to approach President Mandela. When President Mandela noticed the children, he graciously invited them to come to him. He took time to greet all of them and posed for pictures with them.

I join with the multitudes of people around the world in giving thanks to God who gifted South Africa and the world with Nelson Mandela. South Africa is a different place because Nelson Mandela blazed new trails of freedom, justice, peace and reconciliation. Because South Africa became a different place, the world is now a different community because of it. Truly God acts in our history and greatness is a mantle bestowed by God. It was a blessing to me personally to be in the presence of greatness.



  1. A wonderful moment in your life

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