Bishop Modesto Mamani, Bishop of the Evangelical Methodist Church in Bolivia, delivered an inspirational opening sermon on Friday, June 15 during the Wisconsin Annual Conference. He began his sermon with a prayer asking for the presence of the Lord to open our hearts and our minds. After praying, he spoke about the depersonalization he has seen in society. He said, “Every day we do not care about the other. We talk with our heads down, and look somewhere else. It’s hard looking front-to-front, and seeing ourselves face-to-face. With this way of living, we are promoting ‘not-encounters’…These not-encounters also happen in our church, in our family, in our communities, in our cultures, and in our nations. In the middle of these not encounters, we are called to have a true encounter, with the Lord and with the other.” He reminded us of Genesis 32:30 when Jacob said, “I saw God face to face, and my soul was saved.” He urged, “We need to get those encounters back: see the eyes of God face to face.” He continued, “God always wants to be with you. Jesus wants to be with you so you can be with the other… Jesus Christ promotes encounters of sincerity, encounters of humility, encounters face-to-face. These are only possible in his name.”

Bishop Mamani spoke about how these encounters have to be sincere, true in humility, and overall in love. To give an example of humility, he shared a testimony from his life when the Presbyterian Church invited him to speak at their General Conference on the topic of “How to Live Well.” Before he arrived, he did not know how many speakers there would be, or how many other Methodists would be there. After arriving, he quickly felt out of place. He was the only Methodist, and he was dressed casually in a t-shirt, while everyone else was dressed very formally. Bishop Mamani remembered thinking, “I wanted to lift my self-esteem. So I said ‘what am I going to do?’ And then I remembered the story of David, when he had been chosen as a king. God doesn’t see what is outside; God sees the heart. So I said, ‘I am not that ugly. I am also like David.’ That’s what motivated me.” While other speakers spoke of material things, Bishop Mamani preached that living well means having good relationships with God and with others. Mamani was nervous that people would not like what he said, but one of the other speakers stood up, asked where Mamani was from, and said, “I want to go to your land, and learn what you have learned.” He concluded his sermon by encouraging us to be open to learn from each other and walk with each other.

An offering was taken during the Opening Worship for two global missions: Eurasia In Mission Together (Advance #11510A) and Thiu Rancho Project (Advance #12309A). Eurasia in Mission Together supports mission work in Russia and Belarus. Donations will go to funding pastors' salaries and church ministries, and establishing new churches. Thiu Rancho Project supports mission work in Bolivia. Donations will help provide Christian formation courses for Methodist pastors, and youth and education for children. Donations can be accepted through the Annual Conference app, and on the website. Prior to worship, Jene Delcurt performed a drumming service, and sanctified the plenary and worship space.