Keeping Bermuda in his prayers but time to move on
After nearly ten years on the island, the Reverend Musawenkosi Nyanawesizwe Daba will be moving with his family to New Zealand next month.
It’s a bittersweet moment for the South African native, who has helped to usher in a dynamic new ministry at St Mark’s Church since 2013. As the first black clergyman at the Smith’s church, he’s witnessed a steady increase in the congregation over the past few years, including more young people.
“The people in Bermuda are unlike anywhere else in the world,” he said. “The courtesy, kindness and smiles they bestow, it’s just beautiful.
“It’s the people of Bermuda I will miss more than anything else. Getting onto a bus or ferry or going into a barber shop and hearing people say ‘Good morning’ or ‘Hello everyone’. You don’t get that anywhere else. I really pray for the people of Bermuda. Bermuda has come so far since I arrived in 2008, especially when it comes to gun violence and the impacts of the recession. My hope is that the values of this island will be upheld and the people will continue to move forward.”
Before applying for the post, Mr Daba had never heard of Bermuda.
Following his ordination in 2004 and serving for several years as a Deacon and Priest in Charge in and around Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Mr Daba had his heart set on moving to the UK and contributing to the struggling church there.
“When I visited the UK in 2001, I found that clergy were happy to have 12 people in their church and the church was declining, especially in the outskirts of the main cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester,” the 44-year-old said.
“And being a black South African Xhosa man, my people received the gospel from the English. I wanted to be a part of spreading the gospel there in the UK, so while my wife [Levidia] was visiting her retired parents in England, they saw a job profile for a pastor in Pembroke.
“They thought it was Pembroke in Wales, but it was actually a job for Pembroke in Bermuda. I said ‘Sweetheart, we don’t even know where Bermuda is’.”
Despite his reservations, he decided to apply.
“My mother-in-law was very ill at the time, but she said ‘If this is God’s call, you should go for it’. I picked up the phone and called to say this is who I am and to find out more about the parish.
“Bishop Nicholas Dill spoke with me and we became friends on the phone. He sent me the profile of the parish, I applied and they flew us over to Bermuda. I fell in love with the country, not because of the warm weather and pink sand, but rather the people. It really was a match made in heaven.”
Soon after arriving in Bermuda, he took time out to walk around Glebe Road and the St Monica’s Road area, just chatting to people and sharing his faith.
“Those are good people, nice people,” he said. “It reminded me a lot of my township in South Africa and the people back home.”
He counts it a blessing to have been welcomed into the homes of Bermudians from all walks of life and to have shared the gospel with a wide cross section of the community.
“Unlike most expats in Bermuda, I have been able to form friendships with Governors and had dinners at Government House and also sat on a bed of a drug addict in the back of town, and everywhere in between. To me it is a privilege to be able to serve.”
For the past four years, he’s also acted as Chaplain to the Bermuda Regiment, getting a peak into the lives of young Bermudians.
Getting active in the local community has helped him feel less like an outsider; now, when people ask where he’s from, he responds: “I’m onion-flavoured, although not fully onion.”
God has taught him a lot during his time on the island, most importantly humility.
“As human beings especially where I am it’s easy to grow big-headed because people speak well of you and all these nice things, but we are human beings and we fail and get prideful,” Mr Daba explained.
“I’ve learnt that I exist as a Christian, a human being, for Him and not for myself and I have tried to remain grounded in my thinking and to always remember I’m here for the glory of God.
“There are disappointments in life, but I ask myself have I been faithful to God and tried to represent Him well? I’m really an ambassador for Christ, not for South Africa or my family, both of whom I love very much, but for Christ. He comes first.”
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