From our Executive Vice President and CEO Joyce Dubensky: Today was one of those days that are pure magic. Bishop Ntambo, one of Tanenbaum’s new Peacemakers, is in Columbus Ohio for an annual meeting of Methodist Bishops, and I flew there to surprise him.
I was picked up by one of his nominators, George Howard, a local peacemaker in his own right. (He and his wife have created a church where free clothes are made available and 100,000 people – 1/7th of Columbus’ population – came to their community store last year!)
We agreed that I’d meet Bishop Ntambo at dinner as a surprise. Then, when we made the public announcement of his Peacemakers award, we would really surprise him. But before all that started, George had to find him – not an easy task. The room was full of leaders from the Methodist Church worldwide. And then Bishop Ntambo came in. He was a powerful presence wearing a multi-colored, bright African shirt amid many suits and people in business attire. He has an infectious smile with a hint of the mischievous. When we were introduced, he didn’t recognize my name. But when he heard Tanenbaum, his face simply lit up and he gave me a hug. We talked through dinner and he started to tell me stories. About his friends from different religious traditions – especially his brother, the Imam. He told me how the Imam fed his people as they were building their community. And how he and his community then helped the Imam build the roof of the mosque. Building structures, building relationships, building trust, building peace.
When we got to dessert, George was called up to the podium. He introduced me and I got to talk about Tanenbaum and our Peacemakers. I explained that only 26 men and women have ever been named a Tanenbaum Peacemaker and that all of these individuals are unsung heroes who meet our five criteria. I also got to share our vision. That children will one day know that they can grow up to be a Peacemaker – practitioner, just like they might become a doctor, lawyer, teacher, firefighter or business leader. The Bishop got a standing ovation and was clearly moved. In fact, George told me that it was the first time he ever saw him speechless! That was when he told me that almost no one ever gets to address the Conference of Bishops; my presentation was welcomed but essentially unheard of. I was really glad that he told me after my presentation – or I would have been speechless too!