Bishop Mark Zimmermann and his wife Cindy went on the road with their 1998 Roadtrek 190 camper to visit their diocese. We caught up with him and asked him about this unique journey.
You were consecrated bishop of the Diocese of the Southwest in 2014. How did the idea for this roadtrip come about?
The Diocese of the Southwest encompasses all of New Mexico, a big part of West Texas, one church in Colorado, and a few congregations in central Mexico. The churches of the diocese wanted me to visit more frequently than just my annual visit.
My wife, Cindy, and I thought we would be able to spend more time together and less time traveling if we had a small camper. We called some friends who had just what we were looking for to see if they might be interested in selling. They were, and so we bought it.
What were your goals in going on the road?
I wanted to spend more time in my distant communities and less time behind the wheel. I hope to use the camper throughout my time as a bishop, and when I retire Cindy and I will use it to see the many National Parks that we have not yet seen.
What have you enjoyed, and what have you learned?
We save on hotels, don’t have to rent a car, and have the freedom to stop when we get tired. We learned that it is not good to leave valuables in the van. When we were visiting the Alamo on a visit to my churches in Texas, the van was broken into and I lost my computer, my bishop’s ring and cross, and even my miter. I learned to back up my computer and take valuables with me in a backpack.
What have you been learning in your own personal walk with Christ?
I spend my time on the road in prayer and working on sermons. Sometimes I am simply praying that the Lord will watch over me until I get to my destination. I have learned that it is important to take time to look around and thank God for the incredible beauty of his creation. I am blessed to live in “the Land of Enchantment” and see vistas that many may only dream about.
What has surprised you during the trip?
We were surprised as we drove across the country by a lot of noise and bouncing. It turns out that the New Mexico sun was not kind to our tires. They had dry rotted. The good Lord watched out for us and got us safely across the country until I could take the van to a tire shop I had used in the past. They took one look and said we shouldn’t drive another mile. After replacing all four tires, it was as if we had a new vehicle. The van is now a pleasure to drive and much, much quieter.
What made visiting churches this way different from the traditional way? What was the reaction from churches you visited?
Because of the distances, I have found that I often stay overnight with my clergy. I can say that this has been a great blessing. I can only pray that they have enjoyed the time as much as I do. Staying longer in one location allows me to get to know people better and visit some of the folks that can’t get to church. I have also been able to help in various missions of some of the parishes.
Your diocese covers not just a wide area, but also two countries. What was it like crossing the border to visit the churches in Mexico? What did you learn from those visitations about the church in Mexico?
My visits to Mexico have been a great joy. They sing and worship with great enthusiasm. Please pray for the church in Mexico. We are soon to have a Mexican Marriage Encounter with a tremendous help from the Anglican Church in Chile. Pray that many lives are changed and families find new love for each other and the Lord.
Speaking of prayer, how else may we pray for the ministry of the Diocese of the Southwest?
Please pray that the Lord will help us raise up a new generation of pastors to help us plant churches, reach young people, and reach the Latino community. Pray that one day the Anglican Church in North America congregations in Mexico will be strong enough to form their own diocese. Pray that God would pour out his life-giving abundant Spirit on the Anglican congregations throughout the West and Southwest.
Mary Ailes is Director of Communications for the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic.