New director of missional impact to connect churches, conference with those in need

July 16, 2013

By: Christa Meland

I’m going to Africa, and you’re coming with me.

That’s what a 15-year-old member of Rosemount United Methodist Church told Lyndy Zabel in 1988 when he was working as a youth pastor there. A district superintendent for the Sierra Leone Annual Conference came to speak to the congregation, and the girl was inspired to travel to the country to help its citizens in need.

Zabel agreed to go, and the two joined an Indiana group on a mission trip to Freetown, Sierra Leone. They spent 25 days there, building a security wall around a high school and traveling the country to visit schools in need. The profound experience left Zabel thinking about what more could be done to help communities like those he’d seen in Africa, and shortly after he returned home, he co-founded OC Ministries (formerly Operation Classroom), a local nonprofit mission that has built classrooms, clinics, and churches in seven developing countries.

Zabel knows firsthand just how transformational mission work can be for both the communities being helped and those who give their time and resources, and it’s that meaningful transformation that he hopes to facilitate in his new job as director of missional impact for the Minnesota Annual Conference.

“There are places and situations in the world that break the heart of God,” says Zabel. “We ought to be the hands and feet and eyes and ears of Jesus and go out, led by God and the Holy Spirit, to try to do something about it. That’s healing a broken world.”

In Zabel’s position, which he began June 30, he will help churches identify and make arrangements for mission-based opportunities both near and far, connect people and churches within the conference to enable them to further their missional reach, and form long-lasting relationships with one or two conferences in developing nations in order to help them meet needs in their areas. Zabel says that as the Minnesota Conference develops new mission programs, they will be focused on meeting the needs of the world’s children.

Zabel’s new role is part time and one of two new positions to which he was recently appointed. In late June, he also became part-time associate pastor at Messiah United Methodist Church in Plymouth.

As an ordained elder who has served in a variety of local United Methodist churches, Zabel’s name and face are known to many within the Minnesota Conference. Aside from Rosemount United Methodist Church, other previous appointments were at Gethsemane United Methodist Church (Lino Lakes), Woodbury United Methodist Church, Lake Harriet United Methodist Church (Minneapolis), and United Methodist Church of Anoka, where he last served, while simultaneously acting as the church planter for Northern Light United Methodist Church (Ramsey). The Grand Rapids native graduated from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in 1985.

The director of missional impact position is new and was made possible thanks to a gift provided to the Minnesota Conference for global ministries. The gift was given at a time when expanding missional impact was identified as a key strategic focus within the conference.

“Lyndy has led several teams on overseas missions trips, has a wide network across the connection and world that he brings to our desire to build new partnerships, and every church he has been appointed to has increased its outreach efforts in serving and connecting to its community,” says Cindy Gregorson, the Minnesota Conference’s director of ministries. “He is the right person at the right time to help us champion this strategic focus.”

Zabel, who lives in Minnetonka, is married to another well-known clergy leader in the Minnesota Conference: Twin Cities District Superintendent Judy Zabel. The two have three grown children, two of whom live in the metro area. In his free time, Zabel plays keyboard in two local Christian music groups.

One of the first things Zabel will focus on in his new position is wrapping up the Imagine No Malaria campaign within the conference, which will include collecting remaining funds that were pledged.

Zabel will work closely with the conference’s Mission Promotion Team, Disaster Response Team, Volunteers in Mission Action Team, and Native American Ministries Action Team—and he’ll continue to be heavily involved with OC Ministries. But he’s also looking forward to connecting with individual churches to find out where their interests lie and which mission opportunities match them.

“People say missions start at home,” says Zabel. “Home is where the heart is. Wherever your heart is moved, do something. If that’s your next door neighbor who needs help, do something. If you read an article about hunger in Somalia, do something. Wherever your heart is, that’s where you should go. The Lord wants to use you.”

Connect with Zabel at or (612) 230-6129.

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058