6/8/15 update: Download complete totals.
MARYVILLE, Tenn. (June 5, 2015) -- “They were loading in Abingdon 30 minutes ago … “
“Cleveland is about an hour away.”
“Here comes Johnson City!”
District by district, the trucks and vans arrived at the parking lot of Fairview United Methodist Church on June 3-4. Each vehicle was stuffed with thousands of mission kits – bound for missions and schools in Zimbabwe and Liberia – all collected by church members in recent weeks.
Some of the rental trucks were driven by district superintendents, who then joined in the herculean volunteer effort. After the backpacks, buckets, and boxes were unloaded, between 20 to 40 workers helped to re-load and pack the supplies onto three waiting ocean-carrying containers. (See video clip.)
“Holston has been doing this for about 15 years,” said the Rev. Michael Sluder, director of missions. The annual “Hands-on Mission Project” involves all of Holston’s 12 districts and most of its 887 congregations in southwest Virginia, east Tennessee, and north Georgia.
The goods are always packed at Fairview, and the load gets bigger every year, said Sluder. Strategy is required to keep shipping containers and costs to a minimum. “We got a whole lot more into a smaller space this year, because we packed carefully.”
Volunteers range in age from young to old. Some, like Dave Spannbauer and the Tate brothers (Zach, 16; Eli, 14; Sam and Wes, 12), return every year.
“These kids weren’t even born when we started this project,” said the Rev. Jerry Russell, Fairview’s senior pastor, pointing to the 12-year-old Tate twins. “We birthed them into this.”
Included in the supplies will be medications and medical equipment for Liberia. Last year, when Ebola struck Liberia hard, medicines sent by Holston Conference were quickly diverted from the schools to the hospitals, Sluder said. “They were really grateful for the medicines sent by Holston.”
The Rev. Stella Roberts, director of connectional ministries, said she expects this year’s mass collection of canned ham, oatmeal, shampoo, paper towel, pencils and other items to be one of the largest ever. In 2014, Holston churches sent 8,651 kits valued at $194,188 to Africa.
The total number and value of this year’s project will be announced on Monday morning, June 8, at the Holston Annual Conference in Lake Junaluska, N.C. The three stuffed ocean-carrying containers, pulled by tractor-trailers, will stop by Stuart Auditorium for the Annual Conference’s blessing before departing for the South Carolina coast, where they’ll be shipped overseas.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.