Three months after departing Holston for Sudan, Boo and Phyllis Hankins are experiencing joy along with the aches and pains and frustrations of living in Africa.
The clergy couple is in the midst of a two-year appointment to help Holston fulfill its covenant with the East Africa Conference -- and also help carry out the mission made possible by Holston offerings. The Rev. Boo Hankins is serving as a transitional district superintendent in Yei with the assistance of his wife, the Rev. Phyllis Hankins.
"Nothing is easy," the pastors reported in a Sept. 23 e-mail. After weeks of asking questions and obtaining official signatures, the couple was able to hire "slashers" to cut grass on the property where the Holston headquarters house will be built. The 7,000 square meters of land will be graded this week, and then a fence will be erected.
A big frustration is acquiring donated funds that have been channeled from Holston and other United Methodist groups through offices and banks in Uganda and Sudan, the pastors said. Holston leaders are working on better methods and routes to expedite the transfer of money from the U.S. to Yei.
The clergy couple also aided the opening of the United Methodist school in Yei, when a bank that held the school's money, about $5,000, closed.
"The government is working on it, but nobody’s holding their breath," Phyllis Hankins reported via e-mail. The Holston pastors used personal funds to buy school supplies and also helped the school organize its management team for the coming year.
As two more mission teams from Holston prepare to go to Sudan in November 2009 and March 2010, Boo and Phyllis Hankins are also preparing.
"We’ve found a hands-on project for the team in November, which is putting zinc sheets on a building, so that the nursery school can move out of the church," the pastors said. "Also, the November team is bringing 34 water filters, so that each church and pastor can have two to provide clean water, until we can drill more wells."
Other projects pursued by the Holston pastors include managing conflict in the church, delivering supplies to schools in outlying village churches, and meeting quarterly with local pastors for training in the Book of Discipline, English, and pastoral responsibilities.
"Phyllis also discovered a good guitar left by the young adult team that came in March," the e-mail from Sudan reported. " She is going to spend some time teaching the youth leader, Kennedy, and helping one of the teachers to learn some new songs."
Both pastors struggle with health issues. At one point, Phyllis had 32 mosquito bites (although they have since healed without symptoms of malaria) and Boo is suffering from a painful knee. He hopes to find medical care when the couple goes to Kampala, Uganda, for Annual Conference in December, or when the Holston medical team arrives next March. The Hankins are also looking for a way to have sufficient refrigeration to store Phyllis' anti-osteoporosis medication.
When asked about specific prayer requests, the clergy couple requested prayer "for the opening of a bank account in Kampala for programs and projects."
"We also pray every day for the folks in Holston, who pray and support us in so many ways," the pastors said in the e-mail. "We can never thank them enough, this side of heaven."
To request inclusion on Boo and Phyllis Hankins' e-mail newsletter list, write firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boo Hankins also has a page on Facebook; if you wish to be his Facebook "friend," be sure to include your church's name and your pastor's name when sending a friend request.
Annual Conference wraps up with big decisions, big giving (6/21/09)
Edina: Symbol of strength in Sudan (5/26/09)
Holston, East Africa conferences sign Sudan covenant (2/26/08)
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.