Holston members completed another herculean effort this week when, district by district, they packed and transported life-sustaining supplies for Africa to the central packing location in Maryville, Tenn.
When all the backpacks, buckets and boxes had arrived at Fairview United Methodist Church on June 5, there were not enough trucks to get them to the coast for shipping overseas.
So for the first time ever, Holston Conference ordered a fourth ocean-carrying container to transport the annual Hands-on Mission Project from Tennessee to Africa.
“It’s exciting to see it all come together,” said the Rev. Stella Roberts, director of connectional ministries. “Everybody’s been so helpful.”
Members in almost all of Holston’s 887 churches began collecting food, school and health supplies for United Methodist missions and schools in Liberia and Zimbabwe during May. Early in June, they delivered the canned ham, shampoo, pencils and other goods to their district offices.
On June 3, church members began jumping into trucks to haul the supplies to Fairview church. For three days, volunteers loaded the cargo into ocean-carrying containers.
Late on June 5, Roberts ordered a fourth container to accommodate the huge collection of goods. Shipping the four containers to Africa will cost about $32,000, which will be offset by the $5 members have donated for each mission kit assembled, Roberts said.
“That’s why we stress the $5 so much,” Roberts said.
On Monday morning, June 9, the four trucks -- bursting with supplies and Holston generosity -- will stop by Lake Junaluska, N.C., on the way to the seaport in Charleston, S.C.
At Lake Junaluska, members of the Holston Annual Conference will celebrate the Hands-on Mission Project with a prayer and the traditional honk of the truck horns.
The supplies are expected to arrive in Liberia and Zimbabwe in August, said the Rev. Jerry Russell, Fairview senior pastor.
In Zimbabwe, the food buckets will feed children for a year at Ishe Anesu Project, led by missionary Maria Humbane. In Liberia, supplies will be distributed by missionary Helen Roberts-Evans to United Methodist schools throughout the country, Russell said.
The Hands-on Mission Project has been organized by Holston for about 15 years and gets bigger each year, said the Rev. Mike Sluder, incoming associate director of connectional ministries for missions.
“It’s something easy for any size church to do,” Sluder said. “A lot of churches don’t have an avenue to do missions on an international level. This gives them a way to reach out beyond themselves and gives them a real sense of accomplishment."
On June 1, Carpenter’s Campground United Methodist Church celebrated the collection of 150 food buckets for Zimbabwe. The Rev. Charles Maynard, Maryville district superintendent, stopped by to pray with the congregation of 70.
On June 9 during the Holston Annual Conference, mission leaders will announce the total kits collected by each of Holston’s 12 districts as well as the total value.
See more photos on The Call's Facebook page.
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Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.