Jubilee Project will go on with new leaders
For 21 years, Holston Conference has associated Diantha and Steve Hodges with the Jubilee Project in Sneedville. Soon, the couple who established and led a multifaceted mission in east Tennessee will be connected with a new mission -- in a new world.
On Aug. 16, the Hodges will fly to Africa with a final destination in south Sudan. The couple will live and work there as missionaries with specific roles. Diantha will help improve village health, especially among pregnant women and infants. Steve will develop agriculture and microenterprise.
After months of feeling God's call to go to south Sudan, the couple have met all the requirements of the General Board of Global Ministries, Steve Hodges said.
"As of May 23, Diantha and I completed all the requirements to be 'Individual Volunteers in Mission' and have been selected to fill two placements in southern Sudan, as requested by Bishop Daniel Wandabula of the East Africa Conference," he said.
"This came about because in 2009, I went on two different two-week trips to southern Sudan as part of Holston Conference United Methodist mission teams to evaluate the potential and direction of economic development mission. After much prayer and discussion, this has developed into our certainty that both of us are called to go as missionaries to southern Sudan for an extended period of time."
After completing radiation treatments for breast cancer, Diantha Hodges said she has received physician approval to go to Sudan. "I'm excited about offering my experience to train others to improve village health and prevent so many deaths in Sudan, especially for mothers and infants."
As Individual Volunteers, the couple will not be guaranteed salary but are responsible for raising funds for living and working expenses, insurance, and retirement. "We are not worried, as this basically has been our situation for 21 years," Steve Hodges said. "God has provided for us through support from many [churches and individuals]."
The Hodges have already received training in tropical agriculture, tropical medicine and health improvement, and village development methods.
They will attend the Holston Annual Conference, speaking at the Outreach/Advocacy/Peace With Justice Luncheon on June 14 (12:30 p.m., Harrell Center lower level) and participating in the Mission Ministry Dinner on June 15 (5:30 p.m., Lambuth International Room).
A "Hodges to Sudan Send-Off" is also planned at First Broad Street UMC in Kingsport on Thursday, July 8, 7-8:30 p.m. A Knoxville send-off celebration is scheduled at Fountain City UMC on Friday, July 9, 7-8:30 p.m. (R.S.V.P. to 423-733-4195.)
Churches and individuals may support the couple by writing checks to their local churches, with "Advance #982465, Diantha and Steve Hodges" on the memo line. It's also possible to give online.
In the meantime, the Hodges want Holston members to know that the work of the Jubilee Project goes on. Co-interim directors Heidi Hutchinson and Elizabeth Malayter were announced last year, and the search for a new director will begin soon. The new director will probably also have the "Individual Volunteers" classification, which could make the position appealing to retirees, Hodges said.
- "Jubilee sends gratitude: 'You have done a tremendous thing'" (12/10/09)
- "Jubilee Project creates opportunities for people to help themselves" (12/3/09)
- "Tragedy in Sudan moves conference to expand goals" (3/31/09)
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.