Now that team is back from Sudan, high hopes for May 18 offering

Now that team is back from Sudan, high hopes for May 18 offering

The Holston Conference’s 11-member mission team went to Sudan on March 10 with medical supplies and dreams of aiding people in need.

The group left nearly two weeks later with hope and a sense of Christian fulfillment. A May 18 offering in all 910 churches will help continue the work Holston Conference has begun.

“I was rewarded more than they were,” said Libby Dearing, one of the leaders for Holston's third team to southern Sudan. "It was so much of a blessing to me. The people were grateful to have someone who cared and would do something.”

According to the Rev. Harry Howe, a trained paramedic based in Marion, Va., the trip had multiple purposes.

Dearing and co-leader, the Rev. Tom Seay, went to Africa a few days before the team. They were able to complete the paperwork to gain a deed for the property in the southern Sudan town of Yei, where Holston will build a school, medical clinic, and guest house.

Some misunderstandings were also reconciled, and Howe said that experience was almost Biblical.

“It was really neat,” he said. Howe said it reminded him of "when Paul and some of the disciples were talking to the new churches. It was like seeing the Bible come to life in a new way.”

Physician Mike Hartsell of Greeneville, Tenn., led the team in providing medication for 1,200 local people for a variety of medical conditions, including malaria and other parasite-born illnesses. The group tried to teach the local residents about hygiene, even though the language barrier made that difficult.

“The people desperately needed medical care,” said Dearing, wife of Kingsport District Superintendent Fred Dearing. “The hospital there has limited resources and the people cannot get medications.”

Also lacking was adequate food. Although the Holston team had packed snacks such as peanut butter and dried fruit, lunch in south Sudan often consists only of a boiled egg and a roll.

However, Dearing said she found plenty of spiritual nourishment.

"The people praised God in everything,” she said. “The services would be three hours long but they did not seem that way.”

The locals were also not lacking for hope.

“You would think the people are in despair, but they are not,” she said. “They are hopeful. They don’t cry over what they lack.”

When Holston churches give to the Annual Conference offering during worship services on May 18 or an alternate date, the goal will be $125,000. According to Howe, the money will be used to help construct the school, clinic ,and guest house in Yei, as well as to secure housing for missionaries. The Rev. Buford Hankins and the Rev. Phyllis Hankins are expected to be appointed to work with the East Africa Conference beginning in 2009.

Although plenty of work remains, Howe said he feels good about the accomplishments.

"We felt very successful in what we did and what we were able to glean as far as setting the agenda for other teams coming in,” he said.

Other team members included Patricia Downs of Kingsport, Tenn., Jeannie Higgins of Greeneville, Tenn., Patricia Hipp of Townsend, Tenn., Mendy Huskey of Sevierville, Tenn., Amy Nichols of Galax, Va., Don Thomas of Knoxville, Tenn., and John Webb of Townsend, Tenn.

Need a Sudan mission speaker at your church? Contact the Connectional Ministries Office toll-free at (866) 690-4080 or e-mail Please note: Former Children's Ministry Coordinator Anita Henderlight has accepted a new position and is no longer employed by Holston Conference.

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