Last spring, church members all over Holston collected supplies for missions in Liberia and Zimbabwe. As part of the Annual Conference Hands-On Mission Project, churches provided 7,200 kits full of food and clothing as well as health, school, sewing, and occupational supplies.
Where did it all go?
The conference office rejoiced when they recently learned that all supplies have now arrived at their African destinations, according to Missions Coordinator Bill Daugherty.
'Sending thanks' from Zimbabwe
Two days after the supplies arrived in Zimbabwe in late August, the Rev. Jerry Russell and a crew from Fairview United Methodist Church was on the ground. Russell worked with customs officials to get the goods released for the Ishe Anesu Mission.
"We have built a relationship with them, and it went better than it ever has," Russell said, referring to officials in Mutare, Zimbabwe. "We learn more every year about how to pack, and so there was very little damage [to the supplies]."
districts from Holston collected the supplies for Zimbabwe: Chattanooga and Cleveland (food
buckets); Knoxville and Maryville (health kits); Morristown (school
kits); and Oak Ridge (sewing kits).
Zimbabweans "showed up en masse" to help complete the transport of goods to Ishe Anesu, Russell said. "Women carried it on their heads, and people took food buckets in each hand. There was great celebration."
Once the goods were safely stored in the care of Missionary Maria Humbane, "there was a time of prayer and thanksgiving," Russell said. The Ishe Anesu board met, "and they wanted to send thanks to Holston for its faithfulness, for not forgetting them during this difficult time in Zimbabwe. A lot of people wouldn't go there right now, but Holston Conference is still there."
On Sunday, Aug. 31, Russell preached to a congregation of 3,000 at Hilltop United Methodist Church in Mutare. "There's no water or power -- it's only turned on once a day," he said. "But the church is just full."
Russell and crew returned to Maryville, Tenn., on Sept. 6.
'Manifestation of love' in Liberia
Six districts from Holston collected supplies for schools and missions in Liberia: Big Stone Gap, Johnson City, Tazewell, and Wytheville (school kits); Abingdon (teacher kits); and Kingsport (health kits).
On Sept. 4, Missionaries Mary and Herbert Zigbuo sent the following e-mail to Daugherty, with the subject, "We received the container":
Warm greetings to you from Liberia.
We were able to receive the container from the port yesterday evening. It was raining during the unloading ... so, we were unable to take pictures. However, thanks to the help of twelve men, we were able to manually unload the container and pack the container items in a safe storage area.
We will distribute the items in early October as schools do not reopen until two to three weeks from now. Indeed, we were very pleasantly surprised to see so many pieces of school kits! The volume of school kits sent will be able to serve all the schools in the Gbarnga District! As time goes on, we will send you accurate information about the number of schools projected to be served.
You can imagine that so many schools are already anticipating these school kits from Holston Conference as over the years we have all come to know and appreciate the quality and quantity of these kits. The health kits will be shared with the teachers (in an incentive as their salaries are quite low ... most village school teachers make on the average $30 per month) and staff as well as some vulnerable elderly persons and the orphanage.
The United Methodist Church has a Ministry of the Aged Program to cater to the needs of abandoned elderly persons and an orphanage. We will also save some of the health kits for the Vocational Skill Training Program trainees.
We will share the T-shirts with the students in the schools.
The vocational tools and supplies will be kept until January when the vocational training program starts.
Thank you, Holston Conference, for this wonderful manifestation of love and support for our work here in Liberia!!
Herbert and Mary Zigbuo