What did the most recent South Sudan mission team do during their Aug. 13-27 trip? They ...
... visited 10 local churches and met pastors and believers who are planting new churches and sharing Jesus Christ (and clean water) with others.
... saw how the $135,000 raised for education by Holston churches this year is helping to train teachers and organize PTAs in church-related schools.
... met with two U.S. physicians and the UMCOR staff in South Sudan to learn how Imagine No Malaria funds are moving bed nets and medicine out to the villages.
... heard the songs of children from two orphanages
... handed out school supplies and demonstrated using a toothbrush to young students.
... hiked through “the bush” for Sunday worship at a church that was unreachable by van.
... bought garden tools, sugar cane, and soccer jerseys at the market.
... dined at the home of the top-ranking local official.
... soaked up all the information and experiences they could to share with constituents back home.
“When you go back, send our greetings that the people of Ridya are happy and they know Jesus’ name,” the team was told by the last congregation they visited.
Comprised of six members from Marion, Va.; Bristol, Va.: Kingsport, Tenn.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Chattanooga, Tenn., the team differed from many previous groups that have represented Holston in East Africa, said Danny Howe, team leader.
Instead of being focused on one mission (medical or clergy training) or one church, “each member of this team had a specific role or responsibility,” Howe said.
Roy Hull, a former pastor and current member at State Street United Methodist, focused on agriculture and the Abingdon District’s partnership (along with the Memphis Conference) with Kenyi United Methodist and the accompanying Greenland Home for Children.
The Rev. Harry Howe, director of Project Crossroads and a physician’s assistant, spent several days with Dr. Lynn Fogleman and Dr. Sharon Fogleman, joining in health trainings and examinations and learning about local medical needs.
Brett Burris, member of Burks United Methodist Church, represented the Chattanooga District’s partnership with Ligitolo United Methodist.
Paul Bowman, director of gift planning for Holston Conference Foundation, visited some of the 32 bore holes dug with Foundation funds and gathered info about future financial needs. Annette Spence, editor for Holston Conference Communications, gathered news and photos and shared through social media.
Danny Howe, missions director at First Broad Street United Methodist, represented the Kingsport District’s partnership with Giru United Methodist. As coordinator of Holston’s South Sudan mission, Howe also gathered information about the need to send teams to develop additional partnerships.
“We’re in this for the long term,” Howe said of Holston's eight-year partnership with the United Methodist Church of South Sudan, “but Holston cannot be doing this ourselves. Covenants are the way to move forward with these churches.”
Nineteen local churches exist in the South Sudan district. They are supervised by the Rev. Fred Dearing, superintendent from Holston Conference, appointed in the East Africa Conference. The district office is based in Yei; the churches exist in Yei River County and Lainya County. Five churches have partnerships with Holston groups. At least three more are ready for partnerships with Holston groups or other United Methodist conferences or districts, Dearing said.
In the months ahead, The Call will produce stories about how United Methodist partnerships are helping the world’s newest nation not only through evangelism, but also through clean water, education, health, hygiene, agriculture, microenterprise, and orphan care.
Holston readers will learn how their contributions to Imagine No Malaria and Annual Conference offerings are being spent to save and improve lives – and how future gifts to Advance funds will continue to foster the nation’s development.
In addition, team members will share their own stories.
“At a time when the majority of news out of Africa is bad – the Ebola crisis, kidnappings of children, rampant terrorism come to one's mind easily -- I am pleased to report that recently I witnessed some amazing ‘good news’ in South Sudan,” Paul Bowman said in his own report to readers of a Foundation newsletter.
Through the efforts of the Dearings, indigenous staff, and church partnerships, Bowman said, Holston is helping to bring hope to the South Sudanese people. “They know that they are loved, supported and important to not only the Holston Conference but the Lord as well.”
See worship at Ridya on YouTube:
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.