- The 2022 Holston Annual Conference offering will support mission and ministry in South Sudan and Uganda.
- Churches are requested to take offerings on a Sunday between now and Annual Conference, held June 5-8.
- Holston Conference has been in partnership with the United Methodist Church in South Sudan since 2006.
ALCOA, Tenn. -- On one of her first days on her first mission trip to Africa, Kristy Rowe thanked God for a warm welcome and “a house full of smiles, rice, beans and fried okra.”
Like almost every mission-team member who makes the trek around the world to be with the South Sudanese people that Holston Conference has called family since 2006, Rowe found the blessings and victories to be abundant.
However, the needs of a people traumatized by civil war, loss and poverty over generations are also abundant, as Holston’s latest team to East Africa said they realized again during a March 8-23 trip.
That’s why Holston leaders have dedicated the 2022 Annual Conference mission offering for the education and leadership development of pastors, orphans and others connected to the United Methodist Church in South Sudan.
“The bullseye in the target since 2006 was to help educate people and establish indigenous leadership in the church and the nation so they can grow together and sustain themselves,” said Danny Howe, leader of last month’s mission team and chair of Holston’s South Sudan Ministry Team. “We’re on the cusp of that.”
Between now and the June 5-8 Holston Annual Conference gathering in North Carolina, church members are asked to give financially to help South Sudanese people overcome war and displacement trauma through education and leadership development.
Holston Conference churches may take the South Sudan offering on any Sunday between now and June, said the Rev. Mike Sluder, Holston director of connectional ministries. The offerings will be counted and celebrated during Annual Conference.
This year’s appeal marks the sixth time Holston leaders have dedicated the Annual Conference offering for mission in South Sudan, which has included digging wells, providing health care, building churches, sending teams, and more.
The Holston Annual Conference also gave its mission offerings to South Sudan in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014, and 2018. The largest offering totaled more than $186,000 in 2008. The latest offering in 2018 totaled $110,191.
According to Sluder, Holston Conference’s giving over the years are foundational to recent victories, including the projected appointment of the Rev. Faustino Duku as district superintendent of South Sudan. Bishop Daniel Wandabula is expected to make the appointment at the Uganda-South Sudan Annual Conference Oct. 5-8.
Duku of South Sudan follows the Rev. Fred Dearing of Holston Conference, who has served as South Sudan District superintendent since 2011.
Duku was ordained in the first class of South Sudanese United Methodist elders in 2019.
“We have been working for indigenous leadership for a long time, and Faustino is going to do an excellent job,” Sluder said in a video announcing the 2022 mission offering. “That’s because of your support.”
Howe and other mission leaders said more money is needed for their work in East Africa, which started in Yei, South Sudan, and migrated to schools and refugee camps in and around Arua, Uganda. In 2016, war and violence forced many of the pastors and members of about 20 United Methodist churches in South Sudan to flee to Uganda, where they remain in exile today.
In addition, the 36 orphans supported by Holston and living in “Grace Home for Children” (built by Holston churches) left South Sudan for Uganda.
This year’s Annual Conference offering will support a mission that now exists in two countries with 20 active pastors, Dearing said. Five United Methodist churches and some pastors remained in South Sudan, while United Methodist pastors in Ugandan refugee camps have started 19 new churches.
Holston Conference still supports the education and care of the Grace Home children, including college and vocational training.
Last month, eight soon-to-be probationary elders received diplomas of theology, making Holston team members in attendance proud.
"If anybody could see the joy on the faces of those pastors, they would believe this mission is worth donating to," said Paul Bowman, Holston Foundation president and a participant on last month’s mission team.
Funds are also needed for maintaining properties built or leased by Holston Conference, including the “Captain’s House” mission center in Yei, South Sudan, and the compound in Arua, Uganda, where the administrative office and mission teams are housed, Howe said.
For two years, Howe's mission teams were unable to travel to Uganda to visit the South Sudanese pastors, staff, and orphans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the most recent five-member team made the journey last month, they rejoiced to see that many of their friends were moving on in their education or exceling in building ministries, careers and businesses. In addition to Howe, Bowman, and Rowe, last month's team included Noell Howe and Libby Dearing.
“We’re walking with spiritual giants,” Danny Howe said. “What they’re doing is so much more than what we would attempt to do."
To give online to South Sudan now, visit the Holston Foundation giving page.
Did you like this story? Sign up for a free weekly subscription to The Call. Holston Conference includes 850 United Methodist congregations in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.
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