United Methodists worldwide invited to Tennessee for Sudan Summit

United Methodists worldwide invited to Tennessee for Sudan Summit


Earthquake survivor will serve in fallen leader's place

The second-ever Sudan Summit will be held March 11-12 in Kingsport, Tenn., with the goal of pooling United Methodist efforts to address needs in south Sudan.

Organized by the Holston Annual Conference, the summit will be attended by several General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) staff as well as United Methodists from Africa.

A special guest is Tom Omach, field officer for UMCOR-NGO in Yei, Sudan, where Holston has based its mission work since 2006. In February 2008, Holston signed a covenant with the East Africa Conference that prioritizes goals such as clean water, health care, and leadership development.

United Methodists who want to learn more about ongoing work in south Sudan -- while sharing knowledge and resources -- are invited to "come to the table," said Danny Howe, chair of Holston's Missions Ministry Team and also missions director for the summit's host church, First Broad Street United Methodist Church.

"We have found that there is so much more work to do than we could have ever imagined," Howe said. "We need to operate in our full capacity as United Methodists -- to unify our efforts to eliminate hardship and bring hope to our brothers and sisters in south Sudan."

Seven to eight other annual conferences have contacted Holston with mission interests in south Sudan, Howe said. The Memphis Conference is sending two members on a Holston mission team to Sudan in April.

Sad connection to Haiti 

Since signing a covenant partnership with the East Africa Conference, Holston has raised more than $627,000, provided medical care, dug three wells, built part of a school, provided clergy salaries and training, sent nine mission teams, sent supplies, and appointed two clergy members to live and work in Sudan for two years.

The Sudan Summit will build on those accomplishments, with the help of GBGM staff and others, Howe said.

The summit will immediately be followed March 12-14 by the Missions Celebration, an annual event that develops mission hearts amongst the First Broad Street congregation as well as in Holston Conference.

Speakers and workshop leaders for both events include GBGM staff David Malloy with The Advance, Shannon Trilli with the Global Health Initiative; the Rev. Morais Quissico with the Africa office; Marva Usher-Kerr with the Women's Division; and Alberta McKnight and Thomas Dwyer with UMCO-NGO.

One staff member who will not attend, however, is the Rev. Sam Dixon.

Dixon was scheduled to participate in the summit, just as he attended the first Sudan Summit in June 2008. The former head of the United Methodist Committee on Relief had also agreed to be keynote speaker for the Missions Celebration.

"I worked with Sam for three years to get him here for the Missions Celebration," Howe said. "I finally arranged it by setting the dates around his availability."

Dixon was in Haiti on Jan. 12 when an earthquake buried him and his GBGM colleagues beneath a hotel in Port Au Prince, Haiti. Dixon died from his injuries on Jan. 16.

Attending in Dixon's place will be the Rev. James Gulley, an UMCOR consultant who was trapped with Dixon for 55 hours but escaped with his life. Gulley is a member of the Rocky Mountain Conference, currently serving as a consultant on agriculture and rural community development for UMCOR.

"The GBGM is a tremendous asset in putting the summit together, especially in light of the fact that they are so involved in other places around the world, particularly Haiti," Howe said.

Number-one request

Representing the East Africa Conference will be David Muwaya, assistant to resident Bishop Daniel Wandabula. Bishop James Swanson, resident bishop of Holston Conference, will lead worship and commission Holston's 10th mission team to Sudan, departing April 1.

Included in the agenda are two Skype sessions with Holston clergy serving in Sudan since July 2009. The Rev. Boo Hankins, appointed as a district superintendent in the East Africa Conference, is working with his wife, the Rev. Phyllis Hankins, to implement the covenant agreement.

A benefit concert on March 11 will raise money to dig wells in Sudan. Clean water is the number-one request of the Sudanese people encountered by Holston as well as by the East Africa Conference and GBGM, Howe said.

"When you begin to provide clean water and rural hygiene, suddenly you've taken a big chunk out of the needs for medical care," he said.

Holston set a goal of digging 19 wells within two years and recently sent $50,000 to Sudan for the first five, according to Anne Travis, Holston director of connectional ministries.

The registration fee for the Sudan Summit (March 11-12)  is $20 per person and includes meals. Tickets to the March 11 "Lightin' Charlie" Concert at 7:30 p.m. costs $8 per person, $4 for students. E-mail Danny Howe at dhowe@fbsumc.org or call (423) 224-1531. Download a brochure for more information.

The Missions Celebration (March 12-14) requires no registration fee. However, meals costs $3 per child, $8 per adult, and must be reserved by March 8 at (423) 224-1502. Download a brochure for more information.

All activities will be held at First Broad Street UMC in Kingsport, Tenn.



Annette Spence

Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.