ALCOA, Tenn. (June 27, 2018) -- Holston Conference mission leaders are joining others in calling for the Republic of Philippines to release three United Methodist missionaries to leave the country.
On June 26, the Council of Bishops appealed to the Philippine government “for assistance and cooperation in the immediate release” of Tawanda Chandiwana, Miracle Osman, and Adam Shaw.
“The three young adults face differing situations with the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration, and our prayer is that all three be granted permission to leave the country immediately,” the Council of Bishops stated.
For Holston Conference, the jailing of one of the missionaries by the Philippine government is personal. Tawanda Chandiwan, a citizen of Zimbabwe, is a former Ishe Anesu student who graduated from Africa University with financial support from Holston Conference.
“I think Holston needs to know that [Tawanda] needs our prayers and support right now,” said the Rev. Michael Sluder, director of connectional ministries.
See UMNS report: "Church seeks release of detained missionary"
Holston Conference has had a relationship with Ishe Anesu Project for about 20 years, collecting food, school and health supplies during the annual “Hands-on Mission Project” for Zimbabwe and Liberia.
During a Holston Conference mission trip to Ishe Anesu last year, the Rev. Tom Hancock said he met many of the children at Ishe Anesu and heard their stories. Hancock is chair of Holston’s Missions Team.
“I was amazed to learn that four students from the school, including Tawanda, have answered God's call to become missionaries,” Hancock said. "Holston is not only investing in the present, but our support is yielding an eternal investment … Tawanda needs our fervent prayers for his release so he can return to Zimbabwe and witness to the love of God.”
The Rev. Samuel Dzobo is Chandiwana's former pastor at Hilltop United Methodist Church in Mutare, Zimbabwe. Dzobo currently serves as a Holston Conference pastor at Mary's Chapel United Methodist Church and Woodlawn United Methodist Church in the Mountain View District. He emailed The Call on June 27 while visiting his homeland.
"I am currently in Zimbabwe, and we are praying for Tawanda," Dzobo said. "I know Tawanda very well from both Ishe Anesu and Hilltop. Tawanda was one of the first students recruited into Ishe Anesu Project."
Chandiwana has been held since May 9, when he was arrested while attending a training seminar at the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute, according to United Methodist News Service. The charge was related to delayed paperwork regarding his expiring visa, but he later was found to be on a “watch list” of suspected subversives. Chandiwana has denied any wrongdoing.
The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries has organized a #LetThemLeave petition calling for the release of Chandiwana as well as Osman and Shaw.
Church seeks release of detained missionary (UMNS, 6.26.18)
Bishops ask Philippines government to release UMC missionaries (COB, 6.26.18)
Petition: Let Them Leave (Global Ministries, 6.26.18)
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.