Ahh, spring break. Warm sunshine. Sand underfoot. A trip to a foreign country with 10 or so good friends. Yes, this spring I will be, in many ways, experiencing the “ideal” college spring break trip.
But we aren’t going to Cancun, we are going to Sudan. And I am pretty sure I'm more excited about my plans than my friends are about their beach trips.
Why Africa and not Myrtle Beach? Because God is good, and he has called me, along with 10 other young adults, to Yei, Sudan (that’s pronounced “yay”) to support Holston's covenant with the East Africa Conference. Sudan is Holston’s mission focus for 2008-2009.
Several teams have already gone to Yei. In fact, a team is going on Feb. 16, and Bishop James Swanson departed for Africa on Feb. 4 (he will visit Liberia first).
However, I would like to think that our team is special because it's comprised of young adults, ages 18-35. During one of Holston's first visits to Sudan, team members were asked, “Where are your young people?” A few years later, we can say, “Here we are!” Also, this is the first team that goes with a specific focus on children's ministry. Other groups have provided medical care and pastor training, but we’re going just for the kids!
Why would I be excited about going to Sudan? Good question. As I considered whether to apply for a spot on the team, I unearthed a paper I wrote in the third grade. It was about the concept of freedom. In it, I asserted my belief that unless every single person is free, no one is free. It's the responsibility of the free ones to liberate others.
The Sudanese children are not slaves, but they are chained to poverty, war, and often a life without parents. I know God has a plan and a purpose for sending me on this trip. He will use me to do his work. And in worshipping Christ with the Sudanese, we will experience God in new ways.
Please keep our team in your prayers. We fly out of the Knoxville airport on March 1. By March 3, we'll be in Sudan, where we will share the love and hope of Christ with approximately 2,000 children. We will stay in Uganda a few days, and expect to visit Humble Place orphanage while we are there. We should be back in the USA on Saturday, March 14, just in time for me to return to class on Monday morning.
We are collecting a few items to take with us, if you can help. We're collecting 2,500 bandanas to use for games, Bible lessons, and other activities. The young adults attending Divine Rhythm already donated 729. Please mail or deliver bananas to: Holston Conference, Attn: Connectional Ministries, P.O. Box 850, Alcoa, TN 37701-0850.
We also humbly ask for a church to donate a large parachute for group games ... and silver Sharpie pens to use in ministry.
Above all, we request that you keep us, and every other team going to Yei, in your thoughts and prayers. I have no doubt that God has big plans for all of us.
The team is led by the Rev. Don Thomas, pastor at Trinity UMC in Knoxville, and the Rev. Beth Tipton, Wesley Foundation director at the University of Virginia College at Wise. Team members include John Bush, Trinity UMC in Knoxville; Amanda Carter, Pathways Community Church in Sevierville; Lu Crandall, First Cleveland UMC; Mendy Huskey, Roberts UMC in Sevierville; Kortni Lake, Trenton UMC in Georgia; the Rev. Joey Manis, Rock Springs/Pactolus UMC in Kingsport; Kelly Milligan, Concord UMC in Knoxville; Sara Beth Loveday, Immanuel United Methodist in Louisville, Tenn., and (me!) Allie Roberts, Payne Memorial UMC in Cumberland, Va.