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The results are in! Hands-on Mission Project

Volunteers form an assembly line to unload and reload mission kits at Cokesbury United Methodist Church on May 31.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- It was a reunion and a work party in the Cokesbury United Methodist Church parking lot on May 31 and June 1.

As cars, trucks and trailers arrived with their church or district’s gifts for Africa, United Methodists put their shoulders into hauling and packing. Folks chatted, laughed and guzzled water as the food, health, and home supplies piled higher and higher in the shipping containers bound for Liberia and Zimbabwe.

It was another big week in the 25-year history of the Hands-on Mission Project.

“This really brought our church together, I think, because everyone participated,” said Rosemary Archer, lay leader at Andersonville United Methodist Church in Andersonville, Tennessee.

Her church, which lost members after the congregation voted to stay in the denomination, was proud to deliver 17 food buckets for the Ishe Anesu mission in Zimbabwe.

Four people from Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Johnson City, Tennessee, drove down to help unload and load the kits: Amelia Brown, Cole Morris, Charles Gobble, and Rev. Kim Hingers.

Led by the Rev. Charles Maynard, several Cokesbury staff and members – as well as members from other churches -- joined in the project. Youth from Cokesbury United Methodist Church greeted every loaded vehicle with determination to get the job done.
Left to right: Caroline Selters, Elizabeth
Selters, Livingstone Makwerere, and
Matthew Fisher load buckets for Africa.

“After a while, your hands start to hurt,” said Matthew Fisher, age 12, before grabbing two more heavy five-gallon buckets stuffed with nonperishable foods.

Cokesbury member Ellie Harshbarger came to join the parking-lot crew for a few hours before leaving shortly before a very important event: Her graduation from Bearden High School.

Churches in the Smoky Mountain District and Tennessee Valley District delivered their offerings directly to the Cokesbury parking lot, where Administrative Assistants Cheryl Thompson and Mary Hawkins were waiting.

The Rev. Harry Howe brought a Holston Conference disaster-relief trailer crammed with gifts from the New River, Clinch Mountain, Appalachian and Three River Districts. It took hours to unload, but workers set up assembly lines and soldiered on in the sun. Other drivers and trucks came from Hiwassee, Morristown, and Scenic South Districts.

The hard work on behalf of United Methodists in Southwest Virginia, East Tennessee, and North Georgia paid off. Despite the loss of 264 local churches due to disaffiliation earlier this year, the total number of kits collected was 4,778, said the Rev. Mike Sluder, director of connectional ministries. In 2021, Holston sent 5,111 kits to Africa.
Rev. Elston McLain shows off two of 200
health kits for Zimbabwe, sent by
Randolph Avenue UMC in Pulaski,

Eight of nine districts exceeded their goals. “Some districts actually did more than last year,” Sluder said.

On June 6 at Holston Annual Conference, the Rev. Chris Brown, new Missions Team chair, announced the outcome of this year's annual missions project to great celebration in Stuart Auditorium. The estimated value of the kits is $114,000, Brown said.

The shipping containers are enroute to Africa. The Liberia shipment is expected to arrive in late July, the Zimbabwe shipment in late August, Sluder said.

The totals are listed below.


Clinch Mountain: School Kits 
Goal: 400/ Actual: 483             
Hiwassee: Health Kits               
Goal: 400/ Actual: 411
Mountain View: Food Buckets            
Goal: 400/ Actual:­­­ 279
Three Rivers: School Kits                       
Goal: 400/ Actual:­­­ 598

Appalachian: School Kits                       
Goal: 400/ Actual: 487
New River: Health Kits                           
Goal: 400/ Actual:­ 526
Scenic South: Home Buckets               
Goal: 400/ Actual:­­­        727
Smoky Mountain: Food Buckets                       
Goal: 400/ Actual: 508
Tennessee Valley: Food Buckets         
Goal: 300/ Actual:­­­ 759
Total number of kits: 4,778