Obedience leads to an extraordinary blessing for a missioner as she returns to Sierra Leone.
by Tina DeBoeser, Director of Missions & Outreach, Ebenezer United Methodist Church
I had no plans to go to Africa in 2019. I will say that again - I had no plans to go to Africa in 2019. My year was simply too busy. A year of too much going and too much going on. Although I had been part of a team in 2018 and fell in love with the mission and people, I was not going back in 2019.
That was final.
Ever heard of the old Yiddish proverb, “We plan, God laughs”? I should have known my head’s very reasonable reasons for staying were no match for the Holy Spirit whispering ‘go’!
So I went back to Bo to embrace the people, beauty, dignity, promise, and the mission.
I am no stranger to international missions; I am in fact the Director of Missions & Outreach at a large suburban church. As such, one of my key roles is to recruit, prepare, and send teams around the globe to work with partner organizations like Helping Children Worldwide. I recognize and appreciate what a privileged position I hold, one where I have the freedom to choose to experience these opportunities.
I am also no stranger to the criticisms of short-term mission trips. Many of the concerns raised are valid. When done poorly, a short-term mission trip can actually cause harm and prevent healthy development.
But when we start a trip well prepared, with a humble heart, and the expectation of developing a mutual relationship, it can be a thing of beauty. This has been my experience with HCW.
Returning to Bo in 2019 was especially exciting for me. Part of the trip was devoted to visiting and developing an agreement between HCW, my church and two (of an eventual five) villages. This new formal relationship is the brainchild of HCW and we are thrilled to be the beta test!
Visiting Samie and Fengehun villages was a surreal experience. We were greeted by the senior residents and chiefs, welcomed with song and given the VIP tour of community resources and liabilities.
Once we sat down to hammer out an agreement, it was fascinating to hear the villagers’ hopes for their community’s future. I was so encouraged to hear strong women speak about their aspirations for themselves and their children.
One thing I have learned from short-term missions is the truth about mothers. All mamas, regardless of where on the globe they happen to stand, want the same thing. They want the opportunity to raise their children in a safe environment, free of fear and disease. They want their children to have the opportunity to learn, pursue their purpose, to know that they are valued and loved, and to fall asleep with full bellies.
I believe that much division and fear in the world could be solved with proximity. Taking the time to be in authentic give-and-take relationships with others who do not look, act, buy, speak, think, vote, love, or live like us is the only way to remove the fallacy of ‘otherness’. Sometimes it takes going to the other side of the world to open your eyes and heart to those on this side of the street.
Africa imprints on your soul, just as surely as the beautiful, deep, organic smell clings to your clothes and suitcase long after you have returned home.
Although I have no plans to return in 2020, I believe I can hear God laughing right now.
Learn more about joining a mission team to Sierra Leone: www.helpingchildrenworldwide.org/mission-trips
On Friday, January 18, Mercy Hospital officially opened the doors of its long-awaited Surgical Wing. The celebration included remarks from various dignitaries and Mercy leadership, a welcome song performed by Mercy staff, the Act of Dedication performed by Bishop Yambasu, an official ribbon-cutting and tour of the new surgical wing, and refreshments. Bishop John K. Yambasu, District Medical Officer Dr. Roland Carshon-Marsh, UMC Health Coordinator Catherine Norman, UMC Bo District Superintendent Reverend Francis Charley, Chairman of the UMC Health Board Dr. Dennis Marke, and HCW Executive Director Melody Curtiss each shared remarks at the ceremony.
Reverend Charley opened the ceremony with prayer, stating that “this hospital is a state of the art hospital and is going to provide facilities and treatment for patients in the country and even beyond.” Bishop Yambasu shared that this day is the result of “the passion, dedication and commitment of our friends from the United States. Helping Children Worldwide has been involved in our work with the Child Rescue Centre and Mercy Hospital for more than 20 years.” Catherine Norman reflected on Mercy's history, saying “almost 13 years ago, a one-room health clinic with two health staff was established to provide first aid, nutrition and basic health care to the children of the CRC. In 2007, the building in front of us was transformed into Mercy Hospital. I am glad that today, the dream of a functional surgical building has come true. With this building, Mercy Hospital has now been empowered to provide quality care not only to the Bo, but the entire district, and even beyond.”
The Bishop performed the official Act of Dedication, asking God to “graciously accept this building which we now dedicate to thee, to thy service, and to thy glory, that in it skill and tenderness may unite to bring health and cure to those who come for aid…. Grant that those who come here in weakness may be made strong, that those who come in pain may find relief, and that those who come in sorrow may find joy and gladness.”
On behalf of HCW, Mrs. Curtiss recognized the contributions of all of its donors, particularly the large bequests of Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Stafford, VA, without whose generosity the wing would not have been built, and the Peterson Family Foundation, who sponsored the shipment of surgical supplies and equipment necessary for an operating theatre. Mrs. Curtiss also recognized the special contributions of Mercy Laboratory Technician, Joseph Lamin, who is heading up the launch of Mercy Hospital’s new Electronic Medical Information System (see story at bottom of newsletter).
Mercy’s surgical wing includes two operating theatres, a recovery room, decontamination room, sterilzation room, male and female changing rooms, medical supplies storage, reception and doctors’ consultation rooms. Second floor includes a private and semi-private wards, male and female wards, conference room and ICU. Mercy’s surgical program will operate on a limited capacity, as they await the arrival of a blood bank. Until this important piece of equipment arrives, Mercy will continue to provide the surgeries that it always has, now in a new, state-of-the-art surgical facility. Dr. Amara continues to work with Dr. Boima (a COMAHS professor and surgeon) to assist in surgeries beyond his current level of expertise, and now that those surgeries can be performed at Mercy, other staff will benefit in training opportunities as well.
Qualified surgeons who wish to perform surgeries at Mercy with Dr. Amara’s assistance, will be welcomed for the purpose of providing Mercy staff with teaching opportunities. This will include medical teams from overseas from time to time. Nonprofits utilizing Mercy OR for their own medical missions will do trainings as part of the privilege of performing surgeries at Mercy, and leave behind unused equipment and supplies for future use by Mercy.
Project CURE is scheduled to provide training in obstetrics and critical care to Mercy staff this year, and Dr. Amara and Matron August Kpanebaum will be attending GBGM training in obstetrics and Cesarean-sections in February-March.
On Sunday, March 18th, First UMC of Colleyville held a dual annual kickoff event for their thriving Sponsor A Child initiative, and the Run for Rescue 5K Run/Walk and 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk to support missioners who serve in Sierra Leone. The church members' response was especially enthusiastic, due to a beautiful Sponsor A Child display with photos of students sponsored by church members, and children who need sponsors. Many thanks to everyone who contributed to the event, with special thanks to Ruth Ann Meek, SAC coordinator for First UMC, Karen Roeming, partner church representative, and Sharon Gardner and Neil McKinnon, Run for Rescue organizers. First UMC is grateful to partner church Otterbein UMC for inspiring their new SAC display.
Manchester UMC (Manchester, Missouri) has a uniquely talented and enthusiastic children’s choir, directed by Lori Borger. Every year, the choir of fourth and fifth graders, called "Music Makers," stages a musical and selects a cause to receive the love offering taken at the event. This year, Lori and her kids chose the Child Rescue Centre as beneficiaries of their musical, "Rescue in the Night."
Written by Tom Long and Alan Pote, "Rescue in the Night" is a musical retelling of the Biblical story of Daniel in the Lions' den. “The story of Daniel is one of courage and trust in God." Lori explained. "We made one of our themes this year about rising to our full potential, like Daniel did, without compromising… and also allowing others to rise to THEIR full potential, by standing up for friends who are being bullied, like Daniel was by the King’s advisors. We also rise by doing what we can to help ALL children – even those we don’t know, halfway around the world - rise to THEIR full potential. That’s what Helping Children Worldwide does every day – and we are honored to be able to support your work.”
While planning and practicing for the annual concert, Lori encourages her kids to shoot for the stars, while helping them to maintain reasonable expectations. “I always set what I believe is a realistic goal for the kids,” Lori told us, “as I want them to experience that feeling of success....and the excitement of exceeding their goal...so our goal was to fund a child's tuition for every child in our entire Children's Music program, which is 76 kids, or $3800. I'm happy to report that these kids touched hearts in a very powerful way.”
The kids blew that goal out of the water, and the offering collected at the three concerts held on March 3rd and 4th raised over $10,000 for the Child Rescue Centre. At the cast party, Borger shared the news. “Well, just as I predicted - excitement and joyful screaming ensued!” she shared.
Clearly, the musical was a smashing success, but Lori sees a much deeper purpose than simply showcasing the kids' awesome talent or raising funds. “Each time we are able to give children the experience of taking a personal role in lifting someone else up in a significant way, I can almost visibly see THEM rise as well… they sit a little taller; they understand that even as a child, they can collectively harness the powerful force of doing GOOD…and how GOOD that feels. I just love seeing the light in their eyes – and tears in some, too - when they realize that they have made the world a better, brighter place for someone.
"It has been the joy of my life to be able to do what I love: theater and music and children – and to let children experience the joy of lifting others up, and empower them to know that they can make the world a better place for someone else at any age, when we come together for a common good. AND, I love introducing them to just a small fraction of the amazing programs going on all over the world, like the Child Rescue Centre, that are dedicated to helping others….there are SO many ways to plug in and help our hurting world!"
Otterbein UMC in Harrisonburg, VA, pastored by Rev. Adam Blagg, really loves their sponsored students.
The partner church proudly displays the profiles of all the Child Rescue Centre students sponsored by church members in a prominent place, with Psalm 147:4 posted above: "He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names."
The church's strong commitment to the CRC and pride in their students, is evident in the "Otterbein's Star Scholars" display. It's like a display you might see in the hallway of an American school, although a closer look reveals that the students are 4500 miles away.
A recent sponsorship event at the church added eight more students to the total, whose pictures will soon be added to the display.
By Chris Smith, Communications Coordinator, Galilee United Methodist Church
When Jason Duley runs long distances, he’s doing what makes him feel most alive.
“My legs are pumping and it feels good. My lungs are opened up, I’m really breathing. I feel one with my surroundings, though I’m moving fast so they may be a bit of a blur,” he says. “I do feel alive!”
You might say that as pastor at Galilee UMC in Sterling, VA, Jason is in the business of feeling alive. He gets plenty of work overseeing funerals (or “celebrations of life,” as he prefers to call them), but his real passion is pouring out the living water of God’s message to his congregation—so that they feel more spiritually alive.
“God put us on the earth to live and to know that we are alive,” says Jason. “In a sense, the question of “who am I?” or “what should I be doing?” is answered by knowing what makes us feel most alive.You have to answer the question for yourself.”
“For me, there’s a charge I get from endurance exercise. God created us with bodies and the spiritual and the physical are two sides of a coin. Exercise improves not just my health, but my understanding and my compassion. And, bonus! There is something else that makes me feel alive: service. Reaching those who I can really help charges my batteries for sure. I’m blessed to have found that I can combine these two things, by running for Mercy Hospital.”
This April, Jason ran the North Face Endurance Challenge 2017—his first ever marathon. An unusual marathon, it is run through beautiful terrain on the banks of the Potomac River, where there are plenty of hills to test one’s endurance. To run it is an accomplishment, and a runner can take plenty of satisfaction in conquering those 26 miles.
For Jason, there was a higher goal.
“I’m a pastor, which means I talk to a lot of people. I also have nearly a thousand friends on social media. Using the megaphone of modern technology, I set up a funding site and asked people to chip in with small donations to help my favorite cause in the world, Mercy Hospital in Bo, Sierra Leone.”
“I asked for people to give a dollar per mile, or two dollars, or a lump sum. Whatever they could. I wasn’t expecting gazillions, nor was there any reason why I needed to have money to run this marathon. It’s just that I could do this. I could lift up Bo, grabbing people’s attention for an afternoon as I huffed and puffed with a number on my back.”
Jason set a goal of $500. He raised $708 online, and received many more donations offline, for a total of $6000. “Which is an amount—though it isn’t huge—that I know can save lives in Sierra Leone.”
Jason’s church, GalileeUMC, is one of the original partner churches of Helping Children Worldwide. But for Jason, who arrived at Galilee in 2014, the mission of saving lives in Sierra Leone is newer.
“It was when I visited Mercy Hospital for the first time this spring that I found out what a remarkable place Africa is, and Sierra Leone, and Bo, in particular. How helping women and children in the midst of serious poverty can make an impact that dwarfs much of what I accomplish at home.”
“Being with the doctors and the staff at Mercy, visiting with the patients alongside the Helping Children Worldwide team…I felt like I was in that zone. I felt truly alive, like this is what I’m supposed to be doing. This is where God has placed me and it is for a reason of higher significance.”
“So I made a commitment to myself. I was training to do this spiritual thing that makes me feel alive, running a marathon. How great to connect one ultimately rewarding activity to another, helping our brothers and sisters in Bo.”
“Maybe there is a better way to feel the charge of God’s positive spirit, but if there is, I don’t know what it is.”
Jason has not always been a runner. He began just three years ago. “It’s a was a conscious decision,” he says, “but a spiritual thing—not just to get healthy or lose weight. I wanted to be outdoors more, as a matter of faith, because Christ was outdoorsy! Christ made his retreats to the mountains around the Sea of Galilee, and this was an important spiritual practice for him. It’s something I like to call an “anchor habit,” a practice that makes everything else you do easier or more fulfilling. I haven’t got the Sea of Galilee (just the church of Galilee), but I do have the beautiful W&OD Trail.”
“I have always been a bicyclist. When one day I felt myself getting winded trying to keep up on a mountain bike with an older friend (older! can you imagine?), I decided to take up running to improve my stamina and endurance. Running became my anchor habit.”
“I did 5k and 10k runs, initially. I found I liked it. Then last year, I did two half marathons. I liked to joke that I could easily run 26 miles, it just took me a year. Finally, I thought the time was right for a full marathon.”
“The North Face Endurance Challenge was hard—I won’t lie. I knew for a fact that I wasn’t going to come in first. I had thought about wearing a t-shirt that said on the back, “Running for Life - Mercy Hospital, Sierra Leone,” but dismissed the idea. Very few people would be behind me to read it!”
“Still, I finished the North Face and it was a wonderful experience that did not destroy me. I was at Galilee’s Sunday service the very next day!”
Jason crossed the finish line, but he isn’t done running. Hitting the trail and pushing his endurance is now an anchor habit for him, and one that will continue to benefit Mercy Hospital and the mission of Helping Children Worldwide.
“I hope to run a race every six or twelve months. I can raise money through social media, though I won’t raise a ton of money every time. Every bit helps, and the reward for me is to help the people I love by doing the thing I love. It feels good to be alive!”
It's not too late to contribute to Pastor Jason's fundraiser - click here to make a donation to Saving Lives!