Prayers for our Children & Travelers

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Our Heart 2 Heart Team sets off tomorrow (7/7/2017) on our journey across the Atlantic to serve the children of Liberia, West Africa.

We covet your prayers. Along with the children & Houses Moms of #BJCCV, we ask you to keep our Team in your thoughts and prayers as we hope to stay in the center of God’s will throughout this trip.

Our team traveling to Liberia consists of 6 beautiful people:
1) Sandy Whittle

2) Greg Whittle

3) Regie Cameron

4) Jim Cameron (first timer!)

5) Caroline Cameron (first timer!)

6) Russ Heil

Caroline Cameron, an upcoming senior at McIntosh High School, is excited to join us in serving & being with these children, and she’s looking forward to taking photos & videos to help document her experience to share with others. 😇
Our objectives this trip vary but will consist of: (1) hosting Vacation Bible School from the children of the orphanage; (2) meeting with local community leaders to help identify & develop strategies to best support our Orphans as they graduate & age-out of #BJCCV, (3) exploring post-secondary educational opportunities, i.e., college, trade & vocational schools; (4) letter-reading & writing; (5) to just simply loving on some kiddos. The need is great.

Thank you, #ptcumc for all that you do to help love, care for, support and encourage the orphans and school-children at #BJCCV in Liberia, West Africa.

Thank you for you gifts, prayers, donations and letters.

In Faith, Hope & Love,

Angie Wilson & #heart2heartliberia

Rebuilding Liberia

“Women Continue to Lead Struggle Against Violence and Poverty In Liberia” by Paul Jeffrey

Rebuilding Liberia

Like many Liberian women today, Tomrah Topka has gone back to school. Every morning the 25-year-old settles into a high school classroom in Monrovia, the African nation’s capital, surrounded by much younger girls. But she’s not embarrassed.

“I moved to the city so I could complete my education,” she said. “We need more ways for people to go back to school, people like me who couldn’t get an education because of the war. If we don’t get an education, we won’t get knowledge, and nobody will help us improve our lives. If we’re not educated, we won’t be able to educate our children. And if we can’t do that, things will never change in Liberia.”

Change is what Liberians all want. After more than two decades of war that began with a 1980 coup, today the country continues to wrestle with the legacies of that conflict: chronic poverty, physical and emotional wounds and lingering resentments about who was responsible for the violence. Yet under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a United Methodist who was elected to lead the country in 2005 and reelected to another term in 2011, the West African nation has made slow but steady progress away from the horrors of its recent past.

But progress in Liberia isn’t simply a matter of the president, Africa’s first woman head of state, employing the right macro-economic measures prescribed by her former employer, the World Bank. Change is coming because of the commitment of people like Ms. Topka, who lost three brothers during the war and still wrestles with painful memories of forced dislocation, sexual assault and hunger. It is the willingness of ordinary people like her to make the necessary daily sacrifices that will ensure a better future for all Liberia.

Every morning, Ms. Topka drops her 3-year-old daughter Maropue off at a preschool in Monrovia run by United Methodist Women. Then she goes to school herself, hoping to soon finish her studies and enroll in the university, where she wants to study biology. In the afternoon, she picks up Maropue and heads to the market, where she spends the afternoon selling oranges. Her husband studies agriculture at a university in the morning and also sells in the market in the afternoon. At night they count their earnings, carefully setting aside what they need to pay school fees for all three family members at the beginning of each semester.

Say no to poverty

A couple of hours outside Monrovia, several dozen poor rural women work together to farm cassava on a six-acre plot near Mount Barclay. They come from nearby communities and speak several different languages, but they’re united by a common goal to improve their families’ quality of life. They say unity is the key to making change.

“When we are scattered, each of us thinking we have to make it on our own, nothing happens,” said Helena Mensahn, one of the group’s leaders. “But when we are organized in a group, and other women come to help us, then we will get rid of our poverty.”

Most members of the group are widows, a common status in a country where hundreds of thousands of people died in more than two decades of fighting, but because of the farm project they can now send some of their children to school. “That’s how we’re getting rid of poverty,” Ms. Mensahn said.

The farm project, dubbed “Say No to Poverty,” is sponsored by the National Federation of Women Employees and Allied Workers and funded in part by United Methodist Women Mission Giving.

According to Elizabeth Addy, program coordinator for the federation, the farm is more than simply an income-generating scheme.

“It also provides an opportunity for the women to feel important, to see themselves as in charge of their lives. With what they harvest they can go to the market, buy what they need and pay their children’s school fees. That gives them dignity, and that makes possible a better life ahead,” Ms. Addy said.

By making it possible for women to have their own income, Ms. Addy says the project is enabling participants to craft their own responses to a society-wide move back to school. Still, the choices they face aren’t always easy.

“A lot of women in Liberia look at our president, and they get motivated to go back to school. But they also have to sustain their families,” she said. “Some go to night school and get literacy training, but after a day of working hard in the fields and selling in the market, when they get to class in the evening they are too tired to pay attention. And if they don’t have money to send their children to school, they feel guilty for wanting to go themselves.”

My Daughter’s Place

Beatrice Nelson lives in the country-side outside the town of Buchanan. She didn’t go to school as a girl because fighting kept the schools closed and her family on the run. When she was 13, rebels showed up in her village and demanded money. Then they announced they would take the teenager with them.

“My mother cried, and she said, ‘My daughter is too small to go with you.’ But they said they’d kill her if she argued. They grabbed me and carried me away. They did bad to me. But one day when they sent me to fetch water for them, I ran away,” she said.

Ms. Nelson, now 34, wasn’t reunited with her parents until after the wars ended, and her mother died soon after. Ms. Nelson then came to live near Buchanan, where she met Frido Kinkolenge, a United Methodist missionary from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who was starting a program for young women at the nearby Camphor Mission. Called “My Daughter’s Place” and funded by United Methodist Women Mission Giving, it gave young women affected by the war a new start with training in vegetable cultivation, pastry making, tie-dying and soap making as well as counseling and education in reproductive rights and family planning.

“My Daughter’s Place helped us learn the importance of our own selves and helped me know I could do things myself,” Ms. Nelson said.

After a couple of years in the program, Ms. Nelson left with a sewing machine and a pair of goats. She started sewing clothes for her neighbors and quickly repaid the machine’s cost. She also gave the goats back to the program but kept the offspring. She now has eight goats. Some of them jumped the fence and her neighbors brought them back. She repaid the favor by lending a pair of goats to her neighbors, who after a while gave the goats back but kept the offspring.

Ms. Nelson says she now feels in control of her own life. When she got sick and was hospitalized, she sold a goat to pay the bill. Given the income from her sewing, she says her husband treats her better and gives her equal say in family decisions. And she is making sure her five children go to school, especially her 11-year-old daughter Yadrin.

“Her future will be different than mine. She has clothes to wear, and she has support for going to school. I know she has a future. It’s different than before,” Ms. Nelson said.

Building trust

Mr. Kinkolenge came to Liberia in 2000 to supervise a rural school, but fighting in the countryside kept him in Monrovia, where he met traumatized children roaming the streets.

“I saw the boys and girls in the streets, and they were devastated. There were some Catholic programs to work with them, but they couldn’t absorb everyone. So we started gathering kids from the streets, teaching them to read and write and how to love and be loved again,” he said.

In 2003 Monrovia was engulfed in fighting once again, and Mr. Kinkolenge had to flee the country. When he returned several months later he began working in Buchanan, a port city to the east of Monrovia that didn’t attract much attention from aid groups. At a center he started with support from The United Methodist Church in Germany, he again started working with children, many of whom had been forced to join rebel armies.

“Before we could get very far with counseling, we had to build trust with the kids,” he said. “We did that by being present with them and assuring them that we’d never disclose the things they told us. All the time I worked with them they never heard their stories retold. When we’d built up their trust, they opened up to us about the terrible things that had happened.”

Besides providing counseling and training in basic literacy, carpentry, soap making, typing, computer skills and cosmetology, Mr. Kinkolenge said he also had to defend the children against those who sought revenge for the role they’d played during the wars.

“People would recognize some of the boys who’d been involved in atrocities. They wanted to do them bad,” he said. “In Africa that means lynch them or beat them or do some other bad thing. They saw them come to our center, and they’d follow children onto the campus. So we had to defend the kids. I went to the police for help, and some days they’d understand and some days not.

“The kids were feeling that danger. The majority of them lived in a camp outside of town, and they started using remote paths rather than the main road to come to the center. Some would come early in the day, even if we had no activities in the morning. They didn’t want to go very far away because they felt safer here.”

The United Nations had carried out a process of disarmament in the country, but Mr. Kinkolenge said even more was needed.

“We haven’t truly ended war until we’ve disarmed the minds of the people who fought it,” he said. “You can give children weapons, but if their mind is disarmed they won’t use those weapons. So even though they’ve today put down the machetes and assault rifles, their mind still has to be disarmed. Otherwise their thoughts become words, their words become actions, and their actions become a habit. They will solve every daily problem with violence. And the war will never really end.”

Mr. Kinkolenge, who came to the United States in late 2013 to enter seminary, warns that individual rehabilitation is not separate from the country’s overall economic recovery.

“The healing process is directly linked to the country’s economic sustainability,” he said. “The country is recovering, but there are still too few job opportunities. Today you have a job and tomorrow you lose it. The young people we’re training won’t easily find work once they leave the center. They have changed. That’s clear. After being so devastated by violence, today they can laugh and talk to people politely. They’ve come a long way. But the country has a long way to go in accompanying them to wholeness.”

A victory for women

Given historical gender-based discrimination in many poor countries, parents who can’t afford to send all their children to school will often send only the boys. But United Methodist Bishop John Innis of Liberia says having a woman as president makes it easier to argue for girls to go to school.

“We ask the parents, ‘Who is the president of the country today?’ We tell them their daughter can be the president someday, or a political leader or businesswoman, but to get there they’ve got to go to school first,” said Mr. Innis, whose conference serves more than 40,000 students enrolled in several schools and a university. As a result, he says more than 60 percent of graduates from United Methodist schools in Liberia in 2012 were female.

“Having a woman as president has made for a big change in the political landscape but also in the way parents look at their daughters,” he said.

President Sirleaf isn’t the first example of women taking a highly visible leadership role in Liberia. During the country’s bloody civil wars, it was a coalition of Christian and Muslim women — armed only in white T-shirts — who took to the streets in prayerful protest that brought about peace talks to end the war. It was a victory for ordinary women that culminated in the election of a woman president and later a Nobel Peace Prize for Ms. Sirleaf and two other women activists. Ms. Topka remembers going with her aunt to pray with the women in the Monrovia fish market.

“Women were instrumental in bringing about peace in this country,” Mr. Innis said. “They woke up, stood up and said, ‘We are all God’s creatures.’ They committed themselves to defend the helpless, the hopeless and the marginalized so that they will become somebody, because the war had made them nobodies.”

Women’s leadership in Africa — Malawi and the Central African Republic now also have women presidents — has been characterized by greater transparency in government. “The men were never accountable. They never led with justice. It’s a wholesale change in the political landscape to have women leaders,” said Mr. Innis. “Most leaders we have in Africa don’t love their countries. They exploit. They victimize and brutalize people. But the women are today saying that’s all over. They want everyone who lives in God’s world to enjoy the benefits of God’s creation. They come to power not to promote themselves, not to rule over others, but to promote the people they work with.”

Alfreda Anderson, coordinator of United Methodist Women in Liberia, says her country’s women have gained a lot of political space in recent years, but they’re going to have to fight to maintain the advances.

“It used to be that there was no space for women in government. Women were looked down upon. We were told to stay in the house and serve our husbands. But we stood up for our rights, and things changed,” Ms. Anderson said. “It will be tough when President Ellen leaves office. Right now there are a lot of women in government. The agriculture, justice and education ministers are women. The port authority and gender ministries are headed by women. We are up there. But some men are saying that Madame Ellen is just there for women and that when she leaves office they’ll be able to get back the power they think they’ve lost. So we’re going to have to continue to fight hard.”

Sex as a commodity

One of those fighting hard to make change is Catherine Myemawo, the coordinator of the Young Women’s Network of the Liberian United Methodist Church. She tries to keep young women involved in the life of the church and offers training programs — when she can find the funding — in skills like tailoring, pastry making and interior design.

One obstacle to involving young women in the church, Ms. Myemawo says, is the need to talk about reproductive politics, an uncomfortable discussion for many pastors. But Ms. Myemawo insists the conversation needs to take place.

“We’ve got to talk about violence against women, which is very high, and talk about it not just with women but also with men,” Ms. Myemawo said. “We’ve got to talk about HIV and AIDS and how most of the carriers of HIV in Liberia are women who’ve been infected unknowingly by their boyfriends. We do education, we distribute condoms, and we talk about the importance of abstinence. And we need to talk about teenage pregnancy. Eight of 10 women in Liberia have a child while still a teenager. That’s a serious setback to development, because once a girl has a child she no longer wants to go to school. She sees herself as inferior to others. We help her understand she can still make headway in life.”

Liberia’s postwar poverty encourages transactional sex as a survival mechanism, Ms. Myemawo says.

“Economic conditions are hard, and many girls see having boyfriends as the only way to survive,” she said. “If you don’t have the skills yourself, you turn to others for support. Some parents even ask their girls to go out and find someone to help them, to get money and bring it back, essentially to look for men who can support the family financially in exchange for sex. That’s one of the major causes of teenage pregnancy.”

Ms. Myemawo says sexual politics remain a common theme at church gatherings of young people, despite the reservations of some older church leaders. “When we talk about HIV and AIDS, many older people in the churches would rather we not talk about sex. They’d rather condemn people than educate people,” she said.

One place where transactional sex is being discussed in Liberia today is in public debate about the practice of “sex for grades” in the country’s universities, including United Methodist University in Monrovia. A 2011 survey by ActionAid of three Liberian universities found that 85 percent of female students had been sexually harassed or involved in transactional sex while they studied. Some women were forced to keep repeating classes if they refused to have sex with their male lecturers. If a woman reported her lecturer, and he was sacked, the teacher would often simply move to another institution, the survey showed.

“Many females don’t even pay attention in class because at the end of the day you have a teacher who wants to have sex with you and give you free grades. The boys do all the studying, while the girls are relaxed. Some don’t even come to class,” said Ms. Myemawo. “We try to help them understand that they’re not helping society. What happens with a girl who’s studying nursing and she graduates without the skills she’s supposed to have?”

Ms. Myemawo’s young adult group works to combat the practice, making placards for schools and raising the issue in gatherings. She admits the issue reflects larger challenges for her country.

“One girl shared with me that she couldn’t study because she had no food to eat, and sleeping with her teacher got her not only grades but food as well,” she said.

Catherine Hill says she has resisted trading her body for better grades. The 28-year-old university student, who witnessed her parents’ murder by rebels during the war, was placed in a foster home and then ended up on the streets of Monrovia. Today, however, she’s studying thanks to a scholarship from United Methodist Women.

“If we’re not educated, we’re not up to date. Our president is encouraging women to go to school. So we’ve got to stop the abuse and get our sisters into school,” Ms. Hill said. “When a teacher wants to sleep with you to give you a grade, we’ve got to say no. We’re smart, and we’re going to fight inequality.”

Ms. Hill is studying social work at the United Methodist University. “I want to talk with people who are traumatized, people who have no one to talk with. I want to help them restore their strength and experience hope for themselves and their nation,” she said.

She looks forward to graduating in 2015, but has one lament. “When I graduate, everyone will have their families there. But my parents won’t be there. I’ll miss them,” she said.

http://www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/news/rebuilding-liberia

Fathers

DSC_0345.JPGHoping you all had a Happy Father’s Day!  It’s also a day for celebrating all the father figures who have meant so much in our lives.  For many of the children at Bishop Judith Craig Children’s Village, they may have never known their biological father or have never had a humanly father figure.  But our Father in heaven knows each of them by name and values them so much.

Your prayers, letters and financial support for these children shows that you value these children as well.  As a reminder, sponsorship payments are $420 annually or $35 monthly.  If you are able to contribute more than $35 per month, your generosity is greatly appreciated!  Please make your check out to PTCUMC and put “Heart to Heart- Liberia Support” on the memo line.  For those who are current on your financial sponsorship, we thank you.

The team will be leaving for Liberia on July 6.  We need and covet your prayers for the children, our time with the children and travel mercies.  Items that are currently being collected to take to the children are:

Underwear—-all sizes (kids to teens)

Toothpaste/Toothbrushes

Deodorant

Bars of Soap

Sheets/Pillow Cases for twin beds

Visine

Sanitary Pads

Razors

Please place your items in the collection bin labeled for Liberia at the entry of the church.  Collection is ongoing through July 1.

You are the feet and hands of Christ to these children at Bishop Judith Craig Children’s

Village.  And you are such a blessing!  Regie Cameron

Road to Progress

A brief history of Liberia, West Africa and the United States

in Harber Signal nations tie to US glenna gordon

Hope against great odds is what prompted the United States to create Liberia in the early 19th century.  Hope is what first brought freed slaves to Liberia.  Resting on West Africa’s Atlantic shoreline, Liberia has a longstanding association with the United States and the Methodist Church.  About the size of Pennsylvania, Liberia is home to 28 tribes, belonging to 16 ethnic-linguistic groups.  “It is a country of almost impossible social, religious & political complexity” (Helene Cooper).

Named after liberty itself, Liberia was founded in 1822 by free Black Americans.  Upon arrival, some of the local Africans, were unwelcoming.  Europeans purchased their slaves from Africans who caught and enslaved other Africans. The settlers first put down in Sierra Leone, London’s own sanctuary for free blacks and freed slaves. Representatives of the American Colonization Society (ACS) and the U.S. Navy “negotiated” with the Liberian natives for Cape Mesurado, one of the few sheltered inlets on the coast.  The area was re-named Monrovia, for U.S. President James Monroe.

“War between native and settler punctuated Liberia’s first century,” says historian James Cistern. “The native Africans of the coast felt they had been forced at gunpoint to give up Monrovia and they did not like the fact that the fiercely abolitionist settlers kept interfering in the lucrative business of smuggling slaves. (The international trade had been outlawed by America and Britain more than a decade earlier.)”

Mission au LiberiaIn 1847, Liberia’s founding fathers created a republic with a Declaration of Independence from America, with exclusive language towards the native Liberian people.  Descendants of the free Black Americans established a two-tier system with two very distinct classes. The American blacks were the rulers and the native Liberians became the ruled.  The native Africans largely became the laborers, household help and underclass.

TIME’s Aryn Baker writes: “The new immigrants, who came to be known as ‘Americoes,’ set up a society largely modeled on that of the antebellum South, taking local natives as servants, and, eventually, as slaves who could be ‘leased’ out to work on the country’s lucrative rubber plantations. That early legacy of inequality laid the foundations for the revolutionary forment that eventually led to a sequence of brutal civil wars beginning in 1989 that ended only in 2003.

To the Settlers, the Liberians appeared as an “unvariegated mass with their elaborate beaded jewelry, Fanti clothing and incomprehensible language” (Helene Cooper).  Far from simple, though, these were richly diverse and complicated people, with dynamic histories and cultures unique to their tribes.

The Americoes, asserted their control over the country, establishing in Liberia an antebellum way of life similar to that in the American south (from which they had fled).  “They built one-room schoolhouses and clapboard churches. They put on frock coats and petticoated dresses, and cooked up the foods they knew from home. A few even set up plantations on the frontier where, from the columned porches of their manses, they issued orders to the natives tilling their tobacco, coffee, and cotton fields.” (Cistern)

The Christianity the settlers delivered to Africa was altered dramatically by the native Liberians, who were applying it in their perspective, to their own history and culture.

“Liberians seized on the robust Christianity of gospel hymns, prayers and beliefs that the Americans had brought with them from the land of slavery. The suffering of Jesus Christ and the enslavement of the ancient Jews were things American slaves had intuitively understood. The delivery of his people by Moses, the selling into slavery of Joseph by his brothers, the throwing of Daniel into the lion’s den, captured the imagination of the slaves in America.” (Helene Cooper)

Liberia remained poor and in debt to outsiders—but they did survive.

 

Rubber Trees, Liberia
Rubber Trees, Liberia

“A forgotten backwater”—frozen in time—Liberia suddenly came to life after World War II.  An automobile-hungry world could not get enough of the country’s iron ore deposits and plantation-grown rubber. For the first time, Liberia knew real prosperity and established something of a middle class. These were the decades of fancy debutante balls at the Ducor Hotel, summer vacations in Europe, and secret conclaves at the grand Masonic Temple—the largest in Africa, where the real business of government occurred.”  (James Ciment,  Another America: The Story of Liberia and the Former Slaves Who Ruled It.)

 

William Tubman, the grandson of Georgia slaves, was a brutal autocrat but an inclusive modernizer as well. He integrated the native masses into the republic, such as it was, and sent them to school. Thousands went abroad on scholarships, mostly to the United States, where they studied law and earned engineering degrees. And, after a fashion, Tubman foresaw the future. “I’m committing political suicide,” he once said, half-jokingly. “These boys will come back experts, and I know nothing but the Bible.” (Cistern)

In the decade after he died in 1971, Liberia found itself increasingly torn by political factionalism. The old Americo-Liberian guard was not ready to give up power and influence to an increasingly restless native majority.  They organized new political parties and held anti-government rallies.

In 1980, a young master-sergeant named Samuel Doe led an elemental force of native enlisted men of the Armed Forces of Liberia.  They broke into the Executive Mansion and murdered William Tolbert—Tubman’s successor and the last in a 130-year line of Americo presidents.

Then, the so-called liberator quickly became the oppressor.  Barely literate himself, Doe brought in radical intellectuals to run the government. But they soon had a falling out with the soldiers who held the real power. As autocratic as Tubman, Doe lacked the old man’s political skills; the main thing that kept him in power was lavish Cold War military aid from the Reagan administration.

In 1989, the brutal reign of Doe was brought to an end by Charles Taylor, the “megalomaniacal son of an Americo judge and Gola mother, raised by a rebel army” (Cistern).  What resulted was 14 years of a brutal and devastating Civil War.

Approximately 250,000 people were killed and almost 1 million more were displaced into refugee camps in neighboring countries.  It was a war that introduced the rest of the world to child soldiers.

In 2003, a movement known as Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, consisting of Christians and Muslims, pressed President Charles Taylor into attending peace talks. They made their silent presence felt through months of peace talks in Ghana.

“They have guns, but we have God” was their mantra.
It was a daring and dangerous uprising – especially considering the levels of raging violence and retribution that observed no bounds of humanity – but the women saw no alternative.

“Whether or not we do this, we were dying,” Lindorah Howard-Diawara, national director of the West African Network for Peace, said.

In August 2003, the Civil War in Liberia finally ended. But there was no electricity or running water.

Peace Alliance LiberiaSchools that had been shuttered for years stayed closed. The capital city of Monrovia had no infrastructure. Social norms had disintegrated. An entire generation had seen nothing but war.

The road back to civilian rule has been a difficult one. But those who survived the filthy agonizing and degrading trauma of the Civil War were finding it difficult to cope with the aftermath.
The activism of women certainly contributed to the 2005 election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman elected head of state on the continent. In 2005, 75% of the 1.35 million registered voters elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Harvard-educated, global bureaucrat) as President.

Exhausted and traumatized, Liberians finally found peace with the competent government under the grandmotherly “iron lady”.  Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whose Nobel Prize Peace Prize in 2011 testified to her commitment to building a new and more inclusive democracy in Liberia.

Makeshift School Room, Photo by Glenna Gordon

Perhaps the most important concern is the future of Liberia’s children.  As Christians, we are called to care for the orphans and widows.  An example of this care is the Bishop Judith Craig Children’s Village (School & Orphanage) outside of Monrovia, Liberia. “Bishop Judith Craig conducted a stout defense of children’s rights.  In a spirit that joined black and white, men and women, old and young together in the implementation of the Lord’s work, Bishop Judith Craig, had an unwavering hope in the future of the youngest generation of Liberia.” (Dr. Emmanuel Bailey)

In 1991, Methodist Revered Emmanuel F. Bailey, a native of Liberia and who served churches in the United States, returned home.  He spent three months searching for family members. What he found were 800 orphans living in a United Methodist school building.   During his stay, he observed that apart from the homeless condition, many of the Liberian children showed remarkable resilience and hope in the face of their horrible experiences. 

Rev. Bailey shared his concern & hope for the children with leaders of the Annual Conferences of the United Methodist Church.  From that consultation came the dream of building a children’s home to provide a safe, wholesome, Christian atmosphere for these orphans.  The road to reconciliation begins with the children.

“In a country with 26 languages and many tribal groups, this blending of children and adults from diverse backgrounds can model Christian community and the vision of a peaceful future for Liberia.” (Rev. Bailey) 

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

Liberia has a long-standing association with the United States & the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church in Liberia started in 1833.  The founder of the Liberian Methodist Church was a black minister from Baltimore, the Reverend Daniel Coker.

Kenneth L. Christler, Michigan Christian Advocate, April 3, 2000

Helene Cooper, Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Simon & Schuster, March 2017

James Ciment,  Another America: The Story of Liberia and the Former Slaves Who Ruled It, Hill & Wang, August 2013

Dr. Emmanuel Bailey, Former President of the Liberia Methodist University

John Diaz, fellow, International Reporting Project, San Francisco Chronicle

Prayers for our Children & Travelers

cropped-dsc_0253.jpgOur Heart 2 Heart Team sets off tomorrow (7/7/2017) on our journey across the Atlantic to serve the children of Liberia, West Africa.

We covet your prayers.  Along with the children & Houses Moms of #BJCCV, we ask you to keep our Team in your thoughts and prayers as we hope to stay in the center of God’s will throughout this trip.

Our team traveling to Liberia consists of 6 beautiful people:
1) Sandy Whittle

2) Greg Whittle

3) Regie Cameron

4) Jim Cameron (first timer!)

5) Caroline Cameron (first timer!)

6) Russ Heil

Caroline Cameron, an upcoming senior at McIntosh High School,  is excited to join us in serving & being with these children, and she’s looking forward to taking photos & videos to help document her experience to share with others. 😇
Our objectives this trip vary but will consist of: (1) hosting Vacation Bible School from the children of the orphanage; (2) meeting with local community leaders to help identify & develop strategies to best support our Orphans as they graduate & age-out of #BJCCV, (3) exploring post-secondary educational opportunities, i.e.,  college, trade & vocational schools; (4) letter-reading & writing; (5) to just simply loving on some kiddos.  The need is great.

Thank you, #ptcumc for all that you do to help love, care for, support and encourage the orphans and school-children at #BJCCV in Liberia, West Africa.

Thank you for you gifts, prayers, donations and letters.

In Faith, Hope & Love,

Angie Wilson & #heart2heartliberia

 

Plant for a Harvest

KJD 2011 Girls

“Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.” (Ecclesiastes 11:4, NLT)

In order to reap the benefits of happiness, we must first plant the seeds.

Methodist Bishop Arthur Kulah was instrumental in establishing #BJCCV Ministry.  He said, “In America, we wait until every plan is precise, every option explored and reactions predicted before we move.  In Liberia, we’ve learned that if we’re every going to move ahead, we have to risk stepping into the unknown.  Yes, we sometimes have to step back and start over, but at least we are moving and doing something, and God blesses that.” FAITH, HOPE, LOVE.

KJD 2011 Joey GardenSo often we engage in “when/then” thinking.  The gist being when ‘A’ happens, then we’ll do ‘B.’   There’s a certain comfort in “knowing” that all conditions are “perfect” before we take on a task. The problem we face, however, is that we rarely (if ever) encounter perfection.  Farmers who wait for “perfect” conditions never sow.  If we never sow, we can never reap. galatians 6 9

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Faith is trusting God in the moment and believing that He can see the things that lie far beyond our field of vision.  A biblical example can be found in Exodus 13:21.  God told the Israelites during their exodus journey to follow the cloud by day and flame by night (Exodus 13:21).  That’s hard.

This morning in church, Pastor Sean read from Paul’s Letters to the Philippians, verses 3:4-14*.  Of my notes from the sermon: Everything we’ve ever learned has come from our struggle.  We BECOME who we ARE as we wrestle with life’s challenges.  When life beats us up, we are sometimes left with SCARS that tug at our HEARTS’ WOUNDS.  We are, all of us, a culmination of all of our life experiences: the GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY.   The things in life that most CHALLENGE us can become our greatest BLESSINGS.  Or, our wounds can paralyze us and keep us stuck.  We can choose FAITH or we can choose FEAR.  The apostle Paul chose faith, and in doing so, affected change all over the world.

Paul was famously converted on the road to Damascus.  Precluding his conversion, Paul assisted in the murder of one of the Lord’s disciples, Stephen.  Luke describes Paul’s involvement in the book of Acts 6 – 8:1.  He inflicted suffering on others and suffered himself.  His suffering inspired action.  Paul, ultimately, traveled tens of thousands of miles around the Mediterranean spreading the word of Jesus Christ.  He is considered the co-founder of Christianity.   In choosing faith over fear, Paul crafted love from heartbreak, compassion from shame, grace from disappointment, courage from failure.

God loves us so much he gives us a choice.   We can choose faith or we can choose fear but we can’t have both.  If we lived in a world where faith wasn’t necessary, we wouldn’t need faith.  God could have given us a roadmap to get to the promised land, but God wants us to make the most of our journey in order to get the most out of the destination.

When we put our trust in God, we choose to act, even when things might not be perfect. If we wait for perfection, we’ll never act.  If we don’t act, we won’t reap the benefits. We have to plant in order to harvest, and it is the harvest we long to see.

So, let’s get to work!  Let’s choose faith, hold steadfast to hope and trust God with every step of the way.

 

 

*Interestingly: forms of the noun “joy” and verb “rejoice” occurs 16 times in this short letter.  Philippians is the biblical book that most extensively defines and describes joy.