|Pittsburgh church helps amputees in Sierra Leone|
Amara Lappia, coordinator of the limb outfitting center in
Sierra Leone, fits Mustapha Koroma with an artificial leg. The center is
supported by The United Methodist Church. A UMNS photo by Christopher
By Barry Simmons*
July 2, 2008 | PITTSBURGH (UMNS)
For four years, Mount Lebanon United Methodist Church has sent money
to a little-known prosthetics clinic in Sierra Leone to help amputees of
the West African nation's civil war.
But it wasn't until a Sunday morning in June when the Pittsburgh
congregation began to realize how their gifts have brought new life to
people ravaged by violence and abuse.
Bishop George Bashore thanked the church for sending more than $100,000
to the limb outfitting center in the seaside town of Bo. Mount Lebanon
is the clinic's only full-time supporter and, without the money, the
clinic almost certainly would have closed, he said.
Bashore presented a video produced by United Methodist Communications on the clinic's work.
"It brings tears to your eyes," said church member Sara Mercer. "I don’t
think I understood it until I saw that film––seeing those children
running around needing limbs and knowing that we were helping to provide
them is marvelous."
Workers use common materials like aluminum and wood to fashion the
limbs, which hardly resemble the high-tech, brushed titanium prostheses
available in developed countries. Here, arms and legs are shorn from
sheets of aluminum, hammered and welded into shape, and fitted onto one
of several sizes of wooden feet.
Amara Lappia, who runs the clinic, holds up a leg he is working on to
show the simplicity of his design. There are just three pieces: a
leather strap, an aluminum calf and a wooden foot. Though not showy,
they make all the difference in the lives of amputees who hobble into
"When they have the … artificial leg," he says, "some of them will cry
because this is the first time using the leg. They think they are nobody
in society. But when we give them the limbs, they think they are part
Members of Mount Lebanon United Methodist Church watch a video on the prosthetics ministry in West Africa.
A UMNS photo by Barry Simmons.
Most of Lappia’s patients, like Mustapha Koroma, are victims of Sierra
Leone’s decade-long civil war. "They captured me," he says, referring to
the country’s rebel forces. "I refused to join them, so they decided to
amputate my foot."
He is one of thousands in Sierra Leone who have met similar fates. The
war’s toll on its young men has been so widespread that the country
recently organized a national soccer league just for amputees.
The clinic is funded through the The Advance, the second-mile giving
program of The United Methodist Church, which funds mission projects
across the globe.
Built in 2003, this project serves about a dozen patients each day but
is chronically short of funding. Annual expenses run up to $25,000, but
the clinic desperately needs to hire and train more help.
Since 2005, Mount Lebanon’s 1,400-member congregation has donated about
$27,000 a year and wants to continue contributing at the same level.
After the video, the church announced it would take up a special
offering the following Sunday.
"It really gets to you," said member Sheldon Roush. "You want to go
there yourself because they could do so much more if they had more
While the video played during the service, several members in the congregation wiped their eyes.
"To hear the stories is one thing," said senior pastor the Rev. Oden Warman, "but to see the stories is another."
*Simmons is a freelance producer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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