|Tents of Hope send message of love to Sudan|
From left: Carrie Olander, Lauren Byrd, Ryan Harvey,
Parker Cragg, Chris Morisseau and Mark Bogart prepare to set up their
tent on the National Mall.
UMNS photos by Kathy L. Gilbert.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Nov. 14, 2008 | WASHINGTON (UMNS)
A United Methodist youth group from Houston filled a tent full of
hope and drove to the nation’s capitol to join an international chorus
of voices calling for peace in Darfur, Sudan.
The youth of Memorial Drive United Methodist Church, Houston added their
painted tent to the more than 300 tents set up Nov. 6-9 on the National
Mall in the culmination of a yearlong campaign to bring attention to
the genocide in the African country of Sudan.
The United Methodist Board of Church and Society’s decorated tent was one of the 350 on the National Mall.
Brightly painted expressions of love transformed plain canvas tents
into unique works of art. Churches, communities and organizations from
as far away as Sweden participated in the gathering, called “Tents of
Hope.” Many of the tents used in the event will be shipped to Darfur for
use as classrooms and symbols of hope.
In the Darfur region of Sudan, an estimated 300,000 people have been
killed and 2.5 million have fled their homes for refugee camps.
Displaced people live in tents along the Chad-Sudan border.
“We have set up an impromptu tent village to show solidarity with
what is going on,” said Mark Bogart, a youth leader at Memorial.
“Christ hung out with the downtrodden and the poor and the weak,” he
said. “That is our call, not to be the light in places that are well
lit. We are called to be light in the dark places … Darfur is certainly
one of those dark places.”
‘It is beautiful’
The tent from Houston drew many admirers as people strolled through
the mall on a lovely November weekend. In fact, the organizers of the
Tents of Hope used two panels from Memorial’s tent for the t-shirts and
publicity used for the event.
As the members of Memorial sat near their tent, they could overhear
words of praise for their work. “Wow, I want to live in this tent,” said
one excited college student.
Painted hearts in the shape of Africa draw attention to Darfur, Sudan.
A young boy of four wandered inside, saying, “It is so beautiful.”
“Awesome,” exclaimed a jogger stopping on her usual Saturday run through the National Mall to take a photo.
Almost every inch of Memorial’s tent was painted.
“Even the inside is painted,” said Annie Wild as she ducked through
the tent’s door. “A dozen people spent so many hours inside this tent in
the 100-degree heat of Texas.”
Steve Cragg, director of youth ministries at Memorial, said 250 youth
and youth leaders worked on the tent during a summer mission program
the church sponsors each year.
A few artists designed the more intricate parts of the tent but everyone
had a “hand” in the final product. “Inside the tent there are
handprints … we had everyone come put their hand in paint and add their
handprints to the ceiling,” Cragg said.
Visitors stroll past a tent painted by members of Memorial Drive United Methodist Church, Houston, Texas.
Amanda Poerschke, an art student at the Maryland Institute College of
Arts and a church member, painted the faces on one side of the tent.
“Amanda is a phenomenal artist,” Wild said. “The faces just really … speak.”
Poerschke said she wanted the eyes in the drawings to “stare … like they want you to understand what they’re going through.”
One of the sides of the tent features a map of Africa crafted out of
small red hearts. Sudan is outlined in orange and nine pink hearts
Cragg said the youth group held benefits and awareness rallies and sent
emails and “giant plywood postcards” to the White House during the past
year to draw attention to what is happening in Darfur.
Long hours of love and sweat went into
the painting of a tent from Houston,
Texas, to bring attention to the
genocide in Darfur, Sudan.
Being in the nation’s capitol after the election of Barak Obama as
the next President of the United States gave the weekend even more
meaning, he added. Event participants spoke often of asking the new
administration to prioritize the issue.
“If we’re going to be people of faith then we are called to love our
neighbors and love God,” Cragg said. “This is a great example that our
neighbors are not just next door, they are all the way across in
Call for compassion
At the 2008 United Methodist General Conference, delegates approved a
resolution advocating for justice for all Sudanese and called upon
United Methodists “in every country” to encourage their governments to
aid development of a more just economic system in the Sudan.
The resolution, “Sudan: A Call to Compassion and Caring,” quotes Silvia
Regina de Lima Silva, a Brazilian theologian, who says solidarity means
finding ways “to seek forms of life in which bread can be eaten and
shared to live together, and to cover each other, and to protect and
take care of each person’s body.” For United Methodists, this is a call
to compassion and caring.
The tents were on display between the Washington Monument and the nation’s Capitol Nov. 6-9.
Faced with such horrible human tragedy, individuals can feel
helpless, Bogart pointed out. “Write a letter, sign a petition, just
tell one person what’s going on in Darfur,” he said. “Wear a t-shirt or a
button … the idea that we are helpless in this fight is simply untrue.”
Among the partners in the Tents of Hope is the United Methodist Board
of Church and Society, whose board of directors painted one of the
tents during the fall meeting Oct. 22-26. United Methodist churches from
other states also had tents at the event.
Other partners include the United Church of Christ, Jewish Council
for Public Affairs, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Save Darfur
Coalition, STAND, Genocide Intervention Network, Genocide Watch,
Investors Against Genocide, Lost Boys Rebuilding Southern Sudan,
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Darfur Peace and Development
Organization, Amnesty USA, Church World Service, American Jewish World
Service, Physicians for Human Rights, Lutheran World Relief, Stop
Genocide Now, Enough and the National Council of Churches of Christ. For
more information and reports on the event go to www.tentsofhope.org.
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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