|United Methodists increase support in South Africa|
Children gather at the preschool and child care ministry of
Central Methodist Mission in Johannesburg, South Africa. A UMNS file
photo by Faye Richardson.
By Elliott Wright*
Oct. 11, 2007 | STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS)
The United Methodist Church is increasing support for a ministry that
assists Zimbabweans who flee into South Africa to escape food shortages
and economic chaos at home.
Directors of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, meeting in
Stamford, launched an appeal for funds by contributing $2,388 at the
conclusion of a "poverty banquet." Those contributions and a new grant
by the denomination’s relief unit will assist the Ray of Hope program at
Central Methodist Church and Mission in Johannesburg.
Central Church cares for more than 700 homeless people at any given
time. It provides temporary shelter, food, health services, child care
and a job bank to displaced people, most of whom are leaving economic
and political chaos in Zimbabwe.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief announced an allocation of
$50,000 to Central Church. It earlier sent $25,000 to the ministry.
The new grant will help the mission increase services to the
homeless, pay utility bills and improve sanitation facilities. Hundreds
of homeless people crowd the church building every night. Come evening,
the church literally overflows with people sleeping on every available
"I can think of no group of people today who are poorer, hungrier or
more in need of help than the unofficial refugees finding their way from
Zimbabwe to Central Church," said the Rev. Sam Dixon, UMCOR’s chief
executive. "We cannot sit back and do nothing as this situation
continues to grow worse."
Mary Gates of Minneapolis, who presented information about the
ministry at the poverty banquet, called the board members' offering a
concrete recognition of the responsibility that United Methodists have
to address the acute issue of poverty.
UMCOR is launching a general appeal among congregations and members
for additional funds for Central Mission’s work with Zimbabweans. A new
Sunday bulletin insert on the South African ministry will be available
online at www.umcor.org within the week.
Central Methodist Church, led by Bishop Paul Verryn, is a large
church in downtown Johannesburg. Once a bastion of affluence and
privilege, it is today one of the major Christian social service
providers in the South African city, garnering international respect.
"I can think of no group of people today
who are poorer, hungrier or more in need of help than the unofficial
refugees finding their way from Zimbabwe to Central Church."
-The Rev. Sam Dixon, UMCOR
The Ray of Hope approach is carefully organized. All people seeking
accommodations or assistance are interviewed and evaluated based on
their particular needs, such as a meal, clothing, medical attention or a
The ministry makes systematic efforts to find off-site temporary
housing and employment for the transients. Over the last 15 months, some
3,000 people have passed through the program.
Ray of Hope predates the Zimbabwean refugee problems. It also serves
homeless and refugees from Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of
A meager meal was served at the poverty banquet of the mission board.
Directors spent time around the table discussing ways to effectively
engage in ministry with the poor. Creative response to poverty is a
United Methodist mission priority for the immediate and long-range
Contributions to the Central Methodist ministries can be made through
the Advance for Christ and His Church, the designated mission giving
channel of The United Methodist Church. Checks should be made out to
UMCOR and mailed to PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087 or also can be
placed in local church offering plates. Advance number 199456 should be
included in the memo line. Credit card contributions can be made by
calling (800) 554-8583.
*Wright is the information officer of the Board of Global Ministries.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
South African Methodists offer hope to refugees
Africa University copes with Zimbabwe's economy
Board of Global Ministries
United Methodist Committee on Relief
Methodist Church of Southern Africa