As Liberia rebuilds, bishop urges church's continuing support
May 18, 2004
A UMNS Report By Tim Tanton*
Bishop John Innis
Bishop John Innis
Liberian Bishop John Innis arrives at work in the morning, hundreds of
people are waiting for him. And at the end of the day, another 50 or so
people await him at his home in Monrovia, Liberia's capital.
lines of people need help with rent, hospital bills, school costs.
Their presence at the bishop's doorstep reflects the tremendous need
that Liberians have for help from any source following the devastation
of civil war.
have completely broken down through 14 years of civil war," he said in a
May interview, during a stop at United Methodist Communications in
the war's end last summer, Innis has led efforts to rebuild his west
African country. His work has included making frequent trips abroad,
particularly to the United States, to raise funds and to publicize the
plight - and hope - of Liberians.
"The church is alive in Liberia, and we just want to praise God for that," he said. "The presence of Jesus is felt."
United Methodist Church in Liberia has 168,300 members in about 700
local churches, he said. The church fills vital roles not only in
ministering to souls but also in providing education - the church has
121 schools, ranging from elementary schools to a university -
agricultural programs and health care services.
"Liberia would not have survived had it not been for the church," he said. "It is a source of hope."
United Methodist Committee on Relief is assisting with staff and grant
money. Congregations throughout the connection also are providing funds
and other support.
Innis cited several positive signs, including:
reopening of Ganta Hospital, which was burned down by rebel forces last
year. Though much work remains in rebuilding the hospital, Ganta is
once again providing health care services. The church is considering
building a new hospital, and Innis also sees a need for recruiting and
training more doctors and nurses.
fast-growing university, which currently serves 1,000 students from
Liberia, Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire. United Methodist University,
established in 1998 in Monrovia, had its first commencement convocation
last February, when 98 students received degrees.
establishment of a counseling program that is helping child soldiers
overcome the trauma of war and re-enter society. The church also is
working with the United Nations on demobilizing and disarming rebel
soldiers as the country continues moving toward peace.
growth of the Liberia United Methodist Empowerment Foundation, aimed at
supporting the church's work. As of February, the foundation had
received more than $100,000. The fund's investments are handled by the
United Methodist Foundation in Evanston, Ill.
The construction of a tower for a radio station to help the church spread the Gospel.
work remains, however, as the Liberia Annual (regional) Conference
rebuilds local churches, schools, mission stations, parsonages.
Continuing help is needed in the form of building materials, medicine
and health care equipment, computers, agricultural tools, school
said the conference's 900 pastors - most of whom draw extremely low
incomes - need more support in salary and materials. The church also
needs communications help; staying in touch with the district
superintendents is difficult due to the lack of infrastructure.
bishop said he was glad to see the denomination's top legislative body,
the General Conference, approve a holistic strategy for doing ministry
in Africa, even though no specific funding was provided.
to the work of the United Methodist Committee on Relief in Liberia can
be made to UMCOR Advance No. 150300, Liberia Emergency. Checks can be
placed in church collection plates or mailed to the agency at 475
Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Credit-card donations can
be made by calling toll free (800) 554-8583.
Details on the Liberian foundation and other ministries are available at http://gbgm-umc.org/advance, the Web site of the denomination's Board of Global Ministries.
*Tanton is United Methodist News Service's managing editor. News media can contact Tim Tanton at (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.