United Methodist prays for family, U.S. help in Liberia
7/11/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
head and shoulders photo of Abbie Kla-Williams is available at
http://umns.umc.org/photos/headshots.html. For related coverage, see
UMNS story #360.
By United Methodist News ServiceAs
war and starvation ravage her native Liberia, Abbie Kla-Williams prays
for U.S. intervention and worries about the family she left behind
several years ago.
Liberia is a long way from Rockville, Md.,
where the United Methodist woman has lived since coming to America in
1996. The pain is evident in her voice as she talks about her family -
five children, six grandchildren and a great-grandchild. She fears for
their safety and worries about whether they have enough food. Two
grandchildren, ages 18 months and 7 years old, died of starvation in
"Sometimes I cry for my children," she says. "â€¦ I don't know whether my children eat or not. I miss my children a whole lot."
hopes the United States will help restore peace and order in her
country, which has been wracked by civil wars since the 1980s. Rebel
factions are seeking to depose President Charles Taylor, a former
warlord under indictment for war crimes by an international court in
Sierra Leone. A team of U.S. military experts arrived in Liberia July 8
to assess the country's needs.
"I want America to do more,"
Kla-Williams says. "I want her to come to our aid and to help us. They
need to do more to help us, to get our country in order."
her sons, Edwin Clarke Jr., had to flee with his family when rebel
forces struck a suburb of Monrovia, the Liberian capital. Clarke, an
assistant to United Methodist Bishop John Innis, was returning home from
work with his wife, Lorraine, on June 5 when he learned of the attack.
7 p.m., heavy artillery sounds could be heard around our neighborhood,"
he says in an e-mail note. "We could actually see the bullets flying
through the night skies."
The Clarkes began packing as the firing
drew closer. Their 4-year-old daughter, Edraine, screamed, "Daddy, I am
scared! Mommy, please hold me!"
"Lorraine tied Edraine to her back and picked up a small mattress as I was trying to throw clothes in a bag," Clarke says.
family fled on foot, returning later to find that they had lost
everything. "This means that when peace finally comes, I will have to
start rebuilding my entire life and home," Clarke says.
Faith is a
sustaining force for the family, which is active in United Methodist
congregations in Monrovia and Rockville. "Without faith, I don't think I
would be able to go about," says Kla-Williams, who attends Grace United
Methodist Church. She prays each day for her children, and she believes
she will see them again.
Kla-Williams was suffering from
malnutrition when she came to America with the help of a brother, Saba
Kla-Williams, a U.S. citizen in Rockville. After regaining her health,
she found work as a caregiver for elderly people and began sending money
back home to her family. Though her children - ranging in age from
mid-30s to 40 - have jobs, their income is sporadic.
doesn't come easily for Kla-Williams, who sometimes goes for a month or
longer before getting an assignment from a health care agency. "It is
very hard to pay my utility bills and my rent," she says.
wants to bring her family to the United States, but visas are hard to
obtain. Kla-Williams herself must apply each September for permission to
remain in the United States. Since leaving Liberia, she has seen only
one of her children - Edwin, who visited the United States earlier this
year on business.
This is a critical time for the church in
Liberia, Bishop Innis says in a letter on behalf of the Liberia United
Methodist Empowerment Foundation. The church is growing there "because
for many, the church is their hope," he writes. U.S. and European
congregations have been generous - and Liberians are learning to help
themselves - but the church needs money for its hospital, orphanage,
schools and other ministries, the bishop says.
Like its members,
First United Methodist Church in Monrovia is struggling and depends on
money from outside the country. "The people â€¦ do not have the means to
keep the church going," Saba says.
Saba, who belongs to Millian
United Methodist Church in Rockville, is a businessman and part-time
teacher. He welcomes the news that a coalition of West African nations
is sending a peacekeeping force to Liberia but insists that U.S.
intervention is crucial. Without it, he doubts Taylor will fulfill his
promise to leave office or that the country will return to peace. "The
people of Liberia want American intervention," he says.
has been destroyed," he adds. "The only thing we have is people -
suffering people. â€¦ We are at the bottom. The very bottom."
United Methodist Committee on Relief is responding to the crisis in
Liberia. Donations can be designated for Liberia Emergency, Advance
#150300, and dropped in church offering plates or sent to UMCOR, 475
Riverside Drive, Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Credit-card donations can
be made by calling (800) 554-8583.
Support for the Liberia
foundation can be sent to General Board of Global Ministries-General
Council on Finance and Administration, United Methodist Church, 475
Riverside Drive, New York, 10115; Code: LUMEF-014368-8AT.