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West African youth explore leadership, peace building

United Methodist youth and young adults from the church's West Africa Central Conference take part in a workshop in leadership and peace building in
White Plains, Liberia. UMNS photos by Phileas Jusu.

By Phileas Jusu*
Dec. 18, 2008 | WHITE PLAINS, Liberia (UMNS)

In a region of Africa that has struggled with civil conflicts, United Methodist young people gathered to learn ways to develop as leaders and peace builders.

"We want Christian-disciplined leaders," Liberian Bishop John G. Innis said Dec. 15, as he opened a three-day training for young people from Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon and Liberia.

The Rev. Caleb Dormah leads a session during the Dec. 15-17 event.

Innis urged his listeners to transform themselves by renewing their minds, citing the Apostle Paul as an example, and he encouraged them to wait for God’s appointed time for whatever they want in the church.

"As young people of the United Methodist Church, you should love your church," he said. "Do what the Lord has called you to do with all your might and commitment. Be not disrespectful to the leadership of your church. Instead, be in prayer for them."

About 25 youth and young adult leaders from the United Methodist West Africa Central Conference attended the workshop at the S.T. Nagbe Youth Retreat Center in White Plains, about 70 kilometers north of Monrovia.

The training was organized by the West Africa Central Conference Youth Academy—an arm of the Africa Youth Network funded by the Women's Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. The event was designed to develop programs and plan work for United Methodist youth in the region for 2009-12; identify resources for effective youth ministry; equip youth leaders with basic leadership skills; and provide other skills in conflict prevention, management and peace building.

Three countries represented by annual conference youth—Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire —have experienced civil conflicts in the recent past.

As a result, a need exists for building "a new environment and culture to transform deficient structures and capabilities" for emerging leaders in the region, said the Rev. Caleb Dormah, Liberian community worker and training facilitator.

"We have taught our children the wrong ways of life for far too long," he said. It is time to teach youth a new way of life in a new environment, he added.

Forum for youth ministry

The Liberia training was the second for the West Africa Central Conference Youth Academy. The first, led by the Rev. John K. Yambasu, was in Côte d’Ivoire.

The academy serves as a "forum for redefining and creating a youth ministry that is contextually and prophetically relevant to youth in the 21st century," said Finda Quiwa, a regional missionary for youth leadership development, education and training with the Board of Global Ministries. "It is also a forum for resource development and mobilization."

“We want to make sure that the young women the church is producing are not useless women.”
–Maior Anthony

Participants spoke about the need to generate local resources for ministry and avoid relying on foreign aid.

Maior Anthony, young women’s coordinator in Nigeria, described how her group raised N58,000 (about US$400) after organizing a training program attended by 300 women from 16 church districts. They were taught how to produce local goods and foodstuffs. Some of the items produced were sold to raise funds for the organization.

"We want to make sure that the young women the church is producing are not useless women," Anthony said.

The leadership training event in Liberia ended a day before the West Africa Central Conference was scheduled to meet Dec. 18-22 in the capital city to elect a new bishop for the Sierra Leone Area. A new bishop is yet to be elected for the Nigeria Area after the Jan. 11 death of Bishop Kefas Mavula, 40, less than a year after his election as bishop.

*Jusu is communicator for the United Methodist Sierra Leone Annual Conference.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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