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Churches build communication centers around globe

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A UMNS file photo by Mike Hickcox

The Foundation for United Methodist Communications has raised funds to establish a community radio station in Liberia and several central conference communication centers.
Oct. 3, 2006

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) -- Gifts from United Methodists in local congregations and annual conferences in the United States continue to make communication centers in Africa, Asia and Europe a reality.

The Mississippi Annual (regional) Conference raised $32,400 to build communication centers in East and West Zimbabwe. The conference raised the money despite the additional burden that Hurricane Katrina placed on Mississippi churches and members.

The centers are being promoted through the Central Conference Communications Initiative, a collaborative effort between United Methodist Communications and leaders of the denomination's central conferences -- regional units in Africa, Asia and Europe -- to improve communications and increase visibility of the church around the world.

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The Rev. Larry Hollon
"The gifts of people in local congregations and jurisdictional annual conferences in the U.S. that are supporting training and the purchase of equipment are enabling the church to minister more effectively in central conferences in Africa, Asia and eastern and central Europe," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive of United Methodist Communications.

The Foundation for United Methodist Communications is raising funds to establish communication centers in each United Methodist area. So far, the foundation has received funds to establish a community radio station in Liberia and conference communication centers in Central Congo, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), North Katanga, South Africa and Uganda.

The centers will be equipped with computers, cameras, Internet access, video capability and other vital communication tools. Some communication networks may include ham radios, handheld radios and community radio stations.

"It's especially important in this information age that the people of the United Methodist Church are connected globally," Hollon said. "Even in this age of instant communication, some of our leaders must still give a hand-written letter to a long-haul bus driver and hope it gets delivered to the proper person."

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Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa
"Nothing can supersede communications in spreading the gospel," said Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa of Zimbabwe. "Communication is the hallmark of doing ministry in all its various facets."

Equipping communicators

In addition to raising funds to establish communications centers, the initiative provides training to build communication and computer skills for central conference communicators.

Christian communicators in the Philippines will participate in a training session Nov. 6-9 at Philippine Christian University. Under the theme, "Communicating the Gospel in Today's World," the event will include basic computer, journalism and photography courses taught by instructors at the university and members of United Methodist Communications.

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A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose

Instructor Fidelis Zvomuya (right) shows Teddy Nabirye (left) and Phileas Jusu how to operate a digital camera.
"The lack of ability to communicate effectively puts the church at a disadvantage," said Hollon. "Training conference communicators and providing basic tools for them to use is a first step in connecting the church both in-country and globally."

United Methodist Communications staff will go to Zurich, Switzerland, Nov. 26-27, to meet with Bishop Patrick Streiff and representatives of communication committees in the Central and Southern European episcopal areas to talk about needs in their conferences. After this visit, the team will have completed communication audits of all the episcopal areas in Europe.

Since the team's visit to Moscow, communicator Eduard Khegay helped launch a Web site for the United Methodist Church in Eurasia, http://www.umc-eurasia.ru/. The site includes articles on worship, youth and children ministries and a column by Bishop Hans Vxby, episcopal leader of the area.

Profound beginning

In June, 27 communicators from 11 of the 12 episcopal areas in Africa participated in a two-week course of study to build their skills as Christian communicators; study sessions were conducted at United Methodist-related Africa University in Zimbabwe.

* Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in Nashville

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Resources

Central Conference Communications Initiative

Africa University

Foundation for United Methodist Communications

The United Methodist Church in Eurasia