Sept. 12, 2005
|A UMNS photo by Linda Green
children of Reeves Memorial United Methodist Church send a gift to the
children of Louisiana. UMNS writer Kathy Gilbert stands at far right.
A UMNS Commentary
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
I have a gift for the children of Louisiana.
is enormous. I have no doubt it will make a huge difference because it
came from the purest hearts and it was entrusted to me in love.
precious gift is tucked inside a wrinkled church bulletin. On the front
are these words: "Donation of U.S. $20 from the children of Reeves
Memorial United Methodist Church to the children of Louisiana, USA, in
solidarity with their plight in the wake of the destruction of Hurricane
Memorial United Methodist Church is in Monrovia, Liberia. On Sunday,
Sept. 4, a small group of us from United Methodist Communications and
the Board of Pension and Health Benefits were visitors there. Sister
Frances M. Porte, charge lay leader and our guide while we were in
Liberia, asked us all to write a brief bio about ourselves earlier in
the week in preparation for our visit. In mine, I mentioned I was a
native of Louisiana.
the people of this church saw me, they saw a fellow United Methodist
who was learning about loss. They saw a way to make a difference.
Reeves is a church
where the children far outnumber the adults. These are children who know
something about loss. Like the people in New Orleans, they are living
without electricity and running water. Their homes have been wrecked not
by a storm but by 14 years of war.
|A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert
Children outnumber adults at Reeves Memorial United Methodist Church in Monrovia, Liberia.
from one place to another is close to impossible in this country
because a lot of the roads don’t exist anymore. Those that are left are
obstacle courses full of holes and chunks of concrete. "Gas stations"
are rows of pink liquid in glass containers that have to be put into
cars with a funnel.
In a country where 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, $20 is a fortune.
Orleans is not my home, but New Orleans is where my spirit feels most
at home. When the levee broke and the waters swallowed parts of
Louisiana, I was thousands of miles away. Watching the horrible
aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on CNN broke my heart.
Never in a million years would I have thought I would be safer in Monrovia, Liberia, than in my beloved city of New Orleans.
a writer for United Methodist News Service, I was in Liberia to report
on the war-torn country and the miraculous work being done by the United
the mornings over breakfast and the evenings over dinner, CNN played
and replayed the tragic stories left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
During the day, I saw Liberia’s pain first hand, and back at the hotel, I
saw my home’s pain through pictures on a television screen.
In eight days, I
visited a camp full of young boys who were learning to be children again
after being soldiers in Liberia’s bloody civil war. I walked through a
prison overflowing with filth and men and women living in unimaginable
conditions. I met a retired blind pastor who relies on her daughter and
granddaughter to save her from the snakes and scorpions that sometimes
crawl into her bed through the cracks of her mud walls.
|A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert
participate in Holy Communion during �First Sunday Services� at Reeves
Memorial United Methodist Church, Monrovia, Liberia.
problems won’t be fixed soon, but there is a lot of hope in that
country. Soon a national election will be held, and the people will have
a chance to select a leader. As the church’s leader in Liberia, Bishop
John G. Innis is a force to be reckoned with. He sees a brighter future
ahead. While we were there, Bishop Innis announced the Liberian Annual
Conference had sent $500 to the United Methodist Committee on Relief for
and the rest of the Gulf Coast will recover also. When I entered that
little church Sept. 4, the healing started for me. I was surrounded by
people who care and love strangers in a place they will never see.
I have a mission. I have to go back home and deliver this wonderful gift.
always seems to be too much misery in this world. But thanks to a lot
of beautiful, small, smiling faces, I know there is always a lot of love
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.