Bishops' appeal changes lives in Africa - and the U.S.
5/1/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
NOTE: Photographs of the bishops quoted in this story are available.
(UMNS) - Thousands of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo --
most of them children and teen-agers and their families -- can attest to
the power of the United Methodist Church's "Hope for the Children of
The appeal, launched by the denomination's
Council of Bishops in 1998, has resulted in five new schools in the
denomination's North Katanga Area, according to Bishop Nkulu Ntanda
Ntambo, who leads the churches in that region. Those schools, erected
since 2000, are educating more than 4,000 young people, from primary
school children to college students.
"There is hope now," Ntambo told United Methodist News Service. "We are living that hope."
North Katanga story was one of many shared in a report on the appeal at
the international United Methodist bishops' gathering April 27-May 2
meeting in Addison, Texas. The appeal grew out of the Bishops'
Initiative on Children and Poverty.
"When we as a council
proposed the appeal, we set for ourselves a very ambitious goal: $12
million," said Bishop Elias Galvan, chairperson of the council's Hope
for the Children of Africa Committee and leader of the church's Seattle
Galvan said he is confident that the goal will be met by
the time the church's four-year period of work toward it ends in 2004.
He noted that $10 million has been raised already, with $8 million
donated through the Advance Special for the appeal, and the remainder
given directly from European and U.S. conferences to their counterparts
The council approved three recommendations from the
committee. The first reaffirmed an earlier decision by the bishops to
give priority to building two schools for children in each of the
church's African episcopal areas. The committee asked that the committee
make future decisions regarding undesignated money based upon
recommendations from the bishops of Africa.
In each of Africa's
episcopal areas, at least one school is finished or is about to be
finished, and in some cases, two have been built, he said.
schools had been envisioned for North Katanga in 2000, when the council
gave the church in that area $500,000. The results exceeded
expectations, with the opening of a primary school, secondary school and
Because of the denomination's emphasis on
schools, 10 of Africa's 11 episcopal areas now have equipment for making
building blocks not only for schools but also churches and parsonages,
Besides changing lives in Africa, the appeal is
changing the lives of people in places like Missouri, where 362 churches
have formed covenant - and personal - relationships with United
Methodists in Mozambique. Those ties began forming a year before the
appeal was actually launched.
"We've raised $1.3 million over the
last seven years," said Bishop Ann B. Sherer, who leads the church's
Missouri Area. Last year alone, the Missouri churches sent $250,000 to
Mozambique, she said.
The Missouri churches pledge $900 for every
pastor in Mozambique. The money goes to Bishop Joao Somane Machado for
allocation where needed. Sherer's area supports the entire staff and the
district superintendents in the southern African country. Missouri
congregations also are working to support the pensions of retired
pastors, which are currently $35 a year.
The relationship has changed the Missouri congregations. "It's made Mozambique part of our family," Sherer said.
staff person on each side of the Atlantic keeps the information flowing
back and forth. "We know when there's a death in the church. We know
when there's a train wreck. We know when there's a flood," Sherer said.
"It has been life-changing for us," she said.
reported that his pastors once had to walk 10 days to get to the annual
(regional) conference gathering. Today, travel time is down to one or
two days, thanks to the gift of 2,000 bicycles from other conferences.
Churches also have enabled North Katanga to buy 243 cows, ensuring not
only a source of nutrition but income for many people.
Robert Fannin of the Birmingham (Ala.) Area and Bishop Alfred Johnson of
the New Jersey Area shared accounts of how their churches are
responding to the appeal. Johnson's congregations have forged a close
relationship with churches in Liberia, while United Methodists in
Alabama are doing the same with their brothers and sisters in
In an interview after his report to the bishops'
council, Galvan said the most important objective of the appeal has been
establishing relationships between Africa and the rest of the United
Methodist Church. That is key to educating people about Africa, and he
urges churches to continue emphasizing partnerships.
"Every conference has raised money," he said, "but not every conference has established a partnership."
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