Friday, December 30, 2011

Year in Review: Liberia's 2011 Election

Missionary Helen Roberts-Evans shares the story of the
2011 elections in Liberia
(photo by GBGM Communications) 
On October 11, 2011, Liberians went to the polls to vote for their representatives, senators, and president.  There were 16 presidential candidates. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of the Unity Party received the majority of the votes at 43.7 percent. The Congress for Democratic Change received 32.9 percent of the votes. In order to win the election, a candidate must have 50 percent plus 1 vote.  Since this did not happen, Liberians returned to the polls for a presidential run-off election on November 8, 2011.

On November 15th, after ballot boxes were collected from all over the Republic, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was announced the winner with over 90 percent of the votes. From my trips to visit rural schools, I can appreciate the challenge of reaching villages by canoe, on foot, and on dirt roads to deliver and collect ballots.

Less than half of the population is literate, so the candidates’ photographs are on the ballots. Voters marked the candidates of their choice. The Liberia Annual Conference supports the Liberian Government’s efforts to reach Liberian children, youth, and adults with education in order to create a literate society.

During the June 2011 dedication of the community school building in Boegeezay, Rivercess County, I thanked President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for her commitment to education in Liberia.

I also reminded her of her quote, “You know, if we get the resources, the technology, the manpower, we can fix the streets in six months. But we have the problem of a value system that has been destroyed- where violence, the dishonesty, the dependency is what has characterized our nation over the past twenty years.  That is the more difficult problem. We’re going to have to start at the elementary school level teaching the children ethics, morality, values.” ("After the Warlords," by Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, March 27, 2006)

President, in blue, beside Rev. Erlene Thompson, First UMC
(photo courtesy of Helen Roberts-Evans)
The school in Boegeezay is one of the schools built by our Community Development Program funded by the Central United Methodist Church of Oslo, Norway. In the photo, the President is seated next to her pastor, Rev. Erlene Thompson, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Monrovia. We are truly part of a connectional and caring church.

Thank for your prayers and support.
Helen Roberts-Evans

Read more about the missionary work on the bio page of Helen Roberts-Evans

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

UMCOR Academy

Church and Community Worker, missionary Dwaine Morgan
shares how a seed of hope can grow into God's Spirit.
(photo courtesy of Dwaine Morgan)

Several things registered with me when I attended the UMCOR Relief Network Academy at Sager Brown in Louisiana.

One was the variety of ministries performed by the cooperating depots in the Relief Network. No two serve God in quite the same way.

Another was that many of the relief centers seemed to begin with a vision of a few people (an individual, a handful of people, a church). Someone planted the mustard seed of faith, watered it carefully, waited for God to work, and a mighty ministry sprouted forth. Isn’t that the way that God’s Spirit is often manifested?..

Our conference pickup in October netted the largest load of gifts that we have received since the special emphasis on Haiti two years ago. Among the gifts are more than 1,000 AGAPE Children’s Christmas Boxes (with more coming each week) that are awaiting inventory at our Center. Last week I sent out a call to those who are on my “emergency work crew” list to catalog the boxes so that we can get off to an early start on preparation for our next Armenian shipment.

We have already sent relief supplies estimated at $585,145 to UMCOR, to Armenia, or to local ministries this year and that will probably be very close to our final total for 2011. By the end of the year we should also reach a milestone of sorts as we host our 400th work group.

I can never adequately express my appreciation for the exacting work of the volunteer teams. Without them we simply cannot provide the assistance that is needed by so many people around the world.

Learn more about the missionary work from the bio of Dwaine Morgan

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Message from Children

Hannah Hanson, on the left, Mission Intern, advocates for justice.
(photo courtesy of Hannah Hanson)

As I walked into the Haitian revival service, it reminded me of some of the services I miss form my time in other countries. So it may have been my first time in an all Creole environment, but it was still familiar.

It was a special children's service and just so genuine and sweet I truly was honored to be there. The pastor wanted me to introduce Justice for Our Neighbors, because our new Lakeland clinic will be able to serve people from the congregation. 

The pastor also wanted to take part in "A Wish for the Holidays: That all Families Be Able to Stay Together." (A project of We Belong Together.) So after the service I went back with all the children and we talked some about parents in other countries and deportation. Then they wrote to President Obama and Congress. It was amazing to me how much a connection the children got and how well the ones with parents still in Haiti took it.

So I wanted to share some letters with you:

Mom is in Haiti. I want my mom to be with me. 

My Christmas present is to stop deporting families.
For more of the children's letters, read Hannah Hanson's blog.

To learn more about the Mission Intern, link to the missionary bio of Hannah Hanson.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Go and Tell!

Rev. Krista Givens, left, met with young people at the California-Pacific Annual Conference.
(photo courtesy of Krista Givens)

This season, we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, Emmanuel, God with us! As we celebrate Gods' presence among us, the incarnation of our Lord, we are charged with spreading the Good News. "Go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born!" we sing, but many of us would like to be silent. After the busy-ness of Christmas is over many of us would like to climb into the protective shells of our beds, pull the covers up over our heads and hibernate until Easter. But God calls us to be 'messengers.' That means we GO and TELL!

But, we should be relieved to know, we are not the only messengers proclaiming the glory of God! Gods' amazing work is everywhere! In the ruins of Jerusalem, in the eyes of all nations, to the ends of the earth. Let us proclaim the love of God to the world, and as we do, may we be witness to the world proclaiming Gods' glory to us!

i went to the top of the world
to offer up my prayer.
i came with a collection
of concerns and worries
problems and everyday pains
i went to the top of the world to pray
and instead the world prayed for me.

i heard it in the wind
    pounding in my right ear
    and a gentle guitarsong whistling in my left.
i heard it in the language of the crickets,
    calling and answering from either side of the path.
i heard it in each footstep that followed me,
    or was I following them?
i heard it in the passing of the cars on the highway.
i heard it in the silent tears of strangers.

Rev. Givens writes about God's amazing work.
(photo courtesy of Krista Givens)
i went to the top of the world to pray
and instead,
the world prayed for me.

To read more of Rev. Krista Givens' writings, link to her blog at Clergy Freak.

Learn more about the missionary work at the bio page of Krista Givens.

View the 10-Fold video to learn why there is a missionary in Germany.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Is About Giving

Kim Cruz, son of missionary Ken Cruz, remembers what Christmas is all about.
(photo courtesy of Ken Cruz)

Without any signs of delaying, Christmas is poised to barrel its way into our busy lives once again. For many, the time of year has come to mean the accumulation of material possessions. And yet, so little of our Christmas cheer transcends the shiny boxes under our Christmas trees. This year, I realized that God epitomized the greatest form of generosity by giving us Jesus. Yet modern day presents have wrapped and confined our gifts into shallow conceptions when they can be so much more.

By Christmas, I will have finished my undergraduate degree in Development Studies. Had it not been for your unselfishness, your gifts, I would not have been able to cultivate the gifts that God has given me. I know that many people in the world are not as fortunate. Many have yet to experience the deep and meaningful gifts that God has in store for them. This is why I plan on pursuing a job in the area of rural development.

Just as you have given to me, I plan on giving to others in order to continue the cycle of generosity that God inspired. Just as you have given to me, I plan on giving onto others. Indeed Christmas is about giving, and as it draws near, I am reminded of those that have given, and those that have yet to experience the deep and meaningful gifts that God has in store for each and every one of us.

A very warm thank you. Merry Christmas.

Kim's father is a missionary serving in Cambodia. Learn more by linking to a bio of Kennedy Cruz.

Read about the Community Health and Agricultural Development (CHAD) ministry in Cambodia, by linking to the CHAD Cambodia blog.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day: Youth Speak Out

Global Justice Volunteers Africa participants wrote reflections on HIV and AIDS after their experiences volunteering with HIV/AIDs organizations in Kenya. 
Here are prayers, letters, and poems from the volunteers' experiences.

Pauline Kome Odinga, a United Methodist Global Justice
Volunteer, advocates for women's rights and social justice.
(photo by Ake Ble Leon Nathan)


Youth and Young Adults,

I know we are discriminated against, but this is the great moment in the Lord God has given us. 

Let us defend women's rights and defend social injustice all over the world.

I love you all wherever you are. Amen.

Pauline Kome Odinga, Democratic Republic of Congo

Madira Bwaza, Global Justice Volunteer,
leads Bible study. (photo by Gabriel G. Mungai) 


Who am I?
I'm the god and king of the earth.
People fear me though they don't see me physically
And talk about me in every gathering
I break apart families and cause injustices in communities
Leaving orphans and other vulnerable people
Because I am the boss.

I make the fat become slim
I fear no person, even rich, poor, strong, weak
Educated, uneducated, and people of high integrity obey me
Regardless of their position and religion
Even the devil fears me too because my weapon is strong.

I make people suffer in all sorts of lives.
I am tough but nobody can see me
and I make you more beautiful and handsome to spread me.
I feed on blood that fights against other diseases in the body.

Hahaaa! I only obey God.
If you keep far from me, I will keep a distance
But if you come in contact with me, I will deal with you and make you die.

Take care.
AIDS is real.

Madira Bwaza, Uganda

Youth and Young Adults,

This is not the time for crying or weeping but the right moment to raise up our minds because of building a nice and wonderful future.

When we hear from the TV and radios and some friends, we suffer ourselves from injustice, violence, discrimination, and many other issues in the world. We feel sad and disappointed, but this is the moment to defend our right to basic education, to speak, to employment, and to many other opportunities. By the help of God, we are conquerors and winners.

Mwilambwe Shabanza Cadet, Democratic Republic of Congo

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Youth Speak Out: United Methodist Youth Responding to the Challenges of HIV and AIDS

Young adult Global Justice Volunteers Africa participants wrote reflections on HIV and AIDS after their experiences volunteering with HIV/AIDs organizations in Kenya. Here are some of their prayers, letters, and poems. 


John Atoyo shares his experience with Global
Justice Volunteers. (photo by Gabriel G. Mungai)
No one can deny
That a united people
Will never miss what they want
For it doesn't matter
Whether we are in Africa, Asia or the US
But imagine, all in one mission
And showing justice, mercy, and love to everyone
Yes! You can't separate them.

Today is our power.
Why wait for tomorrow.
And we know our mission
Is to make disciples of Jesus Christ
For the transformation of the world.
Give hope, life, to the rejected.
Together we can do
Great things as simple things.

John Odhiambo Atoyo, Kenya

Public Notice
HIV and AIDS have seriously claimed the lives of people in Kenya, leaving some dead in the streets, some dropped out of school, and some physically challenged. Stigmatization, discrimination, and tribalism have become the order of the day. People die of hunger; children and mothers have been abandoned by husbands and society. "HIV/AIDS is not man-made."

We need to intervene in this ugly situation to help save the lives of innocent souls. Remember "different culture, but one people." Let's stop the attitude of "it concerns not me" but unite together in this big fight because no one knows what tomorrow may bring, and that God requires us to love one another, and Christ died for our sins without any discrimination. With Jesus being the center of our foundation, we will succeed together in solidarity, and let's use the energy we have now to go forth and conquer. Remember, your actions will create a big impact in the lives of people. Think about it and act now.

Florence Kadie Lassayo, Sierra Leone

Rev. Kat Sal Nenette leads the group in 
singing. (photo by Gabriel G. Mungai) 

Letter to Women

I'm praying the Almighty God to help women who are always being discriminated against, rejected, and dishonored in the society.

O God, women are always the subject of discrimination, and their voices are not listened to by people in the community. Women don't have the right to talk and share their ideas with others. They are always rejected and affected. God, you are the only one who can fight against this. They are marginalized by others.

Women, let's work together and fight for our own rights. Let's help those who are not empowered. It will be good to share our experiences, ideas, and knowledge which will unite us and work in togetherness. Let us put our trust in God, and our voices will be heard by the church, by society, and also by the community.

Rev. Kat Sal Nenette, Democratic Republic of Congo

United…People Living With HIV and AIDS against Injustice

I'm shouting out for people who are living with HIV/AIDS
Never give up because God loves u.
Just continue to be hopeful, prayerful, and support each other.
United, you'll successfully gain over
Stigma and discrimination
This century is a new era for all of you.
Instead of crying, hiding and fearing,
Come together, fight for the implementation of
Equity, human rights, economic empowerment, and build the world.

Duhimbarwe Lionel, Burundi

Monday, November 28, 2011

Finding Love in Cambodia

Missionaries Marilyn and Joseph Chan shared their story of the
persistent power of love and faith. (Photo by Melissa Hinnen) 

by Melissa Hinnen*

Perhaps I should not be surprised that a road trip in Cambodia with a missionary couple named Mary and Joseph (okay well actually Marilyn and Joseph) would be full of amazing stories. From the moment they greeted me at 7:00 a.m. in my hotel lobby in Phnom Penh, I felt a sense of pure joy from the Chans--they are truly extraordinary people who radiate love.

We drove for about three hours to the rural area of Svay Rieng Province. We met with pastors, visited churches, studied the Bible, ate at a wonderful roadside restaurant, made some pastoral-care visits, and stopped in a village community where with the support of the Women's Division, women are learning basket weaving from church leadership to generate income.

It was a very full and rich day, and I heard many stories of how the Methodist Church in Cambodia is growing and how ministry with the poor is integrated into the fabric of the mission initiative. The community outreach is not exclusive to Christians, and their evangelism does not condemn the dominant Buddhist faith. They live out their faith as models of Christianity and invite others to share in the Good News.

I learned about their dream for starting a senior center when they retire (Joseph is 67). "Many people want to help children," said Marilyn, "but it is hard to find support for the elderly."

Woven into our visits, I heard a powerful love story. Joseph and Marilyn met once as children--her aunt was married to his cousin and they did not see each other again until ten years later in a Thai refugee camp. Marilyn was raised in the northern part of Cambodia in the northwestern Siem Reap Province, where she went to high school. Joseph was raised in Cambodia but attended university in Yugoslavia. In the late 1970s, he returned to Cambodia to Phnom Penh in the southeast because he wanted to help the people who had just come under a communist government--the Khmer Rouge.

Because they were educated, both Joseph and Marilyn were targeted by the government and forced into labor. While many people around him were slaughtered, Joseph survived because he had agrarian skills like "being able to catch eel in a bamboo shoot and planting rice." Marilyn survived in spite of herself--life had become so difficult that she attempted suicide repeatedly.

"When we were imprisoned in the temple, others were begging for their lives, but I was just relieved that finally all of this pain would be over," she recounted, showing me a photo of the temple that still stands in the village where she grew up. She was released after only a few days and put back to work.

They both escaped, making their way on foot over the border into Thailand. Joseph's journey took more than two months. Marilyn remembered that she had a relative (Joseph) who she believed was studying in Europe. She had hopes that, once she crossed the border into Thailand, she could contact him, and he would sponsor her to go to Europe. At the refugee camp in Thailand, she turned around and was surprised to see Joseph standing right behind her. "You have come to sponsor me?" she asked. He looked at her without recognition and replied, "Do I look like someone who can sponsor you? Look at my clothes--I don't even have any shoes. Do I even know you?" Marilyn removed her scarf and said her name, and as the pieces came together in their minds, they both cried.

Less than a week later they were separated and brought on buses back over the Thailand border into Cambodia. The bus released them into the forest and many people ran toward the river for water. Suddenly a landmine exploded and countless people were killed. Marilyn and Joseph each assumed the other had been killed. Stranded in the forest with no food and terrified of going to get water, they saw the situation as hopeless. Marilyn said that parents were forced to leave their young children to die because they could not carry them. Joseph spoke of people lying on the ground dying and begging for water.

There was a hole that they had to jump over that was filled with landmines. Those who were too weak fell into the ditch and were killed. Joseph crossed the ditch, and when he looked back he saw a child about to jump across by himself. Joseph crossed back over the hole and helped the boy across. He did this repeatedly because he could not think about watching anyone fall into the hole. When Marilyn got to the hole, someone helped her across because she was too weak to do it on her own.

Eventually, Marilyn and Joseph reunited. They made their way to Marilyn's mother's house. Marilyn's mother had been caring for refugees who had come her way with the hope that someone would be caring for her family in the same way. Arrangements were made for Joseph and Marilyn to be married because, Marilyn said, "we did not want him to get separated from me again." It wasn't quite that easy. After they married, they decided to escape again.

Joseph went ahead of Marilyn and her family to find the best way. Unfortunately he was not able to get back to them. Marilyn was determined not to lose her husband and set out after him. The path forked into three paths, and, having no idea which way to choose, she took a guess. Fortunately it was the same path Joseph had chosen. Finally they were reunited and walked to the refugee camp in Thailand. Marilyn commented to me that she is still amazed they kept finding each other. After 30 years, families are still reuniting in Cambodia, but she and Joseph were continually drawn together.

The Chans, on the left, are praying in Cambodia.
(photo by Melissa Hinnen)
It was in the refugee camp that Marilyn and Joseph converted to Christianity. The first Scripture they learned was Matthew 6:33: "But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Joseph said that at first they thought it just sounded good and was superstition. Soon their hearts were changed, and Joseph began teaching Christianity in the camp. Marilyn said that through Christianity they came to understand that it was not just that they were "lucky" to have survived and found each other in this ordeal, but that God had a purpose for them.

"Thank you for sharing your story," I said as they dropped me off at my hotel and handed me some fresh bananas. "The story is not finished," Joseph reminded me. "Please pray for our senior center."

Joseph's and Marilyn's love for each other, for Christ, and for all people--especially those living in the margins, "the invisible and discarded," as Marilyn says--is simply and authentically beautiful. Sometimes you meet people who open your heart just a little more in a way that is transformational. Marilyn and Joseph had that effect on me. Cambodia is blessed to have them sharing the love of Christ throughout their country. I am blessed that they shared their love with me, and I pray that the light of Christ will shine a little brighter in me thanks to their witness.

(I suggested to Marilyn that they write a book, and as it happens there is already a book written about them that is part of the United Methodist Women 2012 reading list: Because He Lives by Catherine Guess. Proceeds will support the senior center.)

*Melissa Hinnen is the information officer of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. 

To learn more about Marilyn's ministry in Cambodia, visit the missionary bio page of Marilyn Chan. To give to this ministry of love through the Advance, link to the secure page at Giving for Missionary Marilyn Chan.

To learn more about Joseph's ministry, visit the missionary bio page of Joseph Chan. Make an online donation through the Advance, the designated giving channel of the United Methodist Church at Giving for Missionary Joseph Chan.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks in Vietnam

On Thanksgiving Day, Melissa Hinnen, information officer for the General Board of 
Global Ministries, shared fellowship and fresh fruit with a Bible study group in Vietnam. 
(photo courtesy of M. Hinnen) 
It’s well past my bedtime here in Vietnam and I just spent my first Thanksgiving away from my family. I contemplated ordering the prix fixe ‘Thanksgiving’ meal that was being offered to tourists but I realized that it’s not the food I’m missing. It’s the buzz of the kitchen, gathering with family, everyone lending a hand to bring together a wonderful meal. So I ate a delicious one pot meal and was thankful for the nourishment, for the people who prepared it, and for the opportunity to spend time in this country where in spite of many obstacles, the United Methodist Church continues to grow.

After eating Thanksgiving dinner by myself in a nice restaurant, I met up with Global Ministries missionaries Ut Van To and Karen Vo-To and visited a house church. A dozen of us gathered around Van’s (our host), dining room table for their weekly Bible study. The group included new Christians who were deepening their faith as well as pastors from various churches in the area.

There was a time of welcoming and a time of praise music followed by a reading of Mark 10:46-53 – the story of the blind man, Bartimaeus asking Jesus to heal his eye sight. The people tried to shut him up but he kept calling out to Jesus in spite of the people getting in his way. As I sat around a table with people who have continued to seek Christ - meeting in homes as the first Christians did, I saw the story of Bartimaeus in a new way. Some of the people in the group told me that their families did not accept their new faith but that they decided to continue anyway. Others have witnessed to their families and like Bartimaeus, their families now follow Jesus with new vision.

After praying for and with each other, Van brought out plates of fresh fruit and we had some time for fellowship. I explained to them that today in America is a day to spend time with family and to give thanks for our blessings. Today I was thankful for their hospitality and for our global church family that continues to grow.

To learn more about Karen's ministry in Vietnam, visit the missionary bio page of Karen Vo-To. To give through the Advance, link to the Advance's secure page at Giving for Missionary Karen Vo-To.

To learn more about Ut's ministry, visit the missionary bio page of Ut To. Make an online donation to Ut's ministry through the Advance, the designated giving channel of the United Methodist Church at Giving for Missionary Ut To.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving Thanks

Randy Hildebrant is a missionary, a Church and Community Worker,
who serves in Nebraska, supporting small, rural churches. (Photo by Felipe Castillo)

This Thanksgiving will be very different for us. We will not be able to be with Aletha’s family in Kentucky. This may be the first year since we have been married, which is 17 years. So this year in Kentucky about 40 Everleys will gather at Faith United Methodist church in Bowling Green, Kentucky. This is the first year they have had Thanksgiving at the church.

In years past, we have always gathered at Aletha’s parent’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving. The adults gather at the table in the dining room. The grand and great-grandkids are scattered throughout the house. The menu is turkey and the usual trimmings, but always includes cheese pudding doubled. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only times we get to indulge in this tasty dish.

As we sit around the table, Baun will always ask each of us to tell what we are thankful for. He always tearfully expresses his thankfulness for God and family. After each of us has shared, he leads us in singing the Doxology. The beginning is my favorite: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow”

Each time we sing that, I think about all the blessings God has given us. We have so much to be thankful for. I would like to ask you to think about these questions.

What does your church do that you are thankful for?
Does it bring tears to your eyes?
Does it make you want to jump up and shout?
Were you once blind, but now you see?
Remember baptisms, confessions of faith (once lost, now found), and special communions?

Former Global Ministries staff, Brenda Connelly, admires quilt
with missionary Randy Hidebrant. (Photo by Rachael Barnett)
I challenge you as you have church Thanksgiving dinner to let it be more than the motions that we just go through, but let it be an experience that brings us closer to God.

I would like to share a story with you. Some 75 people gathered at a church on Wednesday night to share a Thanksgiving meal with their families. There was no charge for the meal. They decided to take meals to two older ladies in the neighborhood. When they called to tell them they were bringing them meals, the ladies could not believe they were not going to have to pay for the meal. They asked why anyone would just bring a meal and not ask for money. They were told that the church was having a Thanksgiving meal and wanted to include them. The meal was an opportunity for the people to invite unchurched friends to come to their church.

You never know who will show up when given an invitation. You might be surprised. They were.

Read Randy Hildebrant's bio and learn more about the missionaries who serve as Church and Community Workers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gratitude for Our Home Church

Stephanie and Ashley Norton are missionaries with the United Methodist Church.
They are working with the Mizak community in Haiti. This Thanksgiving they are
giving thanks for their home church in Michigan, US.
(Photo courtesy of Stephanie Norton)

We are calling this the year of the endless summer. Its hard to imagine people getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, when its over 100 degrees and sunny every day in Haiti. We are especially grateful for the love and support that Westwood United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo, Michigan gives us. 

Westwood is our home church, and is in a covenant relationship with us. This means that they support us with prayers, correspondence, and monetary donations. In Haiti, there is no postal system. The cell phone towers are shut off regularly. The internet is spotty at best. 

When we do get to travel to a city and use the internet, it is such a joy to read all of the emails from our friends and family at Westwood. It doesn't alleviate homesickness, but we feel connected. 

One of the products that is made at the HAPI (Haitian Artisans for Peace International) co-op is the gratitude journal. These are made from recycled cement bags. They are sturdy, durable, and attractive. 

I've been filling out a gratitude journal that I bought from the co-op with messages to Westwood, including this message: "Thank you for raising me, teaching me, loving me, and supporting me."

Stephanie Norton writes this from the mountainside community in Haiti. She and Ashley Norton are missionaries of the United Methodist Church through the General Board of Global Ministries. Link to Stephanie's bio.

HAPI is one of a dozen Advance projects uplifting and empowering the people of Haiti. Individuals can learn more about HAPI or shop in their store at
This card, depicting the children of the world,
is made by HAPI artists,
 and is for sale at HAPI. 

To purchase a bundle of small-sized gratitude journals, contact for pricing, ordering, and payment information.

Find out more about HAPI and the self-empowerment programs at

When giving to HAPI, Advance project #3020490, as always, 100 percent of your gift goes to the project.

To learn how you, or someone you know, can apply to serve as a young adult missionary.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Twirling in Joyous Dancing

Bill and Jerri Savuto, United Methodist missionaries, describe the celebration
as they complete their service at Maua Hospital in Kenya.
They have been missionaries for nearly 40 years. 

Without God we are nothing. Thus we are hopeful when you finish reading about our day, Saturday, the 5th of November 2011, you will give God all the glory and honor.

For us the event started at 11am when Stanley came to our home and asked us to come down to the Chapel.  Bill and I were dressed and ready and I had been praying I would not cry all day. I thank God for the answer to that prayer.

As we reached the side of the Chapel there were two lines of AIDS Orphan grandmothers and caretakers that faced each other with enough room for Bill and I to easily move between them.  Bill started down the right side shaking the hands of the women and I started down the left side. As I shook many hands I made a point of looking into their eyes and saw Jesus Christ in their beautiful, smiling faces.

After shaking about 15 to 20 hands I found myself whirling and twirling in joyous dancing, laughter, and joy with some of the women. The line of women went from the Chapel through the hospital gate to the first entrance to the School of Nursing (at least 700 women were in those lines) and then back up the school field to tables and chairs under a cover. As I walked to my chair, I pinched myself to make sure I was still alive and hadn’t somehow found my way to heaven but if this was heaven, I’m ready!..

Jerri planting a tree in Kenya.

Somewhere in-between the groups, we were taken by Stanley and Mr. Mailutha, the CEO of the hospital, to the Hope Companions office to plant two podocarpus trees that were dedicated to the work we had done with the AIDS Orphan’s and Hope Companions. First I planted a tree and then Bill planted one. We can’t think of a better way to be honored than to plant indigenous trees.  

Women dancing at the celebration.

On Saturday, Stanley Gitari and his Community Outreach team, AIDS Orphan’s workers, and Hope Companions staff gave Bill and me the most amazing, incredible farewell event. During the event Stanley told us that Scott Brown, a mission work team leader and wonderful friend from Memorial Drive United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, had given a large donation to pay for the event. 

Thus we are so very grateful to God, Stanley and his marvelous team, and Scott Brown for possibly the best day or our lives in Maua, Kenya.

To support the Savutos work, visit the Savuto's page.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Reenergized, Not Retired in Hong Kong

Missionary Joy Prim, (seated, far right) meets with re-tired missionaries from Hong Kong
and Global Ministries Asia and Pacific executive, Rebecca Asedillo (seated, far left).

The past week has been a celebration of the 160th anniversary of Methodism here in Hong Kong. This celebration brought in many people from many Methodist Churches worldwide and missionary friends who had served in Hong Kong through the years. There were meetings, tours, and events through the week and many of the guest ventured over to Macau yesterday.

Earlier this week Becky, executive secretary for Asia and Pacific and my regional executive, invited me to breakfast to join her and “re-tired" GBGM missionaries who had served here in Hong Kong. I accepted and joined them this morning.

We shared food but, more importantly, we shared fellowship. They all welcomed me with open arms, shared bits about their experiences serving here and what they had learned. They listened as I shared about my ministry here and briefly about how I ended up in Hong Kong.

One warned that, when it becomes home, Hong Kong has a way of never letting go of you. I smiled and shared it had already pulled me in and I wasn’t sure I wanted to ever leave. They shared about the many ministries they are currently involved in stateside, their thoughts as General Conference approaches, and generally enjoyed being with each other, if for nothing else than to remember and look ahead.

I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the amount of what they are still doing since they “retired from missions” to become “re-tired” -- as in re-treaded to keep going strong. Let me tell you this group of retired missionaries is really just a group of “re-tired" missionaries.

We spent 90 minutes together and, while I didn’t feel like I said much, I left full of life and reenergized about my time here. As we bid each other good-bye, one of the ladies commented about how nice it’s going to be to think of Hong Kong and think of a face....

Joy Prim (photo by Mary Beth Coudal)
Read more of Joy's blog at Living by God's Grace.
Link to the Missionary Bio of Joy Prim.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Showing Up

I came to Nicaragua as a lay missionary from the New England Conference for what was then going to be a year. But many of you who have felt a call know that God often has other plans for us if we are willing to say yes.

So that is the first and more important part of being a missionary, continually saying yes, over and over again to God’s call and direction. My pastor Rev. Joseph Crocker once said that what is required of us in life is to show up and the rest is revealed from there.

That first year I was here I worked really hard to solve all of the dental problems of Nicaragua, thinking that it was all up to me, and often worked myself into a tizzy when I realized I would not reach the goal. At the end of that year when I was heading back to the US to discern the future, I was visibly distraught and guilty at leaving so many new Nicaraguan friends in their dire state and social challenges.

A wise Nicaraguan named Salvador Ocón said some very important parting words to me, “Belinda,” he said, “It is wonderful that you have come to offer your dental skills and care for that big problem here in Nicaragua and extract lots of teeth. But what is more important is that you took a year of your life to live with us and learn from us and now you go back to tell your people in the United States about our reality. That is your gift to us.”
Missionary Dr. Belinda Forbes, left, cares for the dental needs of children in Nicaragua with dental team member,  Isa Guti, right. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Forbes)
These words helped to shape what would become now twenty years of ministry that has me working in everything from dental programs to partnership relationships between churches and now international relations that include the cultural exchange program that Anya (Patterson) and Kesley (Kelly) are participating in.

Kesley and Anya will be with young people from Norway, Kenya, Brazil, Madagascar, and the Philippines. It is my privilege to help them participate in this exciting cross-cultural program that is designed to motivate young people in global issues and solidarity.

So my role as a missionary has diversified over the years, it is still very technical and focused on a specific skill in dentistry that I was trained for, but the longer I am here, the more my role is about presence and accompaniment, mentoring and facilitating, and generally being a resource to connect people across miles and cultures in creative ways help to serve the poor and build God’s realm on Earth.

My faith community is made up of committed and talented colleagues here at AMC which include my husband Gerardo, but also the extended community on whose behalf I serve – my supporting covenant churches in the United States who have made a commitment to not only give financially, but make me a part of their local church ministry and use my missionary presence as an extension of their congregational life. That support and representation is essential for the spiritual nourishment of a missionary and to enable us to be effective in our work.

So to close I would just sum up this reflection in three points.

1. Remember to say yes, whenever God is calling.

Missionaries Alex Devoid and Belinda Forbes with youth leaders,
Kesley Kelly and Anya Patterson (Photo courtesy of Belinda Forbes) 
2. Try not to do mission all on your own – find your team both locally and globally, and find your replacements – whether they know it or not, I have three of them sitting right here with me.

3. The most important thing that God may want from you today is most likely NOT on your To Do list. God may be calling you to stretch your gifts and talents in new ways.

Then shall your light shine like the dawn.  Amen.

Belinda Forbes is a missionary of The United Methodist Church through the General Board of Global Ministries. Read more about Dr. Forbes at Dr. Forbes's missionary biography page. 

To find out more about the ACM, Accion Médica Cristiana, Christian Medical Action, link to:

Monday, October 31, 2011

Message from South Sudan

Dear Friends,

His name is John and he is sixteen years old. He accepted Jesus as his Lord when he was fourteen years old. His family wanted to send him to a witch doctor but he refused to go and deny Jesus, so his family abandoned him and put him out on the streets. He came to the church and was given a place to live, school fees for an education, and food to eat. He is now a leader in the church youth group, in the youth choir, and helps to lead worship. He works to clean up the church compound and helps the church women when they are cooking for groups at the church. When we first met John he would not smile, but just look at him now.  

(Photos courtesy of Libby and Fred Dearing)
Thanks to your gifts, John’s life has been transformed and renewed. 
Grace and Peace, Fred and Libby     

Libby and Fred Dearing are from Mafair United Methodist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee, part of the Holston Conference. Fred is serving as the district superintendent and Libby is advocating to build a United Methodist children’s home in Yei, South Sudan. They are Individual Volunteers. To find out how and when you can to train to become an Individual Volunteer, link to

United Methodist Volunteers in Mission teams have been traveling and are continuing to travel to South Sudan to serve with the Dearings. If you are interested in leading a team, please email the office at

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Difference is a Gift

Rev. Elizabeth S. Tapia, Ph.D., is director of mission theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. 

Here is an excerpt from her opening reflections at the meeting for Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Asian Church leaders held in New York on October 13, 2011. (Photo by Felipe Castillo)  

Another aspect is mutual respect. Each part needs to be treated with equal respect and care in order that all may  function together harmoniously. "If one member suffers, all suffer together, if one member is honored, all rejoice together."

This is damayan spirit as we call it in Tagalog. Isn’t this a theology of belonging and interdependency?

For Paul says, "You are the body of Christ, and individually members of it. Even the gifts of the spirit are to be used in this harmonious body. There are varieties of gifts, but all these are activated by the same Spirit." -1 Cor. 12:11.  

Difference is a gift. As all gifts are recognized, all may function in harmony within the body of Christ. And what is the missional principle in all this? It is the principle of love, “a still more excellent way.” 1 Cor. 13.

Our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Island traditions promulgate a theology of belonging and interdependency. There is room for everyone, there is food for everyone, there is mission for everyone. Ours is a strong communal sense of relating.

But as we live and work in an individualistic, capitalistic, and globalized society, communal sense is being eroded. Here is where we need to develop and nurture multicultural ministries and churches. Here is here we need to develop and nurture migrant churches. Here is where we welcome diversity as a key to congregational vitality.

As global migration has become a major phenomenon, diversity is becoming more and more a major reality in schools, business, travel, and politics. But  it seems Majority white churches are slow to welcome diversity;  monoculturalism rather than multiculturalism; assimilation, rather than self-expression; clausthropobic rather than cosmopolitan...

I want to believe that part of our participation in  God’s mission in today’s world is to offer and practice our communitarian way of life, spirituality of sharing and hospitality, and a theology of belonging and interdependency.

Learn more about the Asian American, Pacific Islander and Asian Church Leaders Gathering, held last week at the General Board of Global Ministries in New York City.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Communion = Common Union

This is Kara's view of the barrio surrounding the white church in Bogotá, Colombia. (Photo by Kara Crawford)

On Sunday, my church had communion. This was my first time taking communion here in Colombia, and, as taking communion for the first time with any group, it was a new experience for me. This church all waits and takes the elements at the same time, different than what I am used to (by-and-large) in the US, moving forward in an orderly, single-file line and take the elements as we receive them (well, or if we’re doing intinction, we dunk then partake). But two things really struck me this go-round of communion.

First, at some point during the service, the pastor said that we would be taking communion, and he then referred to it as a “común unión” – a common union. And this was the first time that I had really thought a lot about the significance of the term communion. He said it’s a point of common union – a common union with God, a common union with each other. I thought that this was a beautiful way to understand communion, that brought a new light to the subject.

Second, after church we had a potluck of sorts, to which many people brought food to share with the group. Now, for me, growing up as a United Methodist clergy kid, potlucks were an integral part of my church experience. In fact, at times, they have almost felt like more of a common union, a communion, than the actual Eucharistic act. Everyone brings what they have to a common table; we all share and partake, and participate in a familiar (both in the sense of being well-known and in the sense of being a family) act, sharing a meal together, sharing in conversation, and simply sharing.

This particular potluck was to celebrate that the month of September (I believe it’s the whole month – at least that’s my understanding) celebrates “amor y amistad” – “love and friendship” – here in Colombia. So the fact that I was able to, so early into my forming community here, partake in this familiar act of common union, of communion, of potluck, was incredibly significant to me, and I’m already beginning to feel more and more welcomed as part of the family. Because when you share and break bread with the family, whether in an act of Eucharist or in an act of sharing a literal meal, you are taking part in a connection that is greater than yourself. In this case, the connection was in the Methodist family, in the Christian family, in the human family.

Read more from Kara's blog. Or support Kara's work through Global Ministries
Kara Crawford is a missionary, a Mission Intern, of the United Methodist Church. (photo courtesy of Kara Crawford)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fleeces for Bolivian Church Women

In pink with the blue stole, Justina inspects fleeces and barters with vendors.
(Photo by Deborah Rissing)
I couldn’t help thinking of the nursery rhyme, Baa, baa, black sheep, as we shopped last week for sheep, alpaca, and llama fleeces. Instead of three bags full, we bought nine whole alpaca fleeces and two complete sheep skins for a total of about $40 US dollars.

It’s shearing time here. Once a year, farmers shear their wooly animals, and take the bales of fleece to a huge market at Kasani, a small border town that straddles Peru and Bolivia. We could have walked the eight kilometers (about four miles) from our home, but because of the massive crowds and the bulky wool, we took a minibus both ways – for about 60 cents round trip!

Textile lovers that we are, we were thrilled to learn of this market and to be able to shop there with an expert in natural fibers. Justina, Pastor Juan Paz’s wife, who taught us a lot about shopping for alpaca and sheep’s wool.

There were literally acres of alpaca, llama, and sheep fleeces and hides. They were sold raw, fresh off the animal, burs, grass bits, and dirt intact. The price per pound hinged on quality – length of fibers, and absence of knots and tangles -- and ranged from $3 to $5. By the way, the kinkier wool from the two sheep fleeces we bought, one black and one white, will be blended with the alpaca fibers during spinning to add strength.

We bought all this alpaca and wool for the women of the five Bolivian churches we serve. They’ll clean the fleeces by hand, spin it into yarn, then crochet or knit scarves, hats, stoles, slippers, leg warmers, baby clothes, hacky sack balls … for you!

When we return to the States, from November 20th to December 27th, we’ll be selling all sorts of natural-fiber, hand-made, wearable art. (To learn more, read Debbie's Blog published at her home church, the First United Methodist Church in Downers Grove in Illinois. Watch for more details in her posts there.)

Money raised in this effort will go toward the church goal of raising 20 percent, or $5,000, to help build a residential center for abandanados, extremely poor people abandoned by their families; usually these are seniors too old to work, but often children are abandoned.

This post was written by Deborah Rissing (photo courtesy of D. Rissing) and Jeffrey Wasilevich, long term Individual Volunteers, who began their two years of volunteer servie earlier in 2011. They work with Mision Fronteras in the Lake Titicaca region of Peru and Bolivia. 

To view a short video of their work, link through YouTube at Mision Fronteras.

Find out how you can serve as an Individual Volunteer through the General Board of Global Ministries.

Give to Individual Volunteers Making A Difference.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Constantly Learning and Sharing

At ARI (Asian Rural Institute) the struggle continues. We learned this past week the pork and chicken that we recently butchered shows traces of radiation. While the level of contamination is far, far, far below the government standards, it is still contaminated. As a school, we have decided to eat the meat.

This incident is another reminder that our decision to continue ministry in this area is not something to be taken lightly, but in fact is a difficult one that we must constantly ponder. It also reminds us that much of our ministry right now is simply about being here and continuing life here in this place at this time.

This reflection is from Satomi McClurey, who with her husband, missionary Jonathan McClurey, ministers with the people at the Asian Rural Institute (ARI) in  Northern Japan. (Photo courtesy of the McClureys)
Although troubles are coming and we have plenty of reasons to run, we continue to be here. I think I’m slowly beginning to understand incarnational ministry through this experience.

As we have joined with local people to work on ways to clean up the radiation and take back our community from the fear of the unknown, we must believe that people not only here but around Japan are being blessed; that a physical manifestation of God’s presence, of the good news, is being witnessed. These are the channels through which the gospel of Jesus Christ can then flow, giving the full good news of salvation through God’s grace in God's time.

At the same time, we are being encouraged to go forward...

To read more of the McCurleys' reflections, visit their blog at:

To support the missionary work of Jonathan McCurley, link to:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Palestinian Christian Remembers 9-11

Rev. Alex Awad, Global Ministries mission worker, reflects on hearing the news from New York ten years ago on the streets of Jerusalem. (Photo by Mike DuBose)
On September 11, 2001, my son and I were walking along one of the narrow streets of East Jerusalem when suddenly we began to hear voices coming from here and there. One voice said, "America is attacked!" Another said, “Take a look at the TV; New York is under attack!”  

Thanks to modern technology, people in shops in Jerusalem and in Bethlehem were watching the drama unfold in New York. Shopkeepers, customers, and tourists became glued to TV screens watching the savage attacks on the World Trade Center. When I entered one of the shops to see what the fuss was all about, my heart sunk and I felt sick at my stomach. I hurried home to watch the rest of the tragedy with my family. 

I was one of the many Palestinians who totally deplored the attacks. I knew from the outset that the majority of Palestinians who felt like me would be ignored by the media and the few Palestinians who celebrated the attacks would have prime-time coverage. In spite of the fact that not one of the attackers were Palestinians, Palestinians suffered much after the attacks.

Now, ten years after 9/11 and after America has carried out a decade of retribution on Afghanistan, Iraq, and radical Islamists around the world, it is good for Americans, and especially American evangelicals, to ask some hard questions and seek real answers—questions like, "Why did the attacks take place?"

Have evangelicals in the US followed the teachings of Christ in seeking and endorsing revenge on their enemies? What could evangelicals do today to bridge the gap between them and their Muslim neighbors? And how should we act in the next 10 years to shine with the light and love of Christ to the Muslim world? As evangelicals remember 9/11, I pray, God bless America and may America learn how to live at peace with the rest of the world!

Rev. Alex Awad is a Palestinian Christian who was born in Jerusalem and serves on behalf of Global Ministries as Dean and professor at Bethlehem Bible College and as pastor of the Jerusalem Baptist Church. To learn more about Rev. Awad, link to:  

To read Rev. Awad's reflections on the Arab uprisings and the Christian response, link to an earlier Global Ministries story at: