By WILL ZANT
How can local congregations pursue international mission opportunities through the United Methodist Church? That is a question the North Georgia Conference is seeking to answer.
“Bridges of Mission” is a new conference initiative that utilizes our connection of churches. Whether you are part of a large membership church or small membership church, you can help make a difference for the Body of Christ.
We chose the image of a bridge because bridges are points of connection. This model for international mission is rooted in our connectional system that works together to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and to bring healing and wholeness to a broken world. Each year, our conference will roll out a new bridge.
At Annual Conference in June, Uganda became the first bridge. We have some exciting things to report. Currently, we have three initiatives that will develop this relationship. The first is that we are sending churches to Uganda. From Dec. 27-Jan. 6, St. James UMC (Atlanta) will lead a group of Boy Scouts to Humble Place United Methodist School.
While on a visit to Uganda last year, Rev. Jonathan Holston of St. James overheard that Uganda has one of the most vital Boy Scouting programs on the continent of Africa. St. James UMC, too, has a strong scouting program. When Rev. Holston returned and delivered the news to his church, the excitement spread.
The two scouting programs are now exploring projects and activities for their time together in December. Rev. Holston has opened this trip to members from other churches who would like to attend. Please contact Rev. Holston if you are interested. Or if you or your church is interested in a future trip, you can also email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second initiative focuses on construction projects and sponsorships. We are currently fundraising for a security wall at the Humble Place United Methodist School in Mukono, Uganda, and for sponsorships of children. Bishop Mike Watson continues to be instrumental in development of this school that reaches some of the world’s most vulnerable children. Many of the children at this school sing in the Hope for Africa Children’s Choir which dazzled our 2009 Annual Conference. But these children need our help. Bob Kisubi, the director of communications of the East Africa Conference, reports that without a security wall these children face real dangers. He says,
“In the recent past a number of child abuse cases have been reported in the community including abductions, sex abuse and outright killings. The community in the neighborhood has a practice of walking, and sometimes riding, through the school premises unrestricted, which in a way compromises the security of the children and property at school.
The school management considered the situation and found it appropriate to construct a perimeter wall and erect some wire fencing as a means of restricting unauthorized access to the school premises and promote security of both property and the people, especially the resident children.”
Given these realities, our Uganda Bridge team has made this wall our top priority. The cost of construction is $31,000. In addition to the security wall, sponsorships of $1600 per year enable children to attend school and receive meals.
The third initiative focuses on education. We are currently working with the General Board of Global Ministries to host an “Evangelism and Church Growth Academy” for the pastors and laity throughout East Africa. This will be a two week contextualized academy that will train pastors and laity in evangelism, United Methodist history and theology, stewardship and missions. We are also creating an internship program for young adults in the North Georgia Conference. More details are forthcoming on this new initiative.
We pray that “Bridges of Mission” will help your churches connect in the work of making disciples of Jesus Christ in international settings. In 2011, we will roll out our next bridge which will be to El Salvador. Please contact Stephen Soulen if you would like to know more about this exciting opportunity. Working together, we can continue making the world our parish.
Rev. Will Zant serves as pastor of North Springs UMC. You can contact him by email at email@example.com, or call 770-396-0844.
This article recently ran in the North Georgia Advocate, the official print source of the North Georgia United Methodist Conference. For more information about the North Georgia Advocate, or to subscribe, please visit www.ngumc.org/advocate or call 678.533.1376.