Create Friendships and Experience Mission First-Hand
The Women’s Division and Mission Volunteers office of the General Board of Global Ministries are forming a partnership that will enable women from the United States to build friendships and experience mission for one to two weeks in Zimbabwe, Uruguay, Cambodia, Sierra Leone or Cote D’Ivoire.
The goal of the program, called Ubuntu eXplorers, is to enable women from the U.S. to understand and share together the daily life, struggles, culture, challenges, and opportunities of women from one of these countries. It will give members from the 1-million member United Methodist Women a first-hand look at the programs and projects supported by their annual giving of approximately $20 million.
The program will begin April 2006 with a first trip to Zimbabwe. Trips to Uruguay in August and Cambodia in September will follow. In 2007, the Division and Mission Volunteers will host trips to Sierra Leone and Cote D’Ivoire.
“Ubuntu” is an African word and proverb meaning, “I am human because you are human.” According to Ubuntu psychology, “Sharing ourselves and our gifts with others optimizes our collective and individual humanity. Even in the sharing and the giving, the individual or ‘other’ group receives the gifts and the glories of humanity.”
Jeanie Blankenbaker, Assistant General Secretary for Mission Volunteers, says that the idea of Ubuntu eXplorers came as an answer to a prayer from Grace Musuka, coordinator of women’s work for The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe.
“A couple of years ago, Grace asked me if it would be possible sometime for just women to come to Zimbabwe to worship with her women, to share in laughter and cry in sadness, to enjoy each others’ company in Christian love, as sisters of faith, letting the women in Zimbabwe know they were not alone,” explains Ms. Blankenbaker. “When we called Grace to ask if she’d still like us to come, she immediately said, ‘Can you come yesterday?’”
Karen Prudente, executive for international opportunities with the Division, said that grassroots women’s organizations, supported by United Methodist Women, will host the visitors.
“Participants will learn about the cultures of the area, travel, pray, sing, cry, teach, work, listen and tell stories, and engage as Christian sisters,” she explained. They will visit and have a mission experience at institutions such as schools, clinics, women’s training centers, hospitals, nurseries.”
The experiences will differ depending on the trip chosen.
“Ubuntu eXplorer volunteers might teach at a workshop where local women exchange tips on Bible Study and devotions, basic health and nutrition, artisan crafts, singing and liturgical dance,” according to Ms. Prudente. “Ubuntu eXplorers will be asked upon their return to share their mission and faith experience with their local church, UMW unit, district, conference, schools of Christian mission, work location and other organizations.”
Team leaders for the first three pilot programs have been selected by the Division and Mission Volunteers and team members of 10-12 women from across the United States, with at least one member being a young adult, will be recruited. Before the trip, team members will have a day of orientation in New York City.
Costs will be under $2,500 (inclusive of airfare, local transfer and immigration fees, room and board, local host arrangements and local workshop expenses, and a $200 registration fee towards a pooled fund for Ubuntu scholarships). Additionally, team members will be asked to provide one suitcase of resource materials suggested by the host organization.
For more information and registration forms, please consult http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/ubuntu or http://gbgm-umc.org/vim/ubuntu.htm . Interested women may also call Mission Volunteers at 212-870-3825 or the Women’s Division at 212-870-3911.
Date posted: Jul 11, 2005