Mission board will use wind-up radios to spread information
STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS) - A real "hands-on" approach to mission was demonstrated during the April 3-6 United Methodist Board of Global Ministries meeting when each director was given a wind-up radio to use as a fund-raising tool.
For those living without electricity or easy access to batteries, such a radio can provide an important source of information from the outside world. And that is exactly how the board intends to use the radios in a new mission project.
Sharon Maeda, a board executive, explained that the project is the result of the church's desire to address the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa. "The role of the church goes far beyond ministry to the sick and their families," she said.
In Zambia and Uganda, a massive public information campaign has helped "stem the tide" of HIV/AIDS cases, she said. By providing the wind-up radios to small communities in other parts of Southern Africa, the mission agency hopes to provide facts and helpful information about HIV/AIDS.
Made by Freeplay Corp., the radios - which also can be solar-powered - cost the board about $50 each. Directors are being asked to raise funds to supply a minimum of 10 each. The board also is working to supply small portable radio stations, retailing at $5,000, which literally fit in a suitcase. With 30 to 50 watts of power, a station can be operated on electricity, with a generator, or even through the cigarette lighter in a vehicle.
In a related matter, directors were asked to immediately write letters to their Congressional representatives regarding legislation against low-power radio stations. The Federal Communications Commission had approved low-power radio this year, but legislation against that initiative has moved through Congress.
The board considers low-power radio stations "the last and best chance for the voiceless in America to have a voice of their own." Examples of some of the United Methodist partners who could benefit by operating such stations include a native peoples' community center connected to a church in Nome, Alaska; a Haitian congregation in Brooklyn; the Oklahoma Indiana Missionary Conference and Red Bird Missionary Conference; and various inner city ethnic communities.
In other business, directors approved several large grants to help with relief and recovery efforts in Sierra Leone, an African country devastated by civil war. A total of $200,000 -- $50,000 annually for four years - will be used to subsidize the United Methodist nurse and eye clinic programs, and $450,000 will be disbursed over a three-year period for food and water distribution. Another $45,000 will be used to purchase a generator and vehicle for the Sierra Leone Annual Conference's relief office.
Among the many other projects and grants approved were $1 million for hospital renovation projects in the Philippines, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Mozambique and India; $484,000 to the Orphan Trust of the United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, which mainly serves children whose parents have died of AIDS; and $250,000 to support a children's nutrition project in five feeding centers in and near Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Preliminary approval also was given, once a source of funds is located, for an eventual grant of up to $2.5 million to complete all unfinished construction projects of the United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe.
The board's Millennium Fund approved seven project proposals in the United States, totaling just over $1.9 million; two projects in Africa, totaling $810,000; and two projects in Europe, totaling $100,000. It was announced that the fund would be depleted after these grants are made, but that fund-raising to replenish the Millennium Fund will continue.
After a presentation on the board's efforts to stand in solidarity with the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico, directors filled out postcards to send to President Clinton, asking for an immediate end to U.S. military practice on the island, a return of the land to its people and the provision of developmental aid.
In personnel matters, the directors nominated the Rev. Randolph Nugent to another one-year term as the board's general secretary, even though his tenure exceeds the 12-year limit on top executives imposed by the denomination. As the head of an agency, Nugent's nomination must be confirmed by the General Council on Ministries. Directors also nominated Stephen Brimigion to another term as treasurer, asking that he, too, be allowed to exceed the 12-year rule.
Two new executives also were elected - the Rev. Edith Gleaves of Durham, N.C., as deputy general secretary for mission personnel and the Rev. Youngsook Charlene Kang as deputy general secretary for mission contexts and relationships. The Rev. John McCullough, currently associate general secretary of mission personnel, announced his resignation, effective June 1,during the meeting.
In a separate March 31-April 3 meeting, the Women's Division of the Board of Global Ministries took a number of actions. Those included: