In Liberia: District Conference as a Mission Volunteer Experience
New York, NY, December 28, 2009--United Methodists in the St. John River District of The United Methodist Church in Liberia took more than report forms when they went to their district conference in early December.
They also took tools and wheelbarrows; they came to stay three days, and, along with conducting worship and Bible study, to work as Volunteers in Mission, digging a building's foundation. Three hundred arrived.
The gathering at Camphor Mission, near Buchanan, Liberia, is a clear indication of the broad appeal of the Volunteers in Mission (VIM) movement. Significantly, the new building at Camphor will be used in part to house volunteers from other places for short periods to provide time and talents to the multiple ministries based there.
Camphor, begun in 1947 by Liberian Methodists, today includes a school, clinic, and church. The facilities were badly damaged across almost 15 years of civil war starting in 1989.
"The Liberian volunteers who are pivotal in restoring Camphor Mission is a dramatic reminder that VIMs don't need to cross an international boundary or an ocean," says the Rev. Clint Rabb, who heads the Volunteers in Mission program at the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. "Volunteers in mission are motivated by a desire to serve Jesus Christ and the church by doing what they can do best, freely, conscientiously, and in a variety of settings."
The men and women who gathered at Camphor in the early days of December 2009 worked with staff of the school in carrying dirt to backfill the foundation of what will become a residence for other VIMs.
They also helped to dig a hole, eight feet deep and 15 feet by 15 feet square for a septic tank. Women and men competed to see which group could transport the most dirt the fastest. The women won every race.
Some of these same volunteers will be back to work with a United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) team from the East Ohio Annual Conference, expected in January 2010 to begin construction of the guest house. The laity in the district is increasingly taking responsibility to assist with projects at Camphor, a move encouraged by Bishop John Innis of the Liberia Annual Conference.
United Methodists form a major faith community in Liberia, where the schools and health institutions of the church have made substantial contributions to the nation as a whole over many decades.
The technology available at facilities such as Camphor is often not state of the art, but ingenuity goes a long way in meeting challenges. For example, in preparing the ground for the new guest house, instead of using jackhammers or explosives to remove rock, old tires are burned next to large stones. The fire makes the rocks brittle enough to be broken up. Bricks for the new building will be made at the mission.
The J.F. Yancy School, one of three United Methodist schools in the Buchanan area, has some 350 students in kindergarten through ninth grade. A third lives in on-campus dormitories. The George Z. Dean Medical Clinic, begun in 1980, serves the medical needs of students in the school and, since the renovations possible at the end of the civil war in 2003, is reaching out to the surrounding community. The clinic has a staff of six.
The school has an agricultural program that plants gardens from which produce is grown for use at the mission and for sale.
Camphor Mission receives assistance in varieties of way through mission partnerships, including a close relationship between the Liberian Annual Conference and the East Ohio Conference. Additional information on this relationship is available online: East Ohio Conference. First United Methodist Church of Peoria, Illinois, has a particular interest in Camphor and devotes a section of its website to the Camphor Mission.
Camphor Mission can be supported through The Advance, the designated mission giving channel of The United Methodist Church: Camphor United Methodist Mission, Liberia, Advance #12548A.
One hundred percent of each gift to reaches The Advance mission or ministry of your choice, givetomission.org.
Information for this article was adapted from the Camphor Mission blog and website, with additional data from Danny and Kathy Dickriede, a physician and pastor respectively, who serve at Camphor with the support of the East Ohio Conference.
Date posted: Dec 28, 2009