Bishop Done Peter Dabale of Nigeria was the special guest speaker at the Fall Conference of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church. Dabale gave his witness to Hope for the Children of Africa during opening worship of the Conference, held at on Saturday, November 11 at Albright College, a Methodist-supported college in Reading, Pennsylvania. Bishop Peter D. Weaver of the Eastern Pennsylvania Area welcomed Dabale, who serves as the Bishop of the West Africa Central Conference of The United Methodist Church and who resides in Nigeria
"Jesus said, 'I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10b),' " began Dabale. "This has been our theme since the beginning of church." Nigeria, the most populated country in Africa, has 870 United Methodist congregations with 392,000 members. It is a nation where conflict, hunger, poverty, and disease have waged war on the population, especially the children. The United Methodist Church in Nigeria has established more than 23 programs to bring abundant life to its people.
"We have introduced a literacy program so everyone can read the bible by themselves. And we introduced medical programs. In Nigeria, we worship starting at 9:00 in the morning and end at 2:00. So, I tell everyone to bring your lunch," he said with humor. He continued with seriousness, "But someone who is hungry cannot worship for four hours. And so we have introduced agriculture programs to feed the hungry." Dabale's qualifications to lead these spiritual and material ministries include a certificate in nursing and a certificate in general agriculture, as well as a Doctor of Divinity degree from Gbarnga School of Theology in Liberia.
English is the second language of Dabale, who speaks five languages, and it is the national language of Nigeria. "In my church (Nigeria), there are 17 languages, one of which has 15 dialects. There are so many needs in my Conference. One of the greatest needs is education. So far, we have trained about 200 people." He continued, "Again I ask, how are we going to help people to have this life and have it abundantly? In 1998, the bishops (of the United Methodist Church) founded an initiative to address the great needs."
The Bishop's Initiative on Children and Poverty and its extension, Hope for the Children of Africa, is now in its third year. With a goal of $12 million, this initiative provides care for children displaced or orphaned by war and disease, to rebuild schools and clinics destroyed by war, to restock medical supplies in hospitals, and to develop health and nutrition programs. Besides these material ministries, the appeal also provides spiritual ministries by rebuilding churches and church-related community centers and by establishing new faith communities.
"AIDS is rampant in my Conference. We are in need of prayer and support. Money will not do it alone. Put your trust in prayer. Pray for the church in Nigeria." Dabale reported on religious conflict rampant in northern Nigeria, "There was a call for Muslims to not vote for infidels (non-Muslims). We formed the Christian Association of Nigeria. Christians fasted and prayed; Christians won elections in many Muslim strongholds. Prayer is first for those who want life and want it abundantly."
"We are starting an orphanage, and our technical program is looking for technicians, engineers, and plumbers who can teach solar technology and other skills. Our hospital is 600 kilometers away, and there is a shortage of medical personnel. We need to build clinics. Are we going to give this life to others as we have it for ourselves? If you have abundant life, we need it. Pray for the country that has abundant life and does not want to give it out."
At the conclusion of Dabale's witness, Bishop Weaver honored him with the presentation of a stole. "This stole is woven with the faces of children of Nigeria, the United States, and from all around the world. It is offered as part of a covenant to you in our love for the children of the world. We have established a goal of raising $230,000 in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference toward building an orphanage in Nigeria, in hopes that the children of Africa can have life and have it abundantly," said Weaver.