Holston Missions 2008-2009
HOLSTON CONFERENCE'S work in Sudan began in 2005 and is ongoing, even while other mission projects are being completed. Beginning next year, Holston will focus on Sudan for Annual Conference offerings and other mission efforts.
Last month, Holston sent its second mission team to Yei, Sudan, where relationships have already been established and many Holston churches and individuals have already contributed to build a well, support the pastors and teachers, and buy land for a United Methodist compound.
Led by the Rev. Don Hanshew and Will Jennings, the 15-member team logged several accomplishments during the March 6-18 trip. They served 540 at a medical clinic, filling nearly 5,000 prescriptions. Most of the treatments addressed malaria, parasite-born illnesses, and respiratory infection. They hired a Ugandan physician and nurse to lead the clinic and provided 1,300 meals at the compound.
Some team members served as ambassadors, according to Danny Howe, who went on the trip with his daughter, Virginia Howe. Currently, the school at the United Methodist compound has an enrollment of about 1,000 children (up from 500 six months ago). "A large percentage of these children do not have parents due to war and HIV/AIDS," Howe said. Holston ambassadors began the process to help the United Methodist Church in South Sudan build an orphanage, medical clinic, and other facilities.
The list of other accomplishments fulfilled by the Sudan mission team is long, and includes paying the salaries of clergy from January to March, providing "play therapy" for 650 children, and delivering 300 textbooks, 101 Bibles, and 36 hymnals.
The numbers are easy enough to communicate. Members of the mission team say that it's difficult to communicate all that they saw in a few words.
"Our eyes were opened to a totally different culture in a very foreign land," Howe said. "But our hearts were opened to a familiar people - a people that share the same needs to exist from day to day. We met with people with whom we share the same need for love, joy, and peace in our lives... We realized that we had been called to something more than band-aids and books. We are the United Methodist Church in South Sudan, the Sudan that seeks God's help in restoring life in a land literally stripped of hope by civil war."
In the conference office, team members spoke of 104-degree weather; mothers who are happy to see their children get at least one meal a day; and a dirty community water hole where people drink and all suffer from parasitic worms. (The new well is scheduled to be running by April 15.)
In a sermon at Fountain City UMC on March 25, Hanshew spoke of the smell of "cooking smoke from nearby huts," of "body heat and sickness," and of anointing oil used at a service of healing attended by hundreds.
"These scents spoke a language in the air of a hard life, of death, and of the hope that can only be found in the resurrection of Jesus," Hanshew said.
He referred to John 12:3-8, in which Mary anointed Jesus' feet with costly perfume and wiped them with her hair. He spoke specifically of the last person who came through the healing service in Sudan - after she had been prayed over and anointed.
"I watched Jesus walk by me with a sick child on her hip, a humble smile, her eyes focused on home, and the fragrance of anointing oil surrounding her," Hanshew said. "My prayer today, and every day, is that we catch the fragrance of a life, a death, and a resurrection."