There's a new movement in Holston

By Anita Henderlight

What started with a book has become a movement. A movement flowing from the Holy Spirit through clergy and laity alike. A movement to raise our voices on behalf of the children in south Sudan and the Darfur region of Africa - children who have witnessed or experienced rape, torture, and death.

The Sudan Action Team of Holston Conference has mobilized. In seven months time, a traveling display has been created, a brief DVD has been produced, a brochure has been written, and a Web site ( has been designed. These tools help convey the stories of Sudan's "lost boys" and the ongoing genocide in Darfur.

A study guide to accompany the book that first inspired us, "They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky," has been developed. Holston's own Rev. Mat Merker teamed with author Judy Bernstein to write the study guide. Small groups, Sunday school classes, and United Methodist Women circles will find it useful for sparking group discussions. The book will also be recommended during the "One Conference, One Book" summer reading initiative to be launched at Annual Conference in June.

More than 10,000 soccer balls, volleyballs, Frisbees, and hackey sacks were donated by youth and young adults attending Resurrection and Divine Rhythm. The "lost boys" who consulted with us had suggested this collection of toys to help lift refugee children out of depression and to foster a spirit of teamwork. In a part of the world where it is common for children to tote AK-47 guns, we hope that these gifts will inspire them to play with toys and not guns.

Communication between the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), general church agencies, and our team is ongoing. The district superintendent of South Sudan has visited the Knoxville Conference Center. Collectively, we are working to be good stewards of time, energy, and tangible resources. At the invitation of the General Board of Global Ministries, Kingsport District Superintendent Fred Dearing, the Rev. Tom Seay, and I will travel to Yei, Sudan, to meet with pastors, community leaders, and children later this month.

Members and friends of the Sudan Action Team represent Holston's many ministries, including the United Methodist Women, Bridge Refugee Services, Holston Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries, the Peace with Justice Team, the Missions Team, the Cabinet, and conference staff. We are available to give presentations in local churches or districts.

A conference Advance Special number has been established: #537 - "Hope for the Children of Sudan." The Advance Special number offers local churches the opportunity to participate in the movement through financial support. Action is key. Act to help the children of Sudan by educating yourself. Watch the film, "Hotel Rwanda," which offers a glimpse of what is currently happening in Darfur. Read the book "They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky" and host a discussion group using our new study guide. Contact our nation's leaders to insist on international intervention in Darfur. Visit our web site and the links listed there. Pray for peace.

The Rev. Don Hanshew sums up the work of our Sudan Action Team in the following way:

"John Wesley said 'God's time is always the best time.' It can easily be said that God's time has now turned our hearts and minds to Sudan and the genocide in Darfur. We are now making a difference because of the movement of God among us as a conference and as a Methodist people in Sudan. Through intentional acts of grace and mercy and strategic acts of peace and justice, we the people of Holston will do what we do best - 'bring good news to the oppressed, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and release of those who are bound' (Isaiah 61:1)."

Henderlight is coordinator of children's ministries. For more information, contact the Connectional Ministries Office toll-free at (866) 690-4080 or


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