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Lancaster, South Carolina


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And Act of Giving - December 2006

December 2006

An Act of Giving

On Tuesday, Nov. 14, four weary travelers from South Carolina returned from Africa. This was not the first trip to Africa by folks from South Carolina, but it was my first trip. The initial reason for my going to Africa was to attend the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church meeting for the first time outside of the United States. It was an historic gathering.
The United Methodist Church has a significant witness in that part of the world. The president of Mozambique addressed us and told of the influence that our mission schools had on his own life. He stated that he would never have gotten an education without the United Methodist Church. He thanked us for the difference we had made and were continuing to make in Africa.
Another of the incredible highlights of the trip was that President Nelson Mandela and his wife, Graca Machel, a life-long United Methodist, were the speakers for our closing banquet.
Graca Machel shared with us about their work to save the children of Africa. She is the former education secretary for Mozambique and believes that education for all children is the hope for Africa and the whole world. President Mandela spoke of how we will all be held accountable for the lives we live when we stand before God at the final judgment. We heard the prophetic voice in these two great people.
The United Methodist Church in Africa is growing. We attended dynamic worship services in Mozambique on Nov. 5 and in Zimbabwe on Nov. 12. To say it was inspiring is an understatement. The people were singing and dancing when we arrived and singing and dancing when we left. The joy we experienced from our brothers and sisters was uplifting. During the service in Maputo, the children gave us the gift of their happiness to take home by which to remember them.
In Mozambique and Zimbabwe people live in very difficult circumstances, but their joy is not found in material things. It is found in Jesus, and we witnessed that in a powerful way.
Another highlight of our trip was to visit Africa University and the United Methodist Mission at Old Mutare. As the banner in the lobby of the S.C. Conference Center states, Africa University represents hope for the future of Africa. We met with students and toured the campus. We worshiped in Chapel and experienced the powerful music from the Africa University Choir.
Dr. Jim Salley told us that the best way to learn about the contribution that AU is making to the continent is to hear from her graduates. A panel of graduates spoke eloquently of their lives after graduation from Africa University. Each person is committed to using their life for the greater good. One young man told of his ministry in northern Uganda that reclaims children that have been caught up in child soldiering. The boys are kidnapped and drafted into the various rebel armies, while the girls are used as sex slaves as well as soldiers. With him was a young woman who is now a student at Africa University. She quietly told us that she was one 200 girls kidnapped from a school. She began to weep as she stated that only 120 of the girls were still alive after the ordeal. Her story was heart breaking.
We visited the hospital at Old Mutare. Their primary patients are those preparing to give birth, newborn babies, and those who are struggling with HIV/Aids. The medical staff is working to protect the people from HIV/Aids, and to care for those who are dying from this terrible disease. While we were there, Bishop Niwhatiwa prayed at the bedside of a young man whose life is being claimed by AIDS.
We toured the work that South Carolina has undertaken to provide clean and sufficient water for Old Mutare. Through your faithfulness, the S.C. Conference is providing the resources needed to supply clean water for the school, hospital, childrenís home, church and those who live at the mission. Many people in the area have never had a drink of clean water. Water is needed to irrigate the crops.
We have more work to do at Old Mutare. I believe we can make the wells and reservoirs such that the people living there will have the water they need to survive. There are over 80 children being cared for by the Fairfield Childrenís Home at Old Mutare. We had the privilege to meet some of these precious children and those dedicated persons who are raising and loving them.
In the midst of such difficulty and struggle, there is hope. Rusty and I worshiped at the Hatcliff United Methodist Church in Harare. It is basically a shelter built on a concrete slab with a tin roof and no outside walls. Their dream is to build a church building, but so far all they have completed is the foundation. They estimate that they could build it for $16,000. Perhaps this dream could be assisted by us as well.
Let me close by saying that I was blessed beyond words to spend some time with our brothers and sisters in southeastern Africa. I believe we should continue to make Africa University and the United Methodist Mission at Old Mutare one of our primary mission emphases. The last two weeks have strengthened my resolve to do all within my power to make a difference.
Friends we have been blessed to be a blessing. I invite you to join me in these worthy causes for the Kingdom of our Lord.

Grace and peace,
Mary Virginia Taylor