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(At right) Taryonnoh N. Doe, vice president of Liberia United Methodist Women, shows an Ebola awareness poster as part of the UMW’s anti-Ebola campaign.

Photo by Joseph Zoegar, UMNS

(At right) Taryonnoh N. Doe, vice president of Liberia United Methodist Women, shows an Ebola awareness poster as part of the UMW’s anti-Ebola campaign.

A close-up of an Ebola awareness poster shared by the Liberia United Methodist Women.

Photo by Joseph Zoegar, UMNS.

A close-up of an Ebola awareness poster shared by the Liberia United Methodist Women.

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Liberia UMW feeds minds, stomachs during Ebola crisis

By Julu Swen and Kathy L. Gilbert
Sept. 26, 2014 | MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS)

United Methodist Women in Liberia are handing out love, food and information to communities stricken by Ebola where the denomination has churches.

Sarah Q. Nah, president of the United Methodist Women in the Liberia Annual Conference, said they are especially concerned about the Kakata-Farmington District where 18 church members,  including two pastors and the president of the United Methodist Men’s group, have died.

UMW started distributing rice, vegetable oil and other staples to communities quarantined by the government’s attempt to stop the spread of Ebola. The women also conducted training sessions on preventative measures, such as hand-washing and avoiding contact with the sick or bodies of those who died from Ebola.

“Please extend the work of the church beyond the church and its doors to all Liberians that you encounter during your anti-Ebola campaign,” the Rev. Rudolph Merab, conference lay leader of the Liberia Annual Conference, told the women.

“Women are the most powerful entity in the church,” Merab said. “We trust you will touch lives where we did not make any impact and lift the name of The United Methodist Church of Liberia to higher heights.”

Nah said the food packages will give hope to people afflicted by the Ebola virus, especially quarantined family members.

She cited Dolo Town, which was quarantined by the Liberian government because so many people living there are infected with Ebola, as one community the women want to reach.

The lockdown led to a standoff between the people of West Point and the security forces of Liberia.

“It is heartbreaking,” Nah said.

United Methodist Women helping

The Liberian campaign is funded by International Ministries of United Methodist Women.

“Our sisters overseas want you to know that they stand with you as you fight the Ebola virus,” Nah said.

Funding comes from the mission giving of United Methodist Women members throughout the United States. Funds are administered by International Ministries staff in the national office of United Methodist Women, said Selby Ewing, communications director for United Methodist Women.

Carol Van Gorp, executive for International Ministries, said supporting Ebola outreach through women makes sense “because women are the ones who are caring for the sick and the dead.”

"Through the work of United Methodist Women Regional Missionary Finda Quiwa, a grant has also been given to the youth and young adult department of the Liberia Annual Conference to widen the church's educational outreach in that area.

"United Methodist Women are honored to be able to walk with them through funding, regular prayers and encouragement," Gorp said.

United Methodist Women of the Liberia Annual Conference have received $6,300 for Ebola Virus Education to help prevent this incurable disease from spreading further. Donations can be made online to project #3019240  to make emergency grants like this possible.

UMW is one of the divisions in The United Methodist Church in Liberia diverting their budgets to fight Ebola. Others include the human rights monitor, community services, deaf program and children’s ministries.

How You Can Donate

Donate online to the United Methodist
Women's efforts to fight Ebola.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief has to date sent $400,000 in grants to Sierra Leone and Liberia. Donate online.

Read full coverage of The United Methodist Church’s response to the Ebola outbreak at www.umc.org/ebola and donate online to United Methodist Communication’s efforts to help the denomination distribute information about the disease.

UMCOR response

As the outbreak continues to worsen in West Africa, the United Methodist Committee on Relief has sent nearly $400,000 in grants to Sierra Leone and Liberia. Funds support the construction of holding units and the purchase of tents, personal protective equipment, training for health staff, public messaging about Ebola and safe handling of bodies.

UMCOR executive Francesco Paganini says that whenever possible, funds are sent to United Methodist health boards to purchase healthcare and other supplies locally.

United Methodist missionariesHelen Roberts-Evans, who serves in Liberia, and Beatrice Gbanga, who serves in Sierra Leone, say life has changed because of the Ebola crisis. “The markets are closed. Schools are closed. Public gatherings are cancelled,” reports Roberts-Evans. 

United Methodist bishops John G. Innis and John K. Yambasu, of Liberia and Sierra Leone, respectively, ask donors who want to help fight the Ebola outbreak to please give through the International Disaster Response Advance, #982450, to ensure “the appropriateness, timeliness and quality” of the materials.

The bishops have asked UMCOR to help manage the supplies going to West Africa to provide quality control, standardized shipments and to avoid clogging ports with unmonitored shipments, said Melissa Hinnen, director of content and public information for the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.

Messages of hope

The anti-Ebola information campaign was launched on Aug. 22 with funding from United Methodist Communications. The $10,000 grant was used to print banners, T-shirts, flyers, vehicle stickers and recorded radio messages in English and in various local vernaculars.

The Rev. George D. Wilson, Jr., director of connectional ministries and chair of the Ebola task force for the Liberia Conference, said task force members have distributed the resources to households, in market places and to commercial drivers and motorcyclists.

“In some cases it became unsafe when crowds would swarm around us to receive printed material,” he said.

Wilson estimates the printed resources have reached more than 500,000 and radio messages were heard by 70 percent of the population of 3 million.

“Candidly speaking, Ebola remains a major health challenge for the people of Liberia. We count on your usual moral support and prayers as we fight the deadly Ebola virus. The Crisis Communication Grant proved very helpful in the fight against the virus but what is critically needed now is to help those who until now cannot afford to purchase basic materials such as buckets, chlorine, etc. needed to help prevent the disease.”

Swen is the United Methodist Communicator for the Liberia Annual Conference. Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn. (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.