Quick disaster response to partners in need
When disaster struck Sierra Leone this summer, their partners in The United Methodist Church in Norway took swift action.
The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Zimbabwe cooperate in a development program called “Partnership in Development.”
It’s a bold program that turns the decision process on its head with initiative and responsibility rooted in participating villages. Congregations in Norway are paired with villages to support community development in constructing wells, schools, teachers’ homes, farm improvements, health clinics, roads and bridges. The program requires a high level of local participation and extensive training of villagers.
Partnership in Development has brought impressive results that are even noticed and recognized in state-level development departments in all participating nations.
The program also creates deep bonds between the people in the congregations in Norway and the communities in the partnership countries, strengthened by prayers, exchanges of letters, pictures and drawings and team visits.
This relationship meant that when the mudslide hit Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown in August, United Methodists in Norway took notice. News spread fast and just days later an impromptu call for donations went out to all congregations.
The fundraising efforts included $200 USD raised by children in the United Methodist congregation in Arendal, Norway. When the children heard one Sunday about the disaster and about how Sierra Leone children were now homeless, the following Sunday they made waffles, coffee and other treats to sell. The money was sent to the Norwegian church’s Board of Global Ministries and transferred to Sierra Leone.
Within two weeks, $18,000 USD was raised and sent to The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone. An additional $21,000 USD was relocated in the Norwegian church’s mission funds and transferred. Being an annual conference with only 47 small and medium congregations, the $39,000 USD was a result that impressed everyone involved.
By early September, Bishop John Yambasu and the Sierra Leone Conference made a commitment to maintain a long-term presence in two disaster-devastated communities. The $39,000 contribution from Norway will be used for that response, Yambasu said. Some of the immediate needs to be addressed are helping displaced children return to school by paying their fees and buying clothes and supplies.
United Methodists also are working on relief efforts through the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone, which views environmental care and education as part of the long-term response.
Ellingsen is the head of communications for The United Methodist Church in Norway. Phileas Jusu, director of communications for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone, contributed to this report.