|Church seeks ‘Union with the Congo’|
Children at Union United Methodist Church in Conway, S.C., place water bottles in a symbolic well to represent how much money has been raised for their Union with the Congo project. A UMNS photo courtesy of Union United Methodist Church.
A UMNS Report
By Michelle Scott*
Feb. 26, 2009
"The bad news kept coming—every time we turned on the TV, we heard about the economy," said the Rev. Scott Johnson as he described the climate in which Union United Methodist Church embarked on a campaign to raise funds for the church's new initiative, “Union with the Congo.”
"With every news report, we felt like Elijah saying, "Pour another bucket of water on the altar!" All of that would prove the irrationality of what we are doing," said Johnson, Union’s pastor, referencing the biblical story about the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 18:30-38 where God sends fire to consume an offering placed on an altar soaked with water.
Union United Methodist Church in Conway, S.C. took on a new challenge this past Advent season. Faced with critical building needs, including fixing an uneven foundation, the church sought a way to make the needed repairs.
Instead of looking to finance only what they needed to fix their building, they believed God was challenging them to do something different. "God was moving us to a whole other way of thinking," Johnson explained.
This was the seed for what would become "Union with the Congo," the church's initiative to not only raise capital funds, but also raise an equal amount to construct wells and latrines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in partnership with the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
Illnesses caused by the lack of clean water and sanitation kill more people in Congo than malaria or HIV/AIDS. Providing access to wells and latrines is the main way to stop these illnesses from spreading.
Local and global results
Funds raised through the Union with the Congo project are split between Union's building needs and the project in the North Katanga Province of Congo. "This commitment communicates that we are equally concerned with addressing other people's needs as we are our own," he said.
The Union with the Congo project was a focus in worship throughout the Advent season. As the offering funds came in, they added to a well they were constructing on the front porch of the church to represent how far they had come in reaching their goal.
In all, this small-town church of approximately 150 members raised $14,200 for Union with the Congo—sufficient funds to cover needed building repairs at home and dig one well and latrine in the Kamina area of Congo.
"Extraordinary is the only way I can describe this kind of giving," said Sam Dixon, UMCOR’s top executive, about Union generosity in the midst of hard financial times. "It is both humbling and inspiring to witness this kind of commitment and sacrifice to help others."
Over the next few years, Union has made a commitment to raise $140,000 for Union with the Congo, resulting in $70,000 each for facility repairs and nearly 10 wells and latrines that will serve approximately 3,000 people in total.
UMCOR works through its offices in the Democratic Republic of Congo and through The United Methodist Church there. UMCOR Congo operates agriculture, water, sanitation, health, and girls' scholarships programs, mostly in the North Katanga region.
Donations can be made to the Democratic Republic of Congo Emergency, UMCOR Advance #198400. Donate through local United Methodist churches or mail checks to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Write the Advance name and number on the check memo line. For credit card donations, visit UMCOR's Web site at www.umcor.org for online giving information or call (800) 554-8583.
*Scott is the executive secretary for UMCOR communications.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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UMCOR: Democratic Republic of Congo