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California church gives big to Africa University

"The saints that have gone before us worked in the church and this is an opportunity for us to give back," says the Rev. Robin Mathews-Johnson, pastor of Watsonville First United Methodist Church (UMC).  Watsonville First UMC is giving more than a tithe (tenth) from the $1.5 million in proceeds they received from the sale of property the church owned.  "The gift has been received by us from the work of the former leaders, and now we're passing it on," says Mathews-Johnson.

Pastor Robin (far left,) with church staff in the Watsonville Music Program.

The total gift to the California-Nevada Conference is $200,000, with $100,000 benefiting Africa University and the Annual Conference Session offering celebrating the school's 25th anniversary, and the other $100,000 for mission and ministry in the California-Nevada Conference.  

The church's Leadership Circle asked Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño for suggestions for the tithe for the annual conference priorities, and approved her prayerful suggestions. Mathews-Johnson says, "We are hoping to support the future by this gift."

Sanctuary in the Zimunya East Circuit in Mutare District (a church supported by Africa University).

Of the $100,000 going to the Africa University offering, $87,000 will be used towards efforts the university has launched to raise funds for scholarships, building of new dorms and other facilities, and to begin new programs and strengthen existing programs. $13,000 will be used to complete the building of the sanctuary in the Zimunya East Circuit in Mutare District (a church supported by Africa University through the office of the chaplain).

The $1.5 million came from the sale of the property of the former Freedom Community Methodist Church, which was started by Watsonville First UMC as a new church start in 1958.  The church operated for 40 years and the membership dwindled and they merged with Watsonville First in 1998.  Watsonville first became caretakers of Freedom Community and rented the property to an alternative high school that received money from the state in 2014 to build their own building.

Children and Youth in the church sanctuary learning drumming during the Watsonville Music Program.

In 2016, the church sold the property and placed 100 percent of the proceeds in the United Methodist Foundation setting aside $100,000 for church maintenance, and tithing $200,000 to the California-Nevada Conference.  They also have an endowment.  Mathews-Johnson says, "Everything is God's, it's God's money, it's God's church…There are so many ways you can use your money."

Watsonville First UMC has served the community from the banks of the Pajaro River since 1852.

Mathews-Johnson says they are looking for an opportunity for their church to deepen their relationship with Africa University.  She also says they are inspired by the ministry of San Francisco's Glide Memorial UMC and the outreach from that church into their community. "We're a small church, but we are mighty."

Dr. Larry R. Hygh, Jr., director of communications, Cal-Nevada Conference

A World Service Special Gift is a designated financial contribution made by an individual, local church, organization, district or annual conference to a project authorized as such by the Connectional Table. Current World Service Special Gifts projects include the Africa University Endowment Fund, the Leonard Perryman Communications Scholarship for Ethnic Minority Students, the Methodist Global Education Fund, the National Anti-Gambling Project and the Lay Missionary Planting Network.

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