Ministry in Liberia is in consonance with the 1835 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, when the Church declared itself to be the “Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society”. Just a year later, the Episcopal Church established a mission to Liberia by sending several missionaries. Thus, Liberia is believed to be the first foreign mission of The Episcopal Church of the United States. Now nearly two centuries later, numerous activities have been established by the Episcopal Church, such as the instrument of the covenant committee and support of Cuttington University. Dioceses have also established companion relationships.
In the Diocese of Southern Ohio, two instruments have been the driving force in carrying on ministry in the Diocese of Liberia. The first is the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the General Convention in 2006 and subsequently, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the General Convention in 2015. Second, the Report on Liberian Discernment to the 139th Diocesan Convention by the National and World Mission Commission encourages us “to foster stronger ties with our fellow Anglicans, build upon existing and emerging activities initiated by individuals and congregations … The Diocese of Southern Ohio will continue to encourage grass roots relationships with the Episcopal Church of Liberia …” It is exciting to see the bonding of congregations, individuals and families with the Church in Liberia in several ways: infrastructure, pen pal relationships, relief, and education.
Through participation in PIMIL (Partners-in-Ministry-in-Liberia), St. John’s, Worthington, has undertaken the repairs of the Episcopal elementary school in Robert’s Port which was severely damaged during 14 years of civil war in Liberia. Funds raised by St. John’s have replaced doors, secured the windows, provided arm-chairs for the students in the classrooms and now is replacing the unhealthy and damaged asbestos roofing with quality corrugated zinc. The principal of the school wrote, “Your intervention in the reroof project of the Elementary School was timely … the hooks that should hold the asbestos sheets are very old now and we experience constant leakages whenever there is a storm.” The Bishop of Liberia, the Most Rev. Jonathan B. B. Hart expressed his gratitude to St. John’s rector for the project: “This comes to express thanks and appreciation to you and members of your church on behalf of the Episcopal Church of Liberia for your contribution to the ministry of our church … Please be assured of our prayers for you and the members of your congregation so that we will have a cordial working relation.”
PEN PAL RELATIONSHIPS
A pen pal relationship is established between the Sunday school children of Trinity, Columbus, and the Sunday school children of St. John’s Irving Memorial Episcopal Church in Robert’s Port. Letters, photos and gifts have been exchanged. The vicar of St. John’s acknowledged the special funds from the Trinity School to celebrate the joy of Christmas: “Over two hundred and fifty children participated; including other churches and non-Christians.” A pen pal relationship also has been established between a PIMIL student, Diana Yengbeh, and the Sunday school of the sponsoring congregation of St. Andrew’s, Pickerington.
With the outbreak of the Ebola virus in Liberia in 2014, the diocese, through the National and World Mission Commission, joined the PIMIL-led rice campaign to send over $4,000 to the nearly 90 PIMIL families to sustain them during the epidemic. A beneficiary expressed gratitude for receiving the charity funds: “… All hopes of celebrating Christmas in the ‘regular Liberian way’ was dim. … It was used to place food on the table of my family.”
PIMIL broke the previous 100 student barrier by sponsoring one hundred and seven students in 2015. This shattering of the “glass ceiling” was possible because of successful annual fundraising of $15,000 that gave PIMIL the opportunity to offer scholarship assistance to 16 of the over 2,000 Ebola orphans to attend school. Here too, the diocese, through the N&WM Commission, offered a grant to assist the effort. The new goal of PIMIL toward Ebola orphans is to support 100 students. We are well on our way toward that goal, raising $16,292 at the PIMIL 7th annual International Luncheon and Silent Auction fundraiser in July. Proceeds from this fundraising benefit both post-Civil War students and Ebola orphans.
The Rev. Abby Flemister is a retired priest at St. Matthew’s, Westerville. She also serves as PIMIL Director. Contact Abby at firstname.lastname@example.org.