“Will we get to meet the PIMIL students that we are sponsoring?” This question was asked of the director of Partners-in- Ministry-in-Liberia (PIMIL) in 2009 at the Sunday Adult Forum of an Episcopal congregation in the Columbus area when invited to speak on (PIMIL). The answer then was yes, and nine years later, the answer is still yes.

We are finally at a Kairos (God-timing) moment for a PIMIL-led mission trip to Liberia and everything is “ready, set and go!” Departure is set for April 5 from the John Glenn International Airport in Columbus. The travelers will return on April 17.

The PIMIL Council, the governing board of PIMIL, has organized the trip with the knowledge and support of Bishop Breidenthal and Bishop Jonathan Hart of Liberia. At the 139th annual Convention of the Diocese of Southern Ohio, the Convention acquiesced to the decision of the National World Mission Commission that “the best way to foster stronger ties with our fellow Anglicans in Liberia is to build upon existing and emerging activities initiated by individuals and congregations and not by a diocesan directed approach.” This trip is the first opportunity of implementing that resolution.

Bishop Hart has appointed the Rev. Terry Quoi to be the clergy oversight to the delegation and a hospitality committee also has been established to receive the PIMIL delegation. Four persons are making the trip led by the Rev. Abby Flemister, the Liberian-born director of PIMIL and member of St. Matthew’s. Others include Hannah Flemister (first granddaughter of Abby and Clifton Flemister), Mrs. Madeleine Trichel of Trinity, Columbus whose congregation is a strong supporter of PIMIL, and Dr. Mohammad and Mrs. Lubna Ahmad, long-time friends of Madeleine and dedicated workers in the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio and volunteers in Horizon prison work.

The theme of the trip is “Building Relationships.” The delegation will see, greet, hear and understand the students, parents, guardians, school officials, church and community leaders in their environment and interact with them, as well as in the learning environment of the students. The itinerary includes visits to Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, Robert’s Port, Mbaloma and Bong County. The hope is that a trip will be repeated every two years, with the purpose of building on the learnings identified for skills enhancement; and also that we might, with Liberia, map out a sustaining financial strategy for the support of the students in addition to volunteer contributions.

PIMIL had its beginning in 1998 as the Liberian Ministry at St. Matthew’s. The name was changed in 2005 in order to invite individuals and congregations in the diocese to learn of the educational plight of the children in Liberia to attend school, due to a brutal 14-year Civil War. PIMIL expanded its educational outreach in 2015 to include Ebola orphans when the deadly virus plagued the country in 2014 and left over 2,000 children orphaned. While other organizations, including the world community, are responding to the orphans’ educational needs, there are many others whose education future is uncertain. PIMIL continues to respond to the desire of these students that they might have hope to realize their educational dreams as endowed by God.

PIMIL is supported by over fifty sponsors in the diocese and in other parts of the United States. In the current academic year PIMIL is supporting 150 students, including 61 Ebola orphans. Our goal is to support at least 100 Ebola orphans.

The cost of the trip is borne solely out of pocket for the travelers. Cost of the trip is about $3,500 per person, which includes ticket, lodging, transportation, meals and educational gifts, i.e. maps to the schools of the children. If you would like to contribute toward the trip, you may do so by sending your contribution to: St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 30 East College Avenue, Westerville, OH 43081. Indicate in the memo PIMIL Mission Trip or PIMIL Trip. Meanwhile, we ask your prayers for the trip regularly at the Prayers of the People and at other times appropriate to you. Thank you! Expect a follow-up article in Connections about the trip upon the return of the delegation, along with sharing information about the PIMIL annual fundraiser in July. Learn more about PIMIL’s ministry on our website, www.pimil.org.

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The Rev. Abby Flemister is a retired priest at St. Matthew’s, Westerville. She also serves as PIML Director. Connect with her at aflemister@insight.rr.com.