Jesus’ “Parable of the Yeast” (Matthew 13:33) informs us of the nature of the yeast used in baking. When some of the yeast is mixed with flour, the yeast rises until the whole batch of dough rises. This parable significantly applies to the story of Partners-in-Ministry-in-Liberia (PIMIL) and its ministry in the United States and in Liberia.

PIMIL had its genesis in 1998 at St. Matthew’s, Westerville, as a response to a need to support economically challenged families in Liberia to send their children to school. A Civil War of 14 years (1989 – 2003) had interrupted the operation of schools, destroyed infrastructures and disrupted public services. With other congregations, families and friends joining the efforts of St. Matthew’s, the ministry gathered $3,900 and sponsored 33 students.

In 2014, another crisis, the outbreak of the Ebola virus in Liberia and in the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone and the Republic of Guinea, led PIMIL to extend its mission to include the educational needs of the orphans of the aftermath of the deadly disease. In Liberia, 2,000 children were left orphans. As of the 2017 – 2018 academic year, with a budget of $30,000 yearly, PIMIL is sponsoring 150 students, 71 of whom are Ebola orphans.

It has long been the desire of supporters of PIMIL in the United States to visit the students they sponsor and to interact with their parents and the guardians, church members and community leaders of their school environments. That desire became a reality in April 2018 when a five-member delegation, sponsored through St. Matthew’s, made a historic mission trip to Liberia to meet, greet and to learn from the PIMIL families of Liberia.

The ten-day trip took the delegation to three of the eight counties where PIMIL is sponsoring students: Montserrado, Cape Mount and Bong Counties, covering a total of about 420 miles. The theme of the trip was “Building Relationships.” That theme was realized in various ways; in the setting of workshops, interacting with one another, at meals, at presenting school supplies to the schools, and receiving beautiful clothing from students, parents and leaders of the community, all in mutual appreciation and gratitude of the ministry.

Former students now employed and making valuable contributions to society and to PIMIL, said when introducing themselves, “I am a beneficiary of the PIMIL scholarship assistance program.” One member of the delegation was delighted to know of the extent and impact that PIMIL has made in the lives of the students over the years and called for a reunion of PIMIL students at the next mission. More of such “epiphanies” were extolled when another member of the delegation found out that for three years, PIMIL had supported the daughter of one of the priests who was escorting us on the trip. That daughter is now in college.

The purpose of the workshops was to provide the opportunity for members of the delegation and the students, parents, guardians, liaisons, church and community leaders to better understand the PIMIL program, in order that a better response to the ministry’s guidelines might flow between Liberia and the United States. The workshops reviewed several aspects of the ministry, such as PIMIL’s mission, history, organization, governance, operation and funding.

At the end of the workshops the delegation received appeals from current and new parents and guardians to include their children in the PIMIL program. Surprisingly, an appeal was also received from a hotel worker at the Corina Hotel in Monrovia where the delegation was lodging, when the hotel worker heard about the delegation’s mission in Liberia. One can understand this national compassionate cry for financial assistance, even in the workplace, when recognizing Liberia’s rating by the United Nations Development Program puts the health index of Liberia in the low human development category – positioning it at 177 out of 188 countries and territories.

PIMIL receives appeals through the year and currently has 30 applications requesting financial assistance. Let me share a few with you:

“This is to kindly appeal to this humble body of Good Christians who over the years [have deemed] it necessary that Liberian children get better education through their support. PIMIL has made significant history in Liberia by giving assistance to low income earners, especially Episcopalians. Your humanitarian gesture has spread through the Episcopal Church of Liberia and this has moved me to ask for assistance for my daughter, Roselyn Gray. Roselyn is eight (8) years old and [is] a smart first grade student. … Please see … her first grade marking period result [and her photo]. I would be very pleased were you to assist me in paying her tuition.”

“I have prayed to God to speak to you during this event that my daughter becomes a beneficiary of PIMIL because God has blessed this Fundraising Event. Your efforts and financial support for Liberian children has spread all through the Community of Monrovia/Liberia. May God richest blessings be upon this fundraising event of PIMIL Council as they continue to spread Jesus Ministry here on earth through your financial support to less fortunate family here in Liberia.”

“My two children are Emmanuel T. Davowa, age 9, in the 2nd grade and Allieu S. Davowa, 14 years in the 8th grade respectively attending the Vine Yard K. Academy Junior High School in Caldwell, Liberia. Having observed PIMIL humanitarian financial assistance to parents with low-income salary and others who have benefitted from your financial assistance, I pray that God will touch your hearts to grant my children this blessing. Emmanuel want to be a Pastor and his hobbits is reading; Allieu want to be an Engineer and his hobbits is also reading.”

“May God many many blessings be upon the PIMIL Council as you promote Christ’s ministry here in Liberia.”

The delegation returned to the United States more determined to work for the PIMIL program, having seen the tremendous difference this “shoestring” and “grassroots” ministry is making in transforming the lives of students in Liberia – like yeast.

The ninth annual PIMIL International Luncheon and Silent Auction Fundraising will be held on Saturday, July 21 from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at St. Philip’s, Columbus. I hope that you and your family will join us – you will not regret it! All the activities are fabulous – the children will have the opportunity to interact with the “talking drums” of Liberia and you will hear the presentations of the delegates that went to Liberia. Women will experience the activity of the head wrap. There will be wonderful bidding items at the silent auction, and a galore of wonderful jewelry at the “Make An Offer” booth. There will also be intercultural activity and lots of delicious food of both American and Liberian cuisine, an international cookies table, and much more!

If you cannot join us but wish to make a donation to this vital ministry, send a check to: St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 30 East College Avenue, Westerville, OH 43081. Gifts of any amount are appreciated. And we invite you to visit the PIMIL website (pimil.org) for more information.

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.

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