The word, “failure,” is defined in numerous ways and has many synonyms: “lack of success, non-fulfillment, coming to nothing, falling through;” and yet the word conveys a sense of optimism and challenge as well. A liturgy found in the Book of Common Prayer speaks of failure in that way: “We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone” (page 836). This article focuses on the possible aspect of failure being a “challenge” to a ministry, rather than on the failure of an individual.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone. (BCP, page 836)
Partners in Ministry in Liberia, or PIMIL, was established at St. Matthew’s, Westerville, in 2005 as an outreach educational program to provide financial assistance to Liberian families who could not afford to educate their children as a result of the Civil War. At that time, St. Matthew’s was a large congregation in the diocese that held three services on Sundays, averaging an attendance of 300 persons. The church had robust and myriad activities and organizations. PIMIL was the only overseas organization, starting with 10 sponsors sponsoring 33 students and donations of $4,000 annually. Interest in PIMIL grew around the diocese and members of St. Matthew’s were invited to tell the story of PIMIL at the adult forums of other congregations.
However, a year after PIMIL was officially launched, there were signs of discord brewing in the congregation over the issue of sexuality. This issue was not of St. Matthew’s making, but originated from the 2003 General Convention of the Episcopal Church and its budding efforts to deal with same-sex unions. This effort brought a stunning division in the Episcopal Church and its congregations. The discord was sad. Dioceses and congregations were divided on the theology of human sexuality. At St. Matthew’s, the issue divided the church, resulting in the then-rector and three-quarters of the members leaving to form a new congregation. Ongoing ministry support for activities at St. Matthew’s dwindled, and departing members announced that they would no longer support PIMIL as their ministry.
However, God would demonstrate His faithfulness of love, care and grace towards the children of Liberia as He did to the children of Israel in their journeys in the wilderness. Moses reminded them: “During neither these forty years your clothes have not worn out nor your feet swollen up” (Deut. 8:4). The Apostle Paul’s exhortation of God’s grace in the church in Ephesus would be realized for the PIMIL program to the children in Liberia in their circumstances: “To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of: to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, for ever and ever! Amen (Eph. 3:20-21).
Not only has God provided the financial assistance for the children of Liberia to continue in school uninterruptedly but has also increased and expanded the challenges of PIMIL. The ministry now includes assistance to Ebola orphans and children who lost a parent as the result of the deadly virus when Ebola struck Liberia in 2014. In the current academic year, PIMIL is sponsoring 182 students, 101 of whom are Ebola orphans. PIMIL has the highest number of student sponsors (75) since it was established in 2005.
PIMIL is voluntarily supported. Our fundraising goal this year is $15,000, and PIMIL has set a new goal to sponsor even more Ebola students who are not in school. Won’t you please join us? Sponsors receive a photo of their student, a student’s letter and a letter from the parent/guardian of the student, and much more.
Our annual fundraising event held each July is when PIMIL raises most of its funds for the year. This year we are celebrating our 10th fundraising event, and to mark this milestone in the fundraising efforts, our guest speaker will be the coordinator of the Ebola orphans in Liberia, the Rev. John A. Sackie, Sr. The theme of the event is “Bloom Where You Are Planted,” based on Jesus’ parable of the Five Talents (Mt. 25: 14-30). The event will be held on Saturday, July 20 at St. Philip’s, Columbus, from 12:30 to 3:30 p. m.
There will be wonderful activities, like the African drum circle, and the food, as always, will be delicious! If you cannot come but would like to make a donation, (any amount is welcomed!) send your donation to St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 30 East College Avenue, Westerville, OH 43081. In the memo write: PIMIL. You will receive a receipt for your donation and a statement at the end of the year of your contribution to PIMIL. PIMIL operates through St. Matthew’s 501c (3).
The Rev. Abby Flemister is a retired priest at St. Matthew’s, Westerville, and serves as PIMIL Director. Connect with Abby at email@example.com.