By J. Keith Zimmerman
Liberia Partnership Chairman
This past year Ebola raged through Liberia killing more than 4,800 persons and created an estimated 2,000 orphans as it shattered a weak economy and an inadequate healthcare system.
We have stayed in touch with our partners via phone and e-mails and kept our relationship with Liberia strong. Our efforts included promoting relief efforts to provide sanitation supplies and food. To this end, we have been able to send $3,000 in food assistance every other month since last September to help with the rising cost of food and lost income. Many churches also contributed to the Ebola crisis through UMCOR's International Disaster Response Advance #982450.
The Ebola outbreak required postponing all of our planned work trips. At this writing, we celebrate that Liberia was declared Ebola Free on May 9. We continue to monitor the situation and are hopeful that a trip planned for late December to work with water and sanitation trainings, install water filters and train young adult leaders in Liberia, as well as a second trip in January 2016 can proceed as planned.
Against all odds, building projects continued at Bethany UMC in Buchanan, and New Hope UMC in Paynesville. Thanks be to God that our partnership has persevered through the Ebola outbreak and will be essential in helping with the recovery and redevelopment in post-Ebola Liberia.
Pastor Salary Support for the Liberia United Methodist clergy continues to be a priority of the team. This need has been heightened significantly by the Ebola outbreak and many pastors are serving without salary, particularly in the rural areas. Gifts to Pastor Salary Support, Advance #15124A were $68,789.54 in 2014.
Scholarship Support remains a priority as well. At last Annual Conference, we began a new scholarship program through which a sponsor could send a child that was known by name to a school in Liberia for one year. The Ebola outbreak caused the schools to be closed until early March, but they are now open and study has resumed. Through the generosity of many persons in our conference more than 200 children are being sent to school. Our goal is to double the number of scholarships for the 2015-2016 school year. With so many Ebola orphans, our scholarship assistance is all the more critical. Each scholarship gift of $175 per child provides tuition and supplies, uniforms and shoes. In addition, our conference is supporting Roland Wotorson who is a junior at United Methodist University. Gifts to the Scholarship Advance #15125B in 2014 totaled $32,961.16. In addition to this, many churches and individuals made direct payments to assist students.
Last November, your Liberia partnership team co-sponsored a third gathering of partners in Farmington Hills, Mich., which was attended by nearly 100 persons. Presentations featured General Board of Global Ministries leadership and two live Skype sessions led by George Wilson, Director of Connectional Ministries, and Helen Roberts Evans, Director of Education and Ministry, from the Liberia Conference Center in Monrovia.
Preparations have already begun for the 2015 Liberia Partners Summit to be held at the same site Nov. 13-14. Bunny Wolfe and Keith Zimmerman continue to serve as co-chairs of the Steering Committee for the event.