A cornerstone of healthy communities: the clinic

In Liberia, a United Methodist primary health-care clinic provides a life-saving diagnosis and medication that other health facilities missed.

By Tatenda Mujeni

February 16, 2021 | ATLANTA

All hope was lost for Douboma Wieh and her husband as they returned to their Planpa Town village in Liberia. The 46-year-old mother and grandmother had visited four clinics before traveling to the city as a last resort, seeking treatment for a mysterious month-long illness.

Douboma recounts: “At the hospital, the staff said I had coronavirus and no medicine was available. I was getting worse every day, so my husband carried me back to our village to die, since we were out of money.”

Douboma was stigmatized because of her suspected coronavirus diagnosis while she and her family waited for her imminent death. After Douboma lost consciousness, her family and some young men from the village carried her in a hammock on a four-hour journey to the United Methodist clinic in John Dean Town. The health-care workers there did not turn her away.

Douboma Wieh was carried in a hammock to the John Dean Town Clinic in Bassa County, Liberia, by her family and volunteers.

Following proper infection prevention protocol, they assessed and retested her. It turns out, Douboma did not have COVID-19; she had malaria. They started her on antimalaria medicine intravenously.

The health-care workers at John Dean Town met Douboma at her point of need. This facility in Liberia is one of more than 100 United Methodist primary health care (PHC) facilities serving communities throughout Africa. Primary health-care centers are the cornerstone of health service delivery globally, with PHCs serving as the first point of health care for an estimated 80% of the population. Often located in rural communities, PHCs provide essential services, such as prevention from infectious diseases, prenatal care, immunizations for mothers and their newborn babies, as well as ongoing disease diagnosis and treatment for the entire community.

Steady, consistent work equips clinics for better health care

Ensuring that United Methodist facilities throughout Africa can provide essential services, such as the lifesaving malaria diagnosis and treatment that Douboma received, is one of the goals of the Health Systems Strengthening program of Global Ministries. Over the last decade, through the United Methodist Committee on Relief and, in the last quadrennium, through Global Health, Global Ministries has invested the gifts of United Methodist donors to build better health services, better-equipped facilities and networks of dedicated health workers who care about raising health standards in their communities.

Two days after receiving treatment at John Dean Town Clinic, Douboma was sitting up and feeling much more like herself.

These goals are reached through partnership with the regional United Methodist health boards that coordinate health care on behalf of the United Methodist conferences they serve.

A major goal of the Health Systems Strengthening program is to provide facilities with trained health-care workers who are equipped to work safely and effectively. In the era of COVID-19, this means training in infection prevention and control as well as providing personal protective equipment for patients and health facility staff.

Another goal is to outfit facilities with essential medications and other medical supplies. Stocking facilities makes lifesaving treatment and prophylaxis from diseases readily available at United Methodist health facilities at little or no cost to the patients.

When asked about the effect medications and supplies have on the community surrounding the 16 HSS-supported facilities in Nigeria, the Health Board Coordinator, Dr. Ogbu, stated: “Availability of essential drugs at the rural health facilities helps to change people’s attitudes toward their health behavior. Once they are aware that there are drugs at the facility, they present earlier, before complication sets in.”

Working on adequate infrastructure

Adequate health infrastructure is vital to successful health service delivery. The HSS program rehabilitates United Methodist facilities like John Dean Town Clinic so they meet the minimum standards for care as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). These core standards include a safe and stable building, a reliable power supply, a clean water source and access to functional toilets and latrines.

With ongoing support to primary health-care facilities throughout Africa, Global Ministries’ Health Systems Strengthening program provides hope for patients like Douboma who nearly lost her life.

“Thank God for the Methodist people,” Douboma responded. After just two days of treatment, she was feeling more like herself. “Thanks for the good, good medicine they can bring every time. Thank God for all the people who send this good medicine and for the good doctors for poor people. Yes!”

Tatenda Mujeni coordinates Imagine No Malaria and shares oversight of the Health Systems Strengthening program as a program manager with the Global Health unit, General Board of Global Ministries.

Global Health initiative exceeds goal of reaching 1 million children

November 13, 2020 | ATLANTA


Dan Curran for Global Ministries

770-658-9586, DanCurran@CurranPR.com

Mary Lou Greenwood Boice Director of Communications, Global Ministries

404-788-0624, mboice@umcmission.org

Working to positively impact the lives of women and children around the world, Abundant Health, The United Methodist Church’s global health initiative, has achieved and exceeded its goal of reaching 1 million children with lifesaving interventions by 2020. According to data reports, the United Methodist contribution to the global effort to end preventable deaths of newborns, children and adolescents reached 1,075,732 children as of October 2020.

Naomi Lebbie, a young woman from Southern Province, Sierra Leone, became a hardworking petty trader although her hope had been to be a teacher. Naomi married young and her first two babies died – one at the hands of a traditional birth attendant and the second she miscarried. It was during her third pregnancy that an outreach team from the Jaiama Health Center, a United Methodist facility focusing on maternal, newborn and child health, visited her village. She enrolled in its prenatal program and, when she developed complications, did not hesitate to stay there for care. A few weeks later, Naomi gave birth to a healthy son. “My dream of becoming a mother has come to reality,” she said.

Since the launch of the Abundant Health Initiative in 2017, United Methodist Global Ministries has invested over $26 million in 50 countries and mobilized millions in partner in-kind contributions, reaching over 1 million children and adolescents with health interventions in thousands of communities across Asia, Africa, North America and Central America. Data from around the world, collected monthly and evaluated each quarter, enables the Global Health unit to provide more comprehensive interventions in response to current challenges.

The United Methodist Church recognizes that every child is filled with promise and potential. Its mission to protect children from preventable causes of death and disease aligns with global efforts. As a sign of its commitment, Global Ministries joined the United Nations-sponsored Every Woman Every Child initiative originally designed to reach 16 million children by 2020. This initiative is supported by government, private sector, nonprofit and faith-based organizations who are committed to realizing healthier, more productive futures for children, their families and communities across the world.

Abundant Health focuses on five core areas impacting the health of children throughout the world: ensure safe births, address nutritional challenges, promote breastfeeding, advance prevention and treatment of childhood diseases and promote children’s health and wholeness.

“As United Methodists, we find care and concern for children rooted in our Social Principles, where we talk about putting children and their families first,” said Roland Fernandes, general secretary (chief executive) of United Methodist Global Ministries, the worldwide mission and development agency of the denomination. “Back in 2016, the General Conference affirmed that children have the right to food, shelter, clothing, health care and emotional well-being, as do adults, and these rights are theirs regardless of actions or inactions of their parents or guardians.

“Through Abundant Health, we are promoting the physical, spiritual, mental and emotional health of children worldwide,” Fernandes continued. “The initiative’s name is derived from the Gospel of John 10:10: ‘I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.’ We are committed to living into our promise to children by imagining abundant health for every child in every place.”

“We go to places where there is no one else, where no one else wants to go,” Interim Global Health team lead and program manager for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health,” Kathleen Griffith said. “When I think of the impact of Abundant Health, I think of the women like Naomi who had a successful pregnancy, people who walk three hours to get to a clinic and the mothers who work so hard to bring their children for immunizations.”

She added, “What is inspiring to me about the Abundant Health Initiative is that so many more children are now more likely to survive their fifth birthday; more children are thriving through healthy meals, substance-use prevention and positive youth development programs. Our support has improved the quality of care for mothers and babies in some of the most challenged places in the world.

“Through the initiative, we help people learn that in order for a child to be healthy, it takes more than prescriptions, more than staff in a hospital,” Griffith said. ‘It takes a holistic community response.”

“Our assistance to improve provider capacity and strengthen health systems has helped revitalize UMC mission hospitals and clinics in many low-income countries,” noted Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, chair of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). “Clearly, when we harness our efforts across the global UMC network, we make enormous progress toward our shared goals. Our continued success depends on unwavering commitment to effective, equitable and sustainable child health service delivery strategies so that children not only survive but also thrive as they grow into their adult life.”

Approved at the 2016 UMC General Conference, the initiative builds on the success of Imagine No Malaria, the United Methodist health initiative that significantly reduced the number of childhood deaths caused by malaria.

According to Global Ministries’ leaders, the motivation to launch the Abundant Health Initiative emerged in part from an extensive survey of people in 59 countries. Data showed that the top global health challenges are maternal and child health, water and sanitation, hunger and nutrition, and access to health care.

Global Ministries leaders are available upon request for interviews about Abundant Health.

Donations to support the program are being accepted at https://advance.umcmission.org/p-490-abundant-health.aspx.


About the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church

Global Ministries is the worldwide mission and development agency of The United Methodist Church. Founded in 1819, Global Ministries today supports more than 300 missionaries in over 70 countries, including the United States. It has personnel, projects, and partners in 115 countries. Learn more about Global Ministries by visiting www.umcmission.org or by following www.facebook.com/globalministries and twitter.com/umcmission.

Partnering for abundant health across Nigeria

By Christie R. House

Patience Zakari, a young mother in rural Nigeria, was afraid to take her children to a clinic when they were sick with fever. She feared the cost of treatment, given her limited budget, which made it difficult to pay for essentials like food and school fees. She preferred, instead, to go to a local chemist to buy cheaper malaria drugs, but they didn’t always work. 

When her twins, who were still babies, became ill, she feared they would not survive. She found a clinic operated by the Nigerian United Methodist Church, which was screening for and treating malaria at no cost to the patients. “I, my twins, and my other children all received treatment and are well again. Now that we are receiving free malaria treatment, I no longer fear going to the clinic,” Zakari said. 

Patience Zakari received medication for herself, her twins, and her other children from the Imagine No Malaria project in Nigeria. She had been afraid to go to clinic for a proper diagnosis because of the cost, but the UMC Nigeria health clinic provided health assessments, proper medications and education about preventive methods and use of bed nets for free. Photo: UMC Health Board, Nigeria

A strong, integrated health system that families and individuals can trust to give the best care possible is not a given in many parts of the world. In Nigeria, United Methodist health facilities in rural areas are working to improve their outreach into the communities they serve. 

The Nigeria Rural Health Program, operated by the Nigeria United Methodist Health Board, oversees 16 rural health clinics in four annual conferences within the Nigeria Episcopal Area. It also supports the newly established Jalingo Hospital, constructed in 2017, thanks to an Imagine No Malaria (INM) Hospital Revitalization Grant. 

A Health System Strengthening operational grant from Global Ministries’ Global Health unit supports the operations required to manage the health board’s country office. The grant provides salaries for key program staff, like the health board coordinator, Dr. Godfrey Ogbu. It makes possible supervisory visits and on-the-job training of facility staff at the supported health facilities. This integrated and comprehensive approach to the health needs in Nigeria increases access and improves the quality of services delivered. 

A year-long Imagine No Malaria program that began in June 2019 provides long-lasting insecticide bed nets, prophylaxis to prevent malaria, and medications and supplies for diagnosis and treatment. Education encouraging behavioral changes to prevent malaria are included in this outreach to community members. 

Reaching patients with services and treatments they need 

The Nigeria Health Board team travels to United Methodist primary health-care facilities to equip and empower clinic staff with technical information to increase their response. Moses Alikali, who serves as the INM officer in Nigeria, reports that he and Ogbu visited the 16 facilities to monitor malaria programs four times between June and December last year, despite the difficult terrain. Alikali outlines the details involved in one of these visits: “We are making sure that the beneficiaries are receiving free malaria treatment, that health facility staff are adhering to World Health Organization malaria treatment protocol, and that proper documentation of patients and accountability of malaria commodities are recorded.” 

Moses Alikali conducts a clinical review meeting in the Northeast Conference of the UMC, looking at malaria statistics, and data gathering and reporting. Photo: UMC Nigeria Health Board

Through collaboration with their Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) and INM teams, the Nigeria Health Board works toward quality care for all patients who visit the UMC facilities, particularly pregnant women and children under five, who are the most vulnerable to disease. Women who come for prenatal visits can receive medication that will protect them and their babies from contracting malaria. They can also be tested for HIV and if they test positive, start antiretroviral medications. With proper treatment, HIV-positive mothers have a good chance of delivering HIV-free newborns. 

This work is vital because Nigeria accounts for 10% of the world’s maternal deaths and ranks 6th in the world for mortality of children under age five. Malaria infection during pregnancy raises risks for both mother and fetus. Maternal anemia, fetal loss, premature delivery and low birth-weight are a few of the dangers. 

But the first step is gaining the trust of families so that mothers are aware of their need for the services and come for prenatal visits. 

Marta Sunday, who lives near the United Methodist Taka Wurkum facility, found the treatment she needed after she’d tried others: “I was sick for weeks. Even though I was receiving treatment from another health facility, I didn’t recover. At Taka Wurkum, the doctor checked me and explained the reasons why I was still sick. He said either the malaria drugs I bought from the market had expired or I wasn’t taking the right dose. Within two days, the medication he gave me changed everything, and I am feeling good. My baby is calm and healthy since she was treated in this facility. I thank the mission clinic and the doctor in charge who has taken the time to see that these services reach us.” 

The Nigeria Health Board also received essential medications and equipment from a HSS Primary Healthcare grant to support gaps in medications and supplies in the targeted health-care clinics. In addition, funds will support the rehabilitation of seven health facilities in Nigeria. 

Along with facility revitalization and provision of essential supplies, the HSS program invests in staff development to improve the quality of care. Through a Global Ministries-funded obstetric training event held in the Philippines, a doctor and nurse team received hands-on Caesarian-section training that they brought back to Jalingo Hospital and are sharing with their colleagues. 

Working with communities for health improvement 

Alikali says community involvement is key for the successful implementation and sustainability of malaria control intervention. “Already in the communities are infrastructures, like community leaders and church leaders, who provide avenues for entry,” he noted. 

In its first six months, the INM project directly impacted the lives of 21,075 people, including children, pregnant women, and others. More than 2,038 people who might have died of malaria were saved. The project made quality malaria medications available in hard-to-reach communities. And, the number of patients that visited the health facilities where the INM project has been implemented tripled to 23,991. 

The success of this project has boosted the confidence and enthusiasm of the staff in the facilities and the level of community trust as well. This abundant trust has gone a long way to increase health and well-being in remote areas. Receiving correct diagnoses and effective treatments at little or no cost has increased the number of families seeking treatment. The Nigerian Health Board therefore anticipates a general reduction in morbidity in the communities they serve, especially for women and their babies. 

Christie R. House is a consulting editor and writer with Global Ministries.

Communities make the difference

World AIDS Day, Sunday, December 1, 2019 

By Kathleen Griffith 

World AIDS Day is on Sunday, December 1st this year, but for 37 million people around the world, living with HIV and AIDS is an everyday reality. Millions who don’t know their status are at risk of infection or spreading infection, which also affects the millions they support and nurture through family and community life. The United Nations theme for World AIDS Day 2019 is “Communities make the difference.” Let’s remember our brothers and sisters as we meet on this special Sunday, the first day of Advent, and let us form the community that makes a difference for people living with AIDS. 

Stop Stigma 

People of every age group are affected by HIV and AIDS but in many places, young people are disproportionately affected. The Abundant Health Initiative supports small projects that reach out to young people through communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Sierra Leone, the Philippines, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the United States. Students in high school and college, pregnant teens, young people who share needles, those experimenting with sex or sexual orientation, rich and poor populations, rural and urban populations – all have sacred worth but are affected by our stigma and judgement. In communities where Global Health works, our partners hear: “Stigma keeps many of us from being tested and treated.…Fear of rejection keeps us hidden…To lose our community is to lose our lives.” 

(Zimbabwe, credit Africa University)

Stigma shuts the door to HIV counseling and testing for many. Fear of the results and fear of leaked information keeps trust levels low. In the silence, myths grow and infection spreads. 

PJ is 19 years old and lives with HIV. He feared being tested for HIV and put it off. When he understood he was positive, he didn’t know what to do or what he’d say to his mother and brother. Staff members of Mary Johnston Hospital (Manilla, Philippines) helped him find treatment but also to find hope. They taught him that, with treatment, there is a good chance to live a long, healthy life. His family would come to understand and accept him again. PJ became a Peer Educator and a teacher of HIV101 in his local community. “I know the hospital staff are instruments of God to spread love, knowledge and awareness so that, soon, stigma and discrimination will be gone.” 

According to “The Lancet,” the Philippines is facing the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the western Pacific, with a 174% increase in HIV incidence between 2010 and 2017.

On World AIDS Day 2017, staff of Kissy UMC Hospital and UMC school children joined a march through their capital – Freetown, Sierra Leone – to promote awareness about rising rates of HIV cases, especially among young people. The turnout was high. HIV testing booths were positioned along the route. The city’s mayor encouraged people to embrace those living with HIV. “Stigma must stop”, he said. “When stigma is reduced, there will surely be a reduction of HIV transmission.” 

According to the Sierra Leone UMC Conference Health Board Coordinator, knowledge about HIV and AIDS in Sierra Leone is limited. The government has expanded access to services, but uptake has been poor. People are reluctant to know their status when treatment and support are lacking, and they face discrimination and social marginalization. 

Community awareness meeting (Malawi: credit, WorldHope Corps)

Know and Go 

Felister, a successful farmer and the mother of two HIV negative children in Malawi, is HIV positive. She and her husband were both positive when they married, but sadly, he abandoned her when their children were young. Though devastated, Felister started life all over again and has done very well. She is now rearing chickens and pigs. She also grows potatoes. She knows that being HIV-positive is not the end of life. Taking the medication properly is what makes her body strong. She attends clinic regularly and receives community support. Felister is determined to nurture her children and provide for them on her small farm in northern Malawi. 

Felister’s community support for living with HIV included a Global Health and World Hope Corp partnership that raised awareness about HIV and the importance of getting tested, as well as Katete Hospital, where she receives her medications. One of the first steps for raising awareness in any community is to know what services are available and how to access them. Could your congregation become such a resource for someone in your community? Does your church have space to partner with a local clinic to provide an HIV “Know your status” event? Start with members of the congregation who are nurses, doctors, other health professionals or a parish nurse to explore possibilities with a local health clinic or hospital. See what develops. 

Pray and Promote 

Churches and communities can respond in many ways. Their leadership and advocacy keep people at the center. Pastors, church members, teachers, neighbors, peer educators, networks of people living with or affected by HIV – and you too – can make a difference through your prayers, welcome and love. People at risk for HIV infection may also experience mental health concerns and substance use disorder, leading to lowered inhibitions in relationships. Even loneliness and simply the need to be loved or connected with someone can lower inhibitions. Young people who have no place to stay may sometimes engage in risky sexual encounters in exchange for shelter and the cost of food. 

Farai Danny Mhlanga is a Peer Educator at Africa University in Zimbabwe. In this role, he and his Peer Network have reached out to people of different cultures and traditions, people like themselves but also some who are marginalized with whom they wouldn’t normally associate. Together they’ve developed leadership and communication skills – like debate, dance, drama, music and public speaking – to engage young adults on this difficult subject. It has taught them to be the change Africa needs. It’s given them hope that this epidemic can be stopped. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION Resources: United Methodist Global AIDS Committee ; CDC-HIV resources; UNAIDS; AVERT-Global info Information: UMC Abundant Health Giving: United Methodist Global AIDS Fund-Advance 982345

Empowering UMC and Ebola Prevention: A Message from Democratic Republic of the Congo

By Megan Klingler

In 1976, along the Ebola River, in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a rare and deadly virus was first identified. The Ebola virus, named for the river near its discovery, has since led to multiple outbreaks across several African countries, Europe and even the United States of America. The exact origin of the Ebola virus is unknown; however, it is believed to be an animal-borne disease and harbored in bats. The bats carrying the virus can then transmit to other animals like monkeys, deer and humans. After the transfer to a human, the Ebola virus can easily spread from person to person.

Megan Klingler demonstrating the appropriate way to remove an Ebola protective suit. Photo: Courtesy of Global Health unit

Ebola virus disease, or EVD, is typically spread by love, care and compassion for a sick person. Often healthcare workers, clergy and family members of those that are sick are at the highest risk of being infected. EVD is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids or through contact with objects that are contaminated with infected body fluids. It can be spread from a person who is sick with EVD, from the corpse of a person that died of EVD, contact with an animal with EVD or from breast milk or unprotected sexual contact with a recent EVD survivor. 

A public health emergency

On August 1, 2018, the DRC announced a cluster of Ebola cases discovered in the North Kivu province in the East Congo Episcopal Area, marking DRC’s tenth Ebola outbreak since 1976. Unlike previous Ebola outbreaks in the DRC that were contained to remote areas, the spread to urban centers and the increased mobility of people caused this outbreak to easily spread.

Photo: Courtesy of Global Health unit

On July 17, 2019, almost one full year later, Ebola reached Goma, a busy DRC border city with an estimated two million people and an international airport. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced this outbreak as a “public health emergency of international concern.” The outbreak was not only a threat to the neighboring countries, but to the world, and had grown to be the world’s second largest Ebola epidemic on record with more than 2,400 cases.

Shortly after the WHO announcement, Bishop Unda of the East Congo Episcopal Area requested assistance from the General Board of Global Ministries. Within 24 hours, Dr. Damas Lushima, the East Congo Health Board coordinator, received a protocol from the Global Health unit on actions to reduce exposure to the Ebola virus developed by the WHO, the African Union, the Liberian government and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2015. It also contained practical recommendations to screen, isolate and refer potential Ebola cases.  

Visiting Congo 

Megan Klingler, Global Ministries’ Global Health unit’s primary health care specialist, volunteered to offer technical assistance and support to the East Congo Health Board’s Ebola response. Klingler, a public health nurse, had previous experience as a team leader for Ebola responses in Nigeria and Sierra Leone and worked for the CDC as a course facilitator for U.S. healthcare workers going to Ebola zones.

Klingler using Glo Germ during an hands-on activity to demonstrate the importance of hand-washing. Photo: Courtesy of Global Health unit

Klingler’s trip objectives were to empower the East Congo Health Board’s members with the knowledge and expertise to disseminate information on Ebola prevention among UMC health facilities, communities and churches. The first training was conducted fully by Klingler and for subsequent trainings, the East Congo Health Board slowly took over the curriculum.

Trainings were held for members of the UMC healthcare staff, church clergy and lay leaders. The topics included “Ebola Signs and Symptoms,” “Ebola Myths and Facts,” “Screen, Isolate, Refer”, and “Infection, Prevention and Control.”  

Dr. Damas Lushima, East Congo Health Board Coordinator demonstrating the proper way to check body temperature. Photo: Courtesy of Global Health unit

Ebola Initiative 

For 24 days, the team traveled throughout East Congo by road, boat and plane and worked all day from early morning to late night. Despite the many obstacles like bad roads, a cancelled flight, denied visas, and the car breaking down, the team stayed strong and determined to reach all sites and provide the training promised by Bishop Unda’s team.  

The trainings were held in five cities: Goma, Beni, Bukavu, Uvari and Kisangani, and directly reached over 360 participants. The presentations were mostly interactive, with hands on exercises and case studies. Due to working with medical professionals and clergy, the topics were tailored to each attendee’s role and were presented in multiple languages to ensure full understanding. Pre-tests and post-tests were administered at most trainings. The average starting score was less than 30 percent and the average final score after training was at about 90 percent, demonstrating a large gain in knowledge.

The true number of beneficiaries of these trainings is unknown and expanding daily. At a church service in Goma that followed the Clergy and Lay Leaders training, the pastor used his leadership position to speak on the importance of proper hand hygiene and demonstrated how to wash your hands correctly to the congregation, encouraging all to follow him. The bishop’s wife and Maternal Neonatal Child Health Coordinator, Dr. Marie Claire, visited a UMC orphanage in Goma where the orphans were taught how to wash their hands. Examples of the tear down effect were demonstrated multiple times throughout the trip. And even when the team’s car got a flat tire, the Congolese soldiers that surrounded the car were taught about Ebola, the importance of hand hygiene and were encouraged to discuss myths they had heard about Ebola.

Ebola updates

As of September 28, 2019, the DRC Ministry of Health reported a total of 3,188 Ebola cases, including 2,129 deaths. Although this is not positive news, there may soon be more relief. A second Ebola vaccine is coming to DRC. The outcome of the first Ebola vaccine has been very positive, but the quantities have been low. The hope is that with this new vaccine, more people can be reached.  

Additionally, in early August before the trainings took place, two experimental treatments were found to be up to 90 percent effective in treating Ebola when used early in the sickness. This is an additional reason in why the UMC trainings were so important: the trainings not only demonstrated how to prevent contracting Ebola, but how to identify and educate the community to seek medical help in the face of emerging Ebola symptoms.

Next steps and moving forward

With the Bishop’s support and presence, the East Congo Health Board has conducted additional Ebola prevention trainings in Kindu following Klingler’s departure. This demonstrates the success of the trainings and determination of the East Congo Health Board and church leadership to spread the knowledge of prevention to their community in which they serve.

Megan Klingler is the Global Health unit’s primary health care specialist.

Imagine No Malaria: Promoting Abundant Health for All

By Tatenda Mujeni

Just over 10 years ago, United Methodists globally decided to take on an audacious goal of imagining a world without malaria, leading one of the largest commitments by a faith-based organization to end the disease. Our faith was literally put into action as we distributed millions of mosquito nets, tests and malaria medications to prevent and treat for malaria. Thousands of community volunteers and health facility workers received training in malaria prevention and treatment. We also revitalized their places of work by renovating health facilities throughout Africa. 

Child in Mozambique receiving ACT (anti-malaria Drug). Photo: Courtesy of Global Health unit

At General Conference 2016, The United Methodist Church celebrated these successes of the Imagine No Malaria campaign. There was much to be celebrated. Through the support of our generous donors and the tireless efforts of our partners on the ground, United Methodists significantly contributed toward a global effort to control and end malaria. 

Although we have made great strides in the communities we work in, the fight to end the disease is far from over. After years of steady decline in malaria infections, there was a global surge of the disease in 2016. Each year, over 200 million people are infected by malaria leading, to more than 400,000 deaths from this preventable disease.

Bishop Lunge of Central Congo passing out mosquito nets. Photo: Courtesy of Global Health unit

What next?

What happens beyond Imagine No Malaria? The simple answer is: we continue our efforts until we reach our goal of imagining a world with no malaria. 

As we celebrated the end of active fundraising of the INM program in 2016, the denomination was introduced to Abundant Health for All as the health focus for the next quadrennium. Through the Abundant Health initiative, United Methodists take a holistic approach towards health, focusing on mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Globally, through the commitment to Every Woman Every Child, the Abundant Health program aims to reach one million children with life-saving interventions by 2020 and reaching millions more beyond that date. Malaria is still one of the leading causes for disease and death in children under five. Preventing and controlling malaria is therefore promoting abundant health in this vulnerable population.

Health worker in DRC South Congo promoting intermittent preventative therapy in pregnancy (IPTp) malaria prophylaxis. Photo: Courtesy of Global Health unit

Over the past three years, the INM program has contributed to the abundant health goal of reaching one million children with life-saving interventions through ongoing facility-based prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria. In over 200 UMC health facilities throughout Africa, we ensure that all pregnant women receive life-saving malaria prophylaxis and mosquito nets to prevent malaria and the adverse effects of the disease during pregancy. We also ensure that every child under five that attends a UMC health facility receives a mosquito net to prevent the disease and ensure timely diagnosis and treatment if they have malaria. Through supporting and promoting Abundant Health for All, we are moving closer towards our dream of imagining a world with no malaria.

Tatenda Mujeni is the Global Health Malaria program manager. 

Inviting Deaf and Hard of Hearing People to Church – Deaf Awareness Week

By Rev. Leo Yates, Jr.

Deaf Awareness Week is soon approaching, and United Methodist churches should extend their hand of welcome to Deaf, hard-of-hearing, late-deafened, and Deafblind persons in their community. This week is observed during the last week of September (in 2019, the 23-29th), beginning on Monday and ending on Sunday. Deaf Awareness Week originated in Rome, Italy in 1958 through the efforts of The World Federation of the Deaf. Deaf communities around the world began adopting this international observance as a way to honor the history and heritage of Deaf and hard of hearing people, affirm diversity, to educate society about deafness, and celebrate Deaf culture.

 Historically, Deaf ministries have been an extension of their Deaf community, in part, due to their support of Deaf education and mission. For instance, during the mid-nineteenth century, The Episcopal Church ordained its first Deaf deacon in the U.S. The Methodist Church was the fourth denomination to have a Deaf pastor to serve a Deaf congregation in Chicago, which was close to the turn of the 20th century. Click here for a brief outline of Deaf Christian history and click here for a more comprehensive account. 

Photo courtesy of The UMC Committee on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries

Communication barriers and cultural differences often exclude Deaf and hard of hearing persons from the life of the church. For example, when this writer’s Deaf parents moved from Maryland to Virginia, the fourth church that was contacted agreed to provide a sign language interpreter. Recently, a Deaf couple in the Southeastern Jurisdiction shared they are only able to worship twice a month because their church is unable to afford a sign language interpreter on a weekly basis. In most cases, there is a cost for sign language interpreters. While it’s the church’s responsibility to hire and pay for interpreters, most Deaf and hard-of-hearing people donate to their congregation, and thus support the cost indirectly (click here for a brief guide about interpreters). One Deaf ministry holds an annual fundraiser to support their interpreting ministry. Certainly, budgeting and prioritizing the Deaf ministry is vital to sustaining it. So is awareness; a cultural difference can be seen during a Christmas Eve service when lights are dimmed and candles used. This makes it challenging to see a sign language interpreter.

The Apostle Paul emphasized to the church in Corinth (and us) that the body of Christ needs all of its members (1 Cor 12:12-31). Like other denominations, The United Methodist Church recognizes the need for Deaf, hard-of-hearing, late-deafened, and Deafblind individuals to be better represented in the life of the church. General Conference continues to support funding for Deaf ministries. This funding is overseen by Global Ministries, which includes small grants to support new Deaf ministries. 

Deaf Awareness Week is a strong reminder for churches to be accessible and inviting for Deaf and hard of hearing people. For example, offer captioning (display it on a TV screen or project it with PowerPoint), have all-encompassing bulletins (Scriptures, prayers, announcements, music), use multimedia (Deaf people can’t hold hymnals while signing), ensure adequate lighting, and consistently use a sound system during worship: all of these are inexpensive ways to improve accessibility. Click here for more ideas. After all, 1 in 3 persons over 65 have some degree of hearing loss and improving communication access in worship and in the life of the church can support hard-of-hearing and late-deafened people to remain active, some of whom are the bigger givers.

So, how can your church observe Deaf Awareness Week?

As a part of its Disability Ministries, Emmanuel UMC in Laurel, MD, is observing Deaf awareness by offering a month-long sign language class, has a sign language interpreter on most Sundays, uses multimedia, and will include Deaf awareness in its announcements. For activities and ideas, check out the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries Committee’s Deaf Awareness Weekweb page. For general information about Deaf Awareness Week, click here. For a series of brief guides and congregational resources, click here

Rev. Leo Yates, Jr. is the consultant for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Ministries Committee.

Improved mobility, a gift that transforms lives

Global Health grants reach people with physical disabilities in remote places

By Christie R. House

August 28, 2019 | ATLANTA

Mobility is key to a person’s independence. The ability to go to market, get to the doctor, take the kids to school or travel to work can be daunting for people with physical challenges. While technical advances have helped people in Western countries gain independence, people in countless remote and rural areas across the world would find a wheelchair of little use on the rocky, unpaved terrain they might travel.

Animato Kargbo is a recipient of a prosthetic limb from the Bo center. Photo: Lappia Amara

Addressing physical disabilities may mean providing new ways to travel or new prosthetic limbs for those who need them. Global Ministries meets the challenge of immobility in a variety of ways through Global Health initiatives. Support for United Methodist health clinics and hospitals in rural areas may provide early diagnoses and treatments that ultimately prevent physical disability. But often these clinics operate in areas where the population has experienced trauma from violent conflict. Landmines, irreversible injuries, poor nutrition and poverty contribute to the permanent loss of mobility.

A prosthetic solution in Sierra Leone

Global Health has partnered with the United Methodist Health Board in Sierra Leone and the United Methodist Prosthesis Center in Bo District to support a prosthesis initiative for amputees. In 2002, an overwhelming need for prosthetic devices in Sierra Leone caused the United Methodist Committee on Relief to create a project to manufacture and fit a simple, lower-limb prosthesis developed in India, called the Jaipur foot. The materials and technique produced a strong and reliable prothesis. Lappia Amara, director of the center since its founding, helps amputees regain mobility and reintegrate into their communities. The center supports those who have become amputees for a variety of reasons, including accidents, war and sickness.

Lappia Amara, director of the Artificial Limb Clinic in Bo, Sierra Leone, fits a limb for Animato Kargbo. Photo: Courtesy Lappia Amara

Amara says the center served 79 patients in the first quarter of 2019: “Working with both lower and upper limb patients, our most recent group included 51 men and 28 women. Of those, 53 received below the knee protheses and 26 above the knee. We repaired 50 old limbs (requested by returning patients) and 22 wheelchairs and treated 30 stroke patients. We conducted several visits to amputee camps. Counseling and preparation of artificial limbs are our major activities. Provision of wheelchairs is a new opportunity made possible by a partnership with the government and other agencies.”

“While losing a limb is a challenging experience, it doesn’t have to define your life in a negative manner,” Amara continued. “All of these people have taken circumstances outside their control and used them to be a positive influence on those around them.”

Aminata Kargbo, from Shenge, lost her leg because of an accident traveling to Bo. Kargbo’s first thought was: “How can I live without my foot? I am a pupil and an athlete.”

While she still bears emotional and physical trauma symptoms, the center in Bo has given her hope. “I would like to continue my schooling and my athletics, but the pain was too much using a crutchI try and put on a brave face among my friends, but soon, thanks to this project, I will have a prosthetic to help me. I have really been encouraged by this support and I am so grateful to donorsbecause I can use this limb to go to school and do other things for myself.”

Personal transportation in Zambia

A second ministry receiving a Global Health grant this year is PET Zambia (www.petzambia.com), part of the New Life Center ministries of the UMC Zambia in Kitwe. Zambia is one of the more stable countries in Africa, but because of that, it has received refugees from neighboring countries. The PET (Personal Energy Transportation) ministry started in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) in 1994 and then moved to Zambia during the political upheavals in the DRC in the late 1990s.

This recipient of a new PET in Lufwanyama, Zambia, in June 2019, was recommended to PET Zambia by a government partner that coordinates services for people with disabilities across the country. Photo: Emily Padilla, PET Zambia

Josephine Mbilishi, a United Methodist deaconess, is the director of the New Life Center, which provides training for spiritual development, community leadership and community health, including the PET ministry. Delbert and Sandy Groves serve as missionaries with the center. They began missionary service in 1991 in the DRC, and they have worked in Zambia since 2000. One of Delbert Groves’ responsibilities is the PET workshop.

A PET is a three-wheeled chair with wide, durable wheels, a cart and hand pedals to propel the device. The PET project was started after the Rev. Larry Hills, a UMC missionary in the Congo, accidentally stepped on someone crawling through the fields. Hills pulled back the weeds to find a young woman with a baby on her back going about her daily chores. Hills worked with Mel West in Iowa and other friends in the U.S. to develop a PET prototype. The U.S. ministry, which is now called Mobility Worldwide, has expanded to 22 workshops in the U.S., making carts and then shipping them internationally to areas where they are needed.

Kennedy, one of four workshop employees, works with PET as a welder at the New Life Center, Kitwe, Zambia. Photo: Emily Padilla, PET Zambia

PET Zambia is currently the only African workshop making the carts. Careful monitoring of materials, ordering in bulk and delivering within Zambia brings the cost down to about a third of the U.S. PETS. All PETs are provided free of charge to the people who need them.

Groves says building a PET is the easy part. “The hard part is identifying people in need of a PET,” he explains. “Over 25 years, we have developed a wonderful resource of partners in Central Africa, which includes other missionaries and churches, government disability departments and individuals that help us find people who need a PET.”

PET Zambia builds and distributes at least 500 PETs each year. In Zambia alone, they estimate 150,000 people still need them.

“Because the need is so great, we have bought land in south Zambia in a town called Livingstone, near the border to four other African countries,” Groves continues. “We’re hoping to break ground early in 2020 to build a new PET Zambia facility. It will also be used to help build the UMC in the southern provinces of Zambia. That’s our main reason for being missionaries in Zambia, evangelism and church development.”

Reaching isolated people

Helping people to overcome the barriers that keep them from joining in daily activities of life can go a long way to restoring their independence and self-esteem. While finding people tucked away in their villages and even in larger cities may be difficult, Methodists connect in amazing ways to reach them.

Methodists across the connection can join in this life-restoring ministry through theAbundant Health Initiative, Advance #3021770.

Christie R. House is the senior writer/editor for Global Ministries.

Shade and Fresh Water encourages youth in Brazil to make healthy choices

Having a place to hang out with good friends in a supportive community that provides fun and creative activities is a universal best practice for helping youth find meaning and purpose. Global Ministries’ Global Health unit takes a keen interest in partnering with organizations that help children and youth maintain good health and avoid the temptations that unhealthy environments foster.

Celebrations at a Shade and Freshwater Christmas party in São Gabriel, Brazil. Photo: Mark Greathouse

The Shade and Fresh Water project, a ministry of the Methodist Church in Brazil, has provided afterschool programming for children for more than 18 years. Across the country through churches in over 50 locations, Shade and Fresh Water reaches 2570 children and youth. “Our mission is to form a large Methodist network of support and protection for children and adolescents,” the mission asserts. Brazilian Methodists support this mission ministry with more than 2000 volunteers from their congregations and the communities they serve.

Partnering with Global Health in 2019-2020, Shade and Fresh Water plans to improve a project in the Northeast Region (Methodist Conference) of Brazil and another in Rio de Janeiro, increasing the consistency and quality of the programming and contributing to positive development opportunities for youth in Brazil’s poorest communities.

A place to grow in positive ways

Shade and Fresh Water grew out of the work of the Methodist Community Center in São Gabriel, an older ministry based in Belo Horizonte. Gordon and Teca Greathouse served there for much of their 40-year missionary careers and continue serving in the city of Belo Horizonte in retirement. Before the church expanded the afterschool and children’s education work to create Shade and Fresh Water in 2000, the São Gabriel Methodist Community Center served as a place where children with nowhere to play but the streets could come in for acceptance and affection, engage in sports, arts and music and experience a place of Christian welcome and care. 

Youth from Shade and Freshwater programs in Brazil perform at the 2016 General Assembly of the Methodist Church in Brazil. Photo: Courtesy Shade and Fresh Water

Over the past two years, Shade and Fresh Water has scaled up its services to include programs for youth ages 15-18. This new level of programming, in partnership with Global Health, provides healthy alternatives for older teens as they try to discern who they are and what they want to do with their lives. 

Vinicius Guimarães dos Santos started attending Shade and Fresh Water when he was 6 years old. His mother searched for a place that could keep her son safe after school while she and his father were still at work. 

Music was what attracted dos Santos to the afterschool program. But once he was there, he says he learned discipline and self-esteem too. His talent and hard work eventually earned him the opportunity to represent Shade and Fresh Water with a group of children that traveled to the U.S. to perform at the Virginia Annual Conference. Dos Santos had never traveled in an airplane and was overwhelmed by the way he was received.

Until recently, children aged out of Shade and Fresh Water when they turned 15, but dos Santos stayed on as a volunteer. Eventually, he received a scholarship to study the flute. Today at age 23, he works as an educator with the program and is involved in the expansion to reach older teens. “Kids need programs that support them and help them discover who they are,” says dos Santos. “Without that, many get lost and people lead them in the wrong way.”

Dos Santos feels that music teaches youth confidence and pride in themselves. “Kids often get involved in drugs because it makes them think they are the big guys on their street. But music is a better alternative. They can feel pride without the drugs.”

Becoming citizens in the greater community

Taynara (left), who attends the Shade and Fresh Water project in Liberdade, is thinking about becoming a doctor and a police office to keep her community safe and healthy. Photo: Mark Greathouse

Shade and Fresh Water builds curriculum around seven different areas of programming for children and youth. The core curriculum includes Christian education, support for academic education, and sports and recreational activities. These three activities are required in all official Shade and Fresh Water projects. Complementary curriculum includes citizenship; culture, music and the arts; holistic health; and technology, mainly computer literacy and access. 

While many church-related programs cover the same bases, citizenship is a unique Brazilian choice for children’s programming. Shade and Fresh Water describes citizenship as: “the ability to assert our rights and values and act in accordance with our duties. Working with citizenship in Shade and Fresh Water is directed toward the development of values and attitudes that promote creative ability and critical thinking.” The goal is to help children and adolescents in their quest to improve their living conditions, learn to make decisions, build healthy relationships and recognize themselves as active subjects and participants within their social group. Basically, this curriculum is teaching children to work together to change the world.

For 9-year-old Thaynara, this kind of curriculum has encouraged her to set high goals: “My plan to make our country better is to not throw trash in the streets and to make sure people are safe. When I grow up, I want to be a doctor and a police officer. My friends tell me I am crazy, but I would be fulfilling my dreams, right? The project has taught me songs, parties, and the word of God. Before I didn’t really like to go to church, but now I go almost every day.”

Saving the planet, keeping people safe and healthy, songs, parties, the word of God and a strong faith community – Shade and Fresh Water for Thaynara. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Christie R. House is the senior writer/editor for Global Ministries.

Abundant Health includes mental health in worldwide ministry and outreach

In Clarksville, Texas, a town of 3,000 residents, the school district has lost more than half its enrollment in the last decade as more middle-class residents opt out of the local school system for better-resourced facilities in other counties. The Clarksville School District, down to 500 students who are generally from low-income ethnic minority families, struggled to compete for Texas state education funds, which are tied to enrollment numbers. The district had no licensed counselor to cover students in all grade levels. At a Clarksville elementary school, Teddy’s* grandmother was concerned about his sometimes violent, disruptive behavior. “His negative thoughts prevent him from paying attention to the teacher because he thinks, ‘I’m going to fail anyway,’” she stated. Can the United Methodist Abundant Health Initiative help someone like Teddy?

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Supporting mothers and babies for a healthy start

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated during the first week of August each year. The United Methodist Abundant Health Initiative supports mothers in their decision to breastfeed as a vital and practical way to give babies a good start in life. Other ways to help newborn survival rates include ensuring access to health care and supporting mothers’ groups in which women help one another. Abundant Health workers in many places around the world seek to create the right conditions for mothers and babies to thrive from the start. Education starts in the community when volunteers talk to their neighbors and continues for mothers and their children with every prenatal and postnatal visit.

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Community Health Workers: United Methodist Agents of Change


United Methodist Volunteers, also known as Community Health Workers, are women and men of all ages living in difficult-to-reach places. These frontline workers are trusted community members, having an in-depth understanding of the community they serve. They are also blessed with patience and compassion to alleviate complex medical and social needs.

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Meeting health needs in Mozambique

By Christie R. House*

When missionaries David and Elizabeth McCormick first arrived in Maxixe, Mozambique, to begin work with Chicuque Rural Hospital, the hospital was straining to meet the needs of its patients. The grounds, buildings, and even some medical equipment and medicines had extensive damage from Cyclone Dineo in 2016. David McCormick took over as the hospital administrator, working with the United Methodist Health Board of the Mozambique Episcopal Area.

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Baby by baby – treating and preventing malnutrition in Central Congo

By Christie R. House*

Traveling to any of the three United Methodist clinics in the northern Kasai region of the Central Congo Episcopal Area that are part of the Abundant Health Initiative can be challenging. The lack of main roads into the area means international Methodist visitors fly into Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A regional flight can get them as far as Kananga. Then, they rely on the Central Congo missionary pilot, Jacques Umembudi, to take them farther. Diengenga, the largest of the clinics, is not on a Google map, but Captain Umembudi knows the way.

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