Tag Archives: Sierra Leone

life-saving lemonade

Tom Berlin is the senior pastor of Floris UMC in Herndon, Virginia. He is also a close friend who is one of the most mission-minded church leaders I know. This is a recent article on a new United Methodist Church iniative here in Virginia.

When life gives you lemons …

By the Rev. Tom Berlin

I never thought when I entered ministry that the Virginia Annual Conference would encourage us to start lemonade stands. Start new churches, yes. Start new ministries, okay. But lemonade stands?

But I think this plan from the folks who are leading the Imagine No Malaria initiative in Virginia is a great idea for many reasons. Let me share a few:

  • It involves kids and those who care for them. Kids like helping people, and they like the opportunity to run things that make a real difference in ways you can count. When their efforts give them an opportunity to be generous with the funds they have earned, they are truly empowered to bless others. At Floris UMC we have challenged the kids by telling them that the church will double every dollar that they raise. Their leadership will have twice the impact!
  • I like buying lemonade from kids. I think if you drive past a kid in at a lemonade stand and don’t stop, you are just a bad American. When you give a kid a dime or a quarter for a cup of lemonade, they get very excited and all official business on you. I just get a kick out of it.
  • It gives people who don’t go to our churches an opportunity to be generous, and generosity is good for the soul. Picture the smiling adult plunking down their quarter for the lemonade – the kid is smiling, the adult is smiling, the adult helping the kid is smiling. Now imagine that kid saying, thanks, all the proceeds from our lemonade stand go to fight malaria. You can read about it right here.The customer reads about Imagine No Malaria and realizes what a great thing this kid is doing selling lemonade for a good cause. That spurs generosity. It is not coerced or guilt-ridden. It is the kind of joyful generosity that helps people sleep better at night knowing they have been about good in the world. So often people want to do the right thing, and just need a good opportunity.
  • Kids at Floris are going to hand out invitations to attend our church along with information about malaria. I can’t think of a better advertisement for the UMC than children who know about the world beyond their community, serve those who suffer from a terrible disease and are a part of a church excited about their efforts. I hope we have kids in every neighborhood in our area offering lemonade and telling those who stop about what we are doing to relieve the suffering of malaria. Think of how that will change the way many people think about the church.

Finally, I am excited because I travel to Sierra Leone, Africa, on a fairly regular basis and know people who routinely suffer from malaria, which is debilitating and can lead to tragic deaths. The money raised in Virginia and shared with our church in Africa matters. These lemonade stands aren’t just some new gimmick. They are a means of grace to pay for bed nets, medications and training that will save lives. And that, friends, is one sweet deal.

never say that you did not know

You may choose to look the other way but you can never say that you did not know – Wilbur Wilberforce

Wilberforce (1759 – 1833) was an English politician, philanthropist, and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. He began his political career in 1780, eventually becoming the independent member of Parliament for Yorkshire. In 1785, he underwent a conversion experience and became an evangelical Christian, which resulted in major changes to his lifestyle and a lifelong concern for reform. In 1787, he came into contact with Thomas Clarkson and a group of anti-slave-trade activists. Wilberforce was persuaded to take on the cause of abolition, and he soon became one of the leading English abolitionists. He headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for twenty-six years until the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.

Wilberforce was convinced of the importance of religion, morality and education. He championed causes and campaigns such as the Society for the Suppression of Vice, British missionary work in India, the creation of a free colony in Sierra Leone the foundation of the Christian Mission Society, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. His underlying conservatism led him to support politically and socially repressive legislation, and resulted in criticism that he was ignoring injustices at home while campaigning for the enslaved abroad.

Twenty years later, Wilberforce supported the campaign for the complete abolition of slavery, and continued his involvement after 1826, when he resigned from Parliament because of his failing health. That campaign led to the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire; Wilberforce died just three days after hearing that the passage of the Act through Parliament was assured.

averting a greater tragedy

Thousands of our family have already died of the Ebola virus. The epidemic continues to spread far more rapidly than medical providers can begin to handle. Liberia and Sierra Leone, two of the worst impacted countries in West Africa have been brought to a standstill, with Ebola wrecking their economies as well as the lives of their people. And now cases of Ebola have been recognized both in Europe and also in the United States.

Credible estimates report that this deadly epidemic could claim as high as 50,000 lives before the end of the year.  That is a staggering number. But, as frightening as that figure might be, it is far from the most frightening number.

Those succumbing to the disease are just the beginning of the tragedy. Ebola has already begun to cause hunger in the West African countries hardest hit, and that hunger will grow exponentially in the weeks and months to come.

Farmers are unable to work their field for fear of being infected. The harvest will be late and lean.

Village markets have shut down as people avoid gathering. Basic food stuffs and commodities are becoming more scarce.

The price of food, rice in particular, has begun to rise. And the downward spiral toward widespread hunger begins.

Ebola has already claimed thousands of victims and it will claim thousands more. But hunger, which has already begun, will attack millions throughout the affected region.

The best cure for Ebola has yet to be discovered. But we already know how to stop hunger, and now is the time to begin. By the end of the year we will see another much larger crisis than the actual epidemic. Now is the time to do what we can to prevent widespread hunger and malnutrition through West Africa.

Sierra Leone pastors battling hunger as well as Ebola

Sierra Leone  is at the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic epidemic ravaging West Africa.  The epidemic has already killed almost four thousand and has brought the country to a standstill.

Last week I received a call from the Reverend John Yambasu, Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone. John and I have known each other for over twenty years, and when he calls I listen, not because he is a bishop, but because we are close friends and I know he is a man of great faithfulness.

John called with a plea for help. He needs food for the 200 United Methodist pastors and their families in Sierra Leone Conference. Could Stop Hunger Now help?

The need is both real and immediate. Ebola has caused the collapse of  Sierra Leone’s economy. People cannot work. Huge swaths of the country are under quarantine. That means far fewer people are attending worship services, and those that can attend have no money. Pastors are already starting to do without. They have no resources with which to purchase food.

Stop Hunger Now has already been responding the the Ebola epidemic. We have shipped over two million meals to various partners in Sierra Leone, Liberia and other West African countries. None of it, however, was specifically targeted to reach the United Methodist Church.

Now, UMCOR  (United Committee on Relief) has established two separate accounts for providing the critical aid need on both Sierra Leone and Liberia. Every dollar contributed goes directly to meet the need of those in the impacted areas. Please prayerfully consider helping and helping as generously as you are able. The fund for pastors salaries will enable them to purchase food for their families during this ongoing tragedy.

Here is the link on the UMCOR website:
http://www.umcor.org/umcor/donate/ebolaresponse  There is an Advance # for Sierra Leone and one for Liberia as well., two separate funds.
The link below is the donation page for pastors’ salaries in Sierra Leone
Gandhi wrote that “Action expresses priorities.”  My prayer is that our priorities would clearly demonstrate our love and care for our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Please help. Take action now.




more aid for Ebola victims

The press release copied below tells the story of Stop Hunger Now’s continuing response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa.Typhoon

Stop Hunger Now Sends More Aid to West Africa

Food and other aid shipped to Sierra Leone for Ebola Crisis Response

(Raleigh, NC, Sept. 15, 2014) – Stop Hunger Now is shipping a container of meals and and donated medical aid to New Harvest Ministries & Final Command Ministries in Sierra Leone as part of relief operations in response to the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa.

The container with 285,120 meals and 50 boxes of medical aid supplied by MAP International departed from the Stop Hunger Now warehouse in Atlanta, GA, on September 4, 2014.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the 2014 Ebola outbreak is one of the largest in history and affects Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. To date, more than 1,848 deaths are attributed to suspected cases of the virus. As a result, there are reported incidences of food shortages, starvation and a general increase in food insecurity in the region.

Stop Hunger Now has committed to provide more than one million meals to Liberia and Sierra Leone over the next few weeks. In August, Stop Hunger Now shipped meals and medical equipment to partners in Liberia and  Sierra Leone.

“Stop Hunger Now is acting quickly to provide life-saving food and aid to the families affected by the Ebola outbreak,” said Rod Brooks, Stop Hunger Now President and CEO. “We have committed an initial response of one million meals, and as the extent of the need becomes more clear, we intend to help as long as necessary.”

In addition to meals, Stop Hunger Now is organizing the shipment of other critical supplies such as first aid kits, medical gloves, face masks, hazmat kits, personal protection equipment.

Founded in 1998, Stop Hunger Now has delivered aid and disaster relief supplies in the form of food, medical supplies, clothing, school supplies, and more to thousands of disaster victims and other hungry and vulnerable people around the world.  More than 450,000 volunteers have packaged the highly nutritious dehydrated meals comprised of rice, soy, vegetables, flavoring, and 23 essential vitamins and minerals during popular community-supported Stop Hunger Now meal packaging events.

“We’re grateful for the many volunteers who have packaged meals with Stop Hunger Now. Their support has made this shipment possible. We encourage others to schedule meal packaging events and commit their donations to help us ship meals so that we can continue to provide much needed relief,” says Brooks.

Stop Hunger Now also has a track record of providing meals in response to disasters. After Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013, Stop Hunger Now shipped 3 million meals and more than $672,800 in donated aid for a response totaling more than $1.5 million towards relief efforts. The organization provided nearly 200,000 meals to victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

For more information or to make a donation,  visit www.stophungernow.org.


looking forward to my own bed

I left the Sierra Leone Annual Conference in Kenema yesterday. I was blessed to be able to participate. I spent time with old friends, made new ones, had the opportunity to preach, and hopefully even established some new potential partnerships. It was a good four days.

After only six and a half hours on the road I arrived here at the Hotel Barmoi in Freetown. Along the way we saw only two major accidents, which is about average, and had several close calls ourselves. Let’s just say that highway safety and driver etiquette here in West Africa differs from that in the US.

We stopped in Bo for brief visits to the United Methodist Mercy Hospital and the Child Rescue Center. The visits were not long, but again, the progress being made is obvious and the commitment is there to do even more.

What was enlightening to me was the growing economy I could see through my travels. Sierra Leone continues to leave its turbulent history behind. Both in Waterloo and Bo, towns I had been in during the war, the growth since I was last here was unbelievable. And all along the route between Freetown and Kenema there were roadside venders. There was seldom a kilometer without someone selling charcoal, firewood, woven baskets or palm wine.

Since arriving back here at the Barmoi I have been taking full advantage of the internet as well as the hot water. Cold showers are ok, they’re just not my favorite.

I have already confirmed my water taxi for the trip across the bay tomorrow, so I should be at Lungi Airport in plenty of time for my flight to Accra. From Accra I fly to New York then on to RDU. The trip has been a good one, but I am already looking forward to my own bed.

greetings from Kenema

Here in Kenema it’s almost eight o’clock in the evening. That’s good because I have ordered my dinner and will soon have something to eat. Breakfast was over 12 hours ago.

Also, the sun has gone down. That means the temperature has started to drop. A third reason for joy is that the electricity is turned on at seven. Now I have internet, which, although somewhat sketchy, works sporadically.

The 133rd Annual Conference of the Sierra Leone Methodist Church continues to go well. Anyone who has attended an annual conference in the United States would be right at home. The worship and singing is a little more spirited, perhaps, but the basic routine is the same. There are reports on top of the reports and recognitions abound. Then there are greetings brought by episcopal leaders from other denomination.

And of course, the conference is hours behind according to the calendar of events. That is to be expected, an no one seems unduly worried.

The nice part for me is that everyone expects the preaching to be spirited, and no one is watching the time. My sermons seem to be well received and I haven’t put anyone to sleep.

I have been able to reconnect with so many of my friends from my time in Sierra Leone during the war. It’s been a treat to catch up and share memories. I am also truly impressed with the progress the church has made since I was last here.

More to come once I have the opportunity to get back online.

Good morning, Sierra Leone!

I am thrilled to be back in Sierra Leone. It’s been far too long since I have had a chance to return, and I am excited to see my many friends here, as well as all the progress that has been made in the years since the war.

Lungi International Airport, where we landed after the flight from Accra, Ghana, is much as I remembered it; not as crowded with ECOMAG troops, but still rather small and rough around the edges. And since the person meeting me and I never made contact, I had the opportunity to find my own way from the airport to the city.

That’s the first big difference I noticed here. Instead of having to take a crowded bus to the ferry terminal and wait for several hours for an old ferry to labor across the bay for an hour, I was able to get a water taxi that scooted about 20 of us across the bay in less than a half hour.

The second big change is that there are now nice hotels. When I asked some friendly South African mining engineers for to recommend a clean and safe place, I was pleasantly surprised when they gave me several. I am now at the Hotel Barmoi which is indeed pleasant. There were no such lodgings during the war. It was the Mama Yoko, or nothing.

My driver is now on the way to pick me up so I must close for now.  More to come as time and internet connectivy allows. I am off to Kenema.