It was good to see Claire again and I had the opportunity to also meet senior leaders of the hospital. The hospital has been very short staffed these past three weeks due to ongoing doctors’ strike. Barbara was visiting and offering assistance where required. Doctors were requesting increase in salary, training opportunities and good equipment.
Only three non-Kenyan doctors were still on duty and only mission hospitals have been delivering medical services in Kenya. We pray for an end to the strike very soon as productive negotiations evolve.
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It was great to speak with them and they all sent their gratitude. Thank you.
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Pastor Gloria’s Church, Iglesia de la Gloria, is located in the Gloria neighbourhood! I could certainly see the glory of God in that place, through the beauty of its location and through the testimony of what God has done through the Methodist Church there. La Gloria is situated on the outskirts of Ahuachapán and I was told that before the Methodist Church established itself there, there was no running water and the road was a dirt track which made it very difficult to travel on, especially considering its mountainous terrain. What a joy it was to hear that when the Methodists arrived and asked pastor Gloria to lead the church, they prayed that God would do great things to improve the situation for the community. By a miracle, the local authorities paved the main road and brought running water to the town! God is good and answers prayer.
What’s more, the church is full of children and young people and is thriving. Volunteer in Mission teams from the United Methodist Church have recently been helping to build the church and they are about a year away from completion. Pastor Gloria shared with me that the relationship the church has with these mission teams is very good and that she teaches her church to love them but also respect them. They see these teams as a gift and it gives me joy to hear that because I have heard of other situations where the relationship between mission teams and the local church is not so fruitful.
Please pray for this local church as it continues to be salt and light in this community.
Migration is an issue that has seriously affected El Salvador for many years, as a country from which a large number of migrants make the perilous journey to the US. The change in the US administration, the new legislation passed to ban the arrival of several nationalities from several Muslim nations and the rhetoric on building a wall between Mexico and the US to keep out mainly Latin American migrants and the policy of mass deportation (the Trump administration is planning on deporting 1 million illegal migrants with criminal records has caused great concern in the region.
Here in El Salvador the Methodist Church has been discussing migration as a sending country and as one that will be receiving a significant number of deported migrants who will be returning to the country with criminal records. The assembly was concerned about the Trump’s administration’s actions and about how to deal with those migrants who might come back to El Salvador with criminal intentions in mind and a new found freedom in which to do so. It also discussed that some of the fluctuations in national church membership are due to migration to the US, so this is a very real and present issue for the church. Revd Edgar Avitia, my counterpart for Central America and the Caribbean for the General Board of Global Ministries reiterated the four strands that the United Methodist Church is using to focus its work with migrants in the US: the right to remain; the right to safe passage; the right to hospitality and the right to dignified repatriation. He also shared the response of the UMC’s Council of Bishops to the Trump Administration’s agenda which called on US Methodists to love and welcome migrants and not help to sow seeds of hate but to welcome them as if we were welcoming Jesus.
I shared what the Methodist Church in Britain is doing in collaboration with European partners in response to the Refugee crisis through Mediterranean Hope and the work JPIT is doing to lobby the government to do more for refuges and resource Christians in the UK with the tools they need to raise awareness of migrant and refugee issues and to see the human face of migration. I shared the ‘Very British Nativity’ video which depicts parallels with between the nativity story and the story of so many refugees arriving in the UK. I also shared how the Methodist Church in Britain has been encouraging local churches to support at least one refugee family or individual. It was also good to also share that migrant Christians are revitalising and reviving our churches in the UK through reverse mission’.
The Assembly passed a resolution that local churches would offer support to migrants at a local level and that in the annual assembly from now on the ministers of each church would report on what their church had been doing to support migrants or to raise awareness of their situation in the church and community.
To end the discussion on the issue we were shown an advert that was shown during the American Super Bowl advert break but that was heavily censored due to its controversy in the times the US is living. It is quite moving and will give you a glimpse of what migrants go through to try and get to the US.
I am here in Ahuachapán en el Salvador to attend the Evangelical Methodist Church in El Salvador’s (IEMES) annual assembly. This is a 23 year old church, a growing church, with a large number of young people in their membership. I arrived in Ahuachapán yesterday and was taken straight away to join in with the celebrations at the Methodist School which has been completed and is now fully operational. The construction of the school started four years ago, and it started receiving students at the same time. In year one it had 18 students. In year two it has 32 students. Year three saw it have 30 students. Now in 2017 they have 270 students! It was a joy to participate in the ribbon cutting to open the newly finished school and to see the children participate in every part of the celebrations.
It is especially significant for the church to have opened this school because of the difficult context in which the communities young people live. Ahuachapán is safer than other cities but gangs are still powerful here and many organisations, businesses and individuals are forced to pay protection money to ensure their safety. The church has developed this school ministry so that they can offer education to the community but also Christian education that they hope will give these children the tools and knowledge they need to make the right choices in life and not to get caught up in local gangs. Please pray for the church as it operates in this very difficult and tense environment.
Yesterday was an important day in the life of Haiti, as they inaugurate a new, democratically elected President, Jovenel Moise. He was a businessman and banana grower, hence he was dubbed during the presidential campaign as ‘banana man’. There is much hope surrounding his election as someone who could potentially bring political and economic stability to the country and better coordinate relief efforts after hurricane Matthew.
As we participated in the special anniversary service of 200 years of Methodism and protestant presence in Haiti, Bishop Gesner Paul preached rousingly and passionately as he called on Haitians to support the democratic process, to work towards peace and to work together for the good of this beautiful land. It was also an indirect cry to the new government, who was represented by officials at the service, to truly work for the common good of all Haitians.
The service was a truly special and spectacular affaire, with a number of church choirs and amazing Methodist worship in French and Kreyol, with over 900 people in the church and in the overflow space outside and many more that would have been watching the service on TV or listening to it on the radio. The wall of sound from the worship that hit us as we worship God together was truly awesome and moving. I was given the privilege of addressing the gathering on behalf of the European Partners, who included the Methodist Church in Britain, the Methodist Church in Britain and Ireland and the Association of Friends of Haiti in Switzerland and brought greetings in Christ and on behalf of all our leaders. Anne McConnell brought greeting to those gathered and Revd Lord Leslie Griffiths, who served in Haiti for 10 years with his wife Margaret Griffiths, presented the church with two special gifts: a bust of John Wesley and a statue of John Wesley preaching. It was an incredible blessing to be a part of this celebration of what God has done in Haiti.