Liberia is fighting two threats to health … COVID-19 and hunger. Gifts from UMCOR and Covenant Partners are providing food relief that’s making a positive difference in people’s lives.
E. JULU SWEN
United Methodist News
The United Methodist Committee on Relief and other global United Methodists are intervening in the church’s COVID-19 fight in Liberia.
Through its Anti-COVID-19 Taskforce, the church is distributing food to physically challenged and elderly members.
“We want to make sure our vulnerable people are attended to amidst the difficulties imposed on us by COVID-19,” said Muriel V. Nelson, chairperson of the taskforce.
Nelson told United Methodist News that the food distribution is the third phase of the campaign against COVID-19 in Liberia, following information sharing and community-based sanitation activities in communities where the church has a presence throughout the country.
She said the taskforce will serve more than 400 people through local churches and districts.
“This is the church’s way of helping the government in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The food items will help our people to mitigate the economic challenges that they are presently facing,” she said, adding that the food relief included rice, beans, oil, salt and seasoning cubes.
According to the National Public Health Institute of Liberia, there have been 681 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country and 34 deaths. The government of Liberia recently extended its state of emergency by 30 days, until July 21, due to a spike in cases after some restrictions were lifted, including the resumption of church activities.
Some United Methodist churches held in-person worship services June 7, the first since Liberia Bishop Samuel J. Quire Jr. suspended all church gatherings on March 16.
Nelson said the taskforce, which the church created in March after the first case of the coronavirus was discovered in the country, is reinforcing its initial health messages in partnership with United Methodist Communications by sending daily text alerts to church leadership and some members.
The United Methodist health board in Liberia received one of 12 solidarity grants from UMCOR for just under $10,000, which assisted with training related to COVID-19 prevention and control and the recent food relief.
A more recent UMCOR grant of $9,997 from its COVID-19 Response Fund allows the Liberia Conference to provide food packages to 125 people in each of three vulnerable communities in the Monrovia area. The 375 aid recipients include the elderly, the physically challenged and at-risk children and youth undergoing rehabilitation at a facility in Monrovia.
Nelson said the Illinois Great River and Michigan conferences and The United Methodist Church in Norway and Germany also contributed more than $10,000 to combat food insecurity brought on by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. The Rev. Jon Reynolds, Chair of the Michigan-Liberia Covenant Partners, reflected on one of the projects dear to the Michigan Conference. Reynolds said on July 7, “The Bishop Judith Craig Children’s Village needs the support of the Michigan United Methodists now as much as any other time in the orphanage’s history. When I think of all these children have been through, a civil war, Ebola Crisis and now this global pandemic all I can say is those students could teach all of us something about resilience and hope.”
She noted that all of the sanitizing products used by the church’s Anti COVID-19 Taskforce were produced by Brighter Future Children Rescue Center, a United Methodist skill-training ministry in the Grand Bassa District of southern Liberia that is funded by the German church.
Emma Okai Wleh of the church’s Department of Community Services said that through funding from the Norwegian church, the department also was able to provide personal protective gear to hospitals and clinics in United Methodist communities.
The Rev. George D. Wilson Jr., director of connectional ministries and a member of the Anti-COVID-19 Taskforce, said the intervention of the global church in the fight against the pandemic is impactful.
“We are meeting the needs of our vulnerable members and even those who are outside of the church,” he said.
Wilson pointed out that although their United Methodist partners are themselves affected by the pandemic, their role in Liberia at this time is enormous.
Bishop Quire agreed.
“This pandemic has brought untold suffering on our people and the intervention of UMCOR and our traditional partners … is very timely,” he said.
He also urged members not to treat the presence of COVID-19 in the country lightly. Speaking via telephone from his home, he said upholding all of the health protocols issued by the government and the church’s health authorities must be the priority of every United Methodist.