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Missioners head to Zimbabwe to finish church construction

Advocate staff among team

By Jessica Connor

A team of missioners from South Carolina — including the Advocate’s editor and assistant editor and two conference staffers — are in Africa this month on a 16-day mission trip to finish construction on a United Methodist church.

The church, Hatcliffe UMC, is located in Harare, Zimbabwe, and serves a dense population of men, women and children in the suburban community that relies heavily on the mineral exports, agriculture and tourism industries.

The eight-member team led by conference employee Robin Landers will do final construction work on the sanctuary, then officially dedicate the church July 29.

Hatcliffe United Methodist Church is one of those places where the church is serving in a most difficult environment,  Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor said. The political instability in Zimbabwe has made it hard for the people to maintain a sustainable livelihood, yet God has been faithful; the church is alive and filled with joy. Lives are being changed. 

The church construction is a project of S.C. United Methodist Volunteers in Mission. Taylor had traveled to Africa in November 2006 for a meeting of the Council of Bishops, and Hatcliffe was one of the places she visited. Then, the vibrant and growing group of believers was filled with the Spirit, yet they had outgrown their worship space. Abundantly clear to Taylor was their need for a larger sanctuary, as well as a parsonage and office.

The idea weighed on her: maybe the S.C. Conference could help. When she returned home, she shared the notion with the Cabinet, who unanimously agreed that the conference embrace this project as their own.

Immediately, the people of South Carolina responded in love and support. The first UMVIM team, led by Landers, traveled to Zimbabwe in October 2008 to pour the foundation and leave supplies. Construction continued. Then in April 2010, Landers and a second work team finished the parsonage and office, and left bricks to build the walls of the sanctuary. The third trip, July 27-Aug. 11, will do finishing touchup work, as well as the facility dedication.

You just feel so blessed,  Landers said about their motivation. Once the people of Hatcliffe had the resources they needed, they went from very little to a beautiful sanctuary. 

Taylor calls Hatcliffe UMC a lighthouse for God s kingdom  and notes the generosity of South Carolina United Methodists in reaching out to their Christian brothers and sisters half a world away.

Almost $8,000 was donated at Annual Conference 2010 to support construction. The late Carol Bateman, a member of Main Street UMC in Greenwood, made a generous provision in her will for funds to help build the sanctuary. First UMC in Loris raised more than $4,000 in supplies for the foundation and sent several of its members to help. Lee Road UMC in Taylors purchased Bibles for church pews and personal Bibles for members to take home. Grace UMC in North Augusta is donating 45 stoles for pastors in the Zimbabwe Annual Conferences, which the team is bringing to Hatcliffe this trip. Other churches “ including Mount Horeb UMC in Lexington, Union UMC in Irmo, Mill Creek UMC in Columbia and First UMC in Myrtle Beach “ are sending members as missioners.

The local churches in South Carolina have really wrapped their arms around this project,  Landers said.

The September edition of the Advocate will include full coverage of South Carolina s trip and the church dedication. The team asks for prayers as they do their best to be God s hands and feet for the people of Hatcliffe.

The missioners:
Robin Landers, team leader
Jerry Washabau, assistant team leader
Matt Brodie
Jessica Connor
Jack Cross
Tiffany Kicklighter
Amelia Petersen
Allison Trussell

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