Amid Ebola, Liberian church celebrates Student Day

For the last five years, United Methodist Student Day brought United Methodist students together in Ganta, Gbarnga or Buchanan. This year, the pomp and pageantry that usually mark the day in Liberia were missing because of the Ebola crisis.

The Stephen Trowen Nagbe United Methodist Church, however, celebrated on Nov. 30  with the “physically challenged” leading the liturgical part of the Sunday service. Speaking to the congregation from Braille notes, Joshua Shadra of First United Methodist Church called on worshipers to always have hope for tomorrow because the desire to see what tomorrow will bring is what keeps people alive.

Using the story of the “woman with the issue of blood….” Shadra said the woman met Jesus Christ because she did not give up on life. “She was always hoping that one day she would encounter the right doctor and that doctor was Jesus Christ,” Shadra said.

Telling his own life story of how he became blind, Shadra said he did not give up on life, but always hoped for the day that he would serve humanity. “Preaching to you on this unique occasion, the UM Students Day, I want you to know that my hope for this day and days to come will not be a waste,” he said.

Although the students were not brought together this year, the churches were asked to accept offerings and send the money to the Liberia Conference’s Department of General Education and Ministry. The money that was collected at Stephen Trowen Nagbe United Methodist Church, explained the Rev. Matthew A. Jaiah, will be used for the physically challenged ministry.

The physically challenged participating in the service included the blind and the deaf students reading the scriptures and a group of blind students singing. Many of those attending said they felt the involvement of the physically challenged added a flavor unlike previous Student Day celebrations.

The Rev. Jaiah said the leadership of the S. T. Nagbe church decided to provide the physically challenged the opportunity to experience their human fullness by leading the worship service. “We want them to feel a part of us in this church, not as helpless individuals and beggars who cannot play any important role in the church,” Jaiah said.

He also said funds generated from the Student Day will support physically challenged individuals who are the members of the church and those who are around Monrovia. “The S. T. UMC provides monthly food package for all the physically challenged within Monrovia and its environs,” he added. “The rest is usually spent on scholarship for 12 physically challenged students that the church is supporting in various schools, including United Methodist schools, and weekly transport fare for our physically challenged members to come to and from church every Sunday.”

The director of the Conference Department of General Education and Ministry, Helen Evans-Roberts, said she was not sure whether all churches lifted offerings as required by the Book of Discipline.

At the First United Methodist Church in Monrovia, the associate pastor, the Rev. Julius Y.Z.K. Williams said United Methodist Student Day was not on his church agenda because of the Ebola crisis. The principal of the Gant United Methodist School, Roger Swy Domah, also said Miller McAllister United Methodist Church did not mention the Student Day or take an offering.

*Swen is editor and publisher of West African Writers, an online publication about United Methodist happenings in West Africa and assists the denomination in Liberia with coverage for United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Vicki Brown, news editor, newsdesk@umcom.org or 615-742-5469.

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