Ubuntu journey takes women into community

Carrying large plastic bags filled with Christmas gifts, the United Methodist Women of Sierra Leone went on an Ubuntu journey Dec. 7-11 that led them through rural communities to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

“Ubuntu” is a Zulu word meaning, “I am because you are,” explained Beatrice Fofanah, outgoing coordinator of the group.

The women meet annually and this year were in Kabala, northern Sierra Leone.

“About seven years ago, when I was Women’s Coordinator, I attended an Ubuntu program in America. I was so moved by the impact of the Ubuntu journey that I decided to replicate it into the women’s program in Sierra Leone,” Fofanah said.

Ubuntu has continued to be a significant program of the women’s annual convention for the past seven years with many success stories, she said.

“The women go into the communities and, for a few hours, live and work with the community,” said Ethel Sandy, the new Women’s Coordinator. “In addition to their prayer ministry, social interaction, they also take gifts with them — clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc. And they take along a lot of love and warmth to the community they visit.”

Before beginning the Ubuntu journey, Elmira Sellu, a United Methodist Women’s missionary, talked to the women about encountering people from different cultures with different beliefs. She told them to listen and learn.

Kabala is predominantly Muslim and a new mission area for The United Methodist Church.

The first stop for the women was at the Badembaya Community at the home of two teenage mothers and a high school graduate awaiting results of her West African Senior School Certificate exam. The women prayed with the young women and encouraged them to return to school. Other members of the team visited in other homes.

After the visits, the women talked about their experiences.

They talked about the high level of religious tolerance with Muslims joining hands to pray with Christians and making prayer requests for their loved ones.

“Yesterday, we had Muslims asking for prayers for a pregnant woman; we had Muslims asking us to revisit their homes and talk to their families; we had a child bride whose parents were encouraged to make sure that her education continues even after the marriage,” Sandy said.

The women have helped fund education for children whose parents could not afford to send them to school.

Nancy Kamara, 35, was at the Kabala meeting and talked about how the group helped her.

“Before I met the women in 2011, I was teaching, unpaid and unnoticed at United Methodist Primary School at Waima,” she said. Now she is in her third and final year to earn a teacher’s certificate because a family agreed to sponsor her for a year.

Sandy said over the years, the women have looked at governance issues that affect the quality of life of women across the country.

“We are part of the women’s rights declaration that virtually forced parliament to make a decision,” she said.

“We worked with other groups out of The United Methodist Church — the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone, the Women’s Network, and the Women’s Forum. And together, we do advocacy for women and children.”

Jusu is director of communications for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone. News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. 

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