Day of Service
As part of United Methodist Women’s Ubuntu Day of Service April 29 more than 500 United Methodist Women members put love into action.
Ubuntu is a Zulu word, which recognizes and celebrates each human being as part of the community. Women from different parts of the country and indeed the world experienced what it means to be in community with their neighbors, and understand and act on their behalf.
In previous years, United Methodist Women have participated in Ubuntu Explorer Journeys to places, such as Hong Kong and Kenya, to learn of women’s concerns in other parts of the world. However, the purpose of the Ubuntu Day of Service is to connect women with the concerns and members of a local community. “Ubuntu Journeys have always been international, but this gives United Methodist Women members a taste of doing it here,” explained Carol Barton, national executive of United Methodist Women.
Through orientation and a service of commissioning women were prepared to go to their assigned sites. Volunteers ventured to a total 17 sites in St. Louis and nearby communities.
“I read about Ubuntu in response magazine, and I was very excited,” said Beatrice Fofanah of West Africa Central Conference. “When I saw this as part of Assembly — I wanted to be part of it.”
Ms. Fofanah spent the day making “border kits” with several other volunteers to send to Methodist Border Mission Network. “We are putting socks and other hygiene items in bags to comfort migrants who are sent back at the U.S.-Mexico border,” Ms. Fofanah explained.
“We do not know the people,” she added, “but we put ourselves in their position; we empathize with them. It is the love in action Jesus told us to have.”
For Evelin Rodriguez of California-Pacific Conference, a first-timer to Assembly, it was also a day to experience community with other United Methodist Women members. “A lot of us didn’t have to be here,” she said. “Some people, like me, had to take off from work and are not getting paid. But we want to be here to work together with other women.” Ms. Rodriguez packed several boxes of kits with Nancy Williams of Yellowstone Conference. “When somebody gets the kit they’ll know that someone cares for them,” Ms. Rodriguez said.
By afternoon, more than 1,000 kits had been assembled and were ready to go to the border.
Off-site, another group of border crossers collaborated with Operation Brightside to keep St. Louis clean. “Operation Brightside organizes volunteers to pick up trash, removes graffiti and plants flowers in St. Louis,” explained Mary Eva Johnson of Desert Southwest Conference.
United Methodist Women members stood at street corners and gave out litterbags to encourage people not to throw things out of car windows. Others walked around and picked up trash from the roadside.
Hot and somewhat tired from the bending, the women remained intentional about involvement in the community. “I wanted to do the whole thing because we are about mission,” said Tracy Morgan of Oklahoma Conference. “It was neat seeing everybody coming together in the common bond of United Methodist Women.”
Others like Nancy Jennings of Illinois Great Rivers Conference experienced oneness with the community, “A lot of people stopped and thanked us for the bags. People were so accepting of us,” Ms. Johnson agreed. “We chatted with a few people also; it was like being part of the community.”
Barbara Mobley of Southwest Texas Conference added, “I stood on the corner holding a bumper sticker that read, “Help Keep St. Louis Clean,” every bit of publicity helps support Brightside’s work in the community.”
The Ubuntu Day of Service ended with reflection and worship. United Methodist Women members had participated in many acts of direct service as well as supported organizations acting for social justice.
“God is already in the community; God is inviting us to be there,” urged the event planners. For many United Methodist Women members, a lifetime of Ubuntu Journeys has just begun.
Praveena Balasundaram is a frequent contributor to Response magazine.