Living the Purpose
Elizabeth Conklin, a United Methodist Women member from Saratoga Springs United Methodist Church in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., joined members of Operation Hope, a community-based organization of women living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Nairobi, Kenya, as they sang lustily, “This is my story; this is my song. Praising my Savior, all the day long.”
The Kenyan members had just finished telling their stories, and they were singing to the glory of God. The stories told were sad, stories of how they were chased away by their husbands, families and communities just because they were HIV positive. But there were also stories of the goodness and mercy of God and of how members of United Methodist Women rescued them and gave them a reason to live.
Zilpa, a United Methodist Women member, said,
In my culture, wife inheritance [sexual relations with a member of the dead husband’s family] is permissible. If a woman refuses to be inherited, it is believed that the husband’s spirit will not rest in peace and the spirit would be hunting her. She would become an outcast and she and her children would be chased way. This is exactly what happened to me. I was chased away by my in-laws and they took away all that I had. After my husband’s death, I was diagnosed with the HI virus.
Leonida, another Kenyan United Methodist Women member, recalled what the doctor said to her when she was diagnosed with the virus and was admitted together with her son in hospital: “Go away with your AIDS, you and your son. I did not give you AIDS. Stop wasting my time.” Leonida continued, “I went home, and my son died the next day.”
Operation Hope members now have every reason to sing, celebrate and praise God all the day long. United Methodist Women members like Ms. Conklin and Marta Schelberg, of Edmonds United Methodist Church in Edmonds, Wa., live the purpose of United Methodist Women by creating a supportive fellowship with members of Operation Hope. Through their giving and counseling they have been able to save the lives of and give life to these women. They have given them, among other things, food, clothing, blankets and mosquito nets. The Edmonds United Methodist mission team also provided a counseling session. The United Methodist Women also gave members funds to enable them to engage in small-scale businesses.
Flory Atieno, leader of Operation Hope, continued with the storytelling:
We thank God for Mama Sellu for coming to our rescue. We also thank God for the United Methodist Women in the U.S. who has enabled us to be engaged in small-scale businesses. This past Christmas has been the best for many of us. We have been able to eat meat, and we have had a [first] decent meal in four years.
It is heartening to note that all of the members of Operation Hope are well and are doing fine. They continue to sing praises to our God. Indeed, our United Methodist Women members in living the purpose have been able to expand their concepts of mission through their participation in the global ministries of our church. We extend sincere thanks and best wishes to them as they minister to others around the world.
Elmira Sellu is a Regional Missionary with the Women’s Division.