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History of the Regional Missionary Initiative

The Regional Missionary Initiative was launched in 2000 after a period of consultations with women leaders around the world.  Methodist and United Methodist Women from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean requested support for leadership and organizational development and training. Their aim was to assist women, children and youth to focus on leadership, organizational growth and mission response to critical issues.

The term Regional comes from the geographic assignment each of our missionaries is given.  They do not work for an individual church, annual conference or organization, but rather they serve Methodist, United Methodist, ecumenical and grassroots organizations in a region of the world. These large regions include Asia, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, East and West Africa, and the English and French speaking Caribbean and Americas. 

Regional Missionaries work to:

  • Develop and equip women leaders for the church, for communities, and for nations; 
  • Build networks in their regions to achieve greater advocacy and justice for women, children and youth;
  • Be an interpretive liaison and program link between women, children and youth in their region and the United Methodist Women national office.

Since the program’s initiation in 2000, all funding for Regional Missionaries (both programmatic and salaries and benefits) has come from United Methodist Women’s mission giving.

All programs implemented by Regional Missionaries reflect the needs and priorities of the regions, as outlined in the annual work plans developed with regional partners and International Ministries of United Methodist Women.  Each Regional Missionary works with a United Methodist Women national staff liaison.

Originally, Regional Missionaries were assigned to the International Ministries Committee, formerly a Women’s Division and GBGM cross-functional team.  Today, Regional Missionaries serve as personnel of the National Office of United Methodist Women.  Supervision of their work continues to come from International Ministries.  The Regional Missionary Initiative set out to refresh and strengthen United Methodist Women’s historic mission interests following the organizational changes made between the Women’s Division and the Methodist Church in 1964, and the 1972 reorganization of the whole church—which eventually led to a new mission agency (the General Board of Global Ministries).  The Regional Missionary Initiative is in a way a return to the focus of Methodist women to fully support women engaged as missionaries to work solely with women, children and youth in their own regions.  The difference between missionaries “sent” out in the past and the work of the Regional Missionary Initiative today is that the missionaries are selected from within the region of their home country and work in that region. 

In 2000, the decision was taken by United Methodist Women (then called the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries) to place these missionaries in the context and structure of the existing GBGM Missionary framework, which the Women’s Division was supporting financially, and to formalize their work under the new title of Regional Missionaries.  GBGM was responsible for the logistical and administrative aspects of the missionaries, including the place of assignment, salaries, benefits, letters of agreement, health and wellness, etc., while the Women’s Division would directly supervise and financially support program activities and regional assignments.  As such, the Regional Missionaries have been able to work with and through United Methodist Women, Methodist Women, and ecumenical and grassroots women in their place of assignment to fulfill the work assignment.

On October 1, 2012, the former Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries re-gained autonomous status within the United Methodist Church.  From that day on the Regional Missionaries became missionary personnel of United Methodist Women.  To maintain congruity in the personnel services, United Methodist Women continue to contract with GBGM for logistic and administrative services.

The initial Regional Missionaries were:

Regional Missionary

Home / Base

Regional Assignment


Catherine Akale
Assigned to Women


Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Southern Africa


Marthe Dansokho
Assigned to Young Women


West and Southern Africa

Position closed

Shimba Mulunda
Assigned to Women, Young Women and Youth

DR Congo

All of DR Congo, Cote d’ Ivoire, resource to East Africa



John Yambasu
Assigned to Youth/Young Adult Networks

Home: Sierra Leone
Base: Ghana

West, East and Southern Sub-Saharan Africa

Now  Bishop of Sierra Leone

Elmira Sellu
Assigned to Women

Sierra Leone

Initially Assigned to East Africa now assigned to East & West Africa Episcopal areas



Esperance Kayambo
Assigned to provide resources for all Regional Missionaries

DR Congo

Global Resource for Regional Missionary from New York City


Rhoda Nyaku
Assigned to Women


Nigeria and West Africa


Missionary Deceased

Roseangela Oliveira
Assigned to Women

Home: Brazil
Base: New York City

All of Spanish and Portuguese speaking Latin America (South / Central and the Caribbean)


Position Open

Nancy  Boye
Assigned to Women / Economic Development

Costa Rica

Spanish Speaking Latin America – focus on economic development

Position Closed

Emma Cantor           
Assigned to Women and Youth


All areas where Methodist and United Methodist churches / mission initiatives exist in Asia / Pacific



 Additional Regional Missionaries currently serving and proposed expansion into new regions:


 Home Base


 Regional Assignment



Finda Quiwa
Assigned to Young Women and Youth Networks

Sierra Leone

West, East, Central and Southern Africa


Serna Samuel
Assigned to Women

St. Vincent & The Grenadines

English & French Speaking Caribbean and Americas


Grace Musuka
Assigned to Women and Youth


Central Africa (to include DR Congo, Zimbabwe, Tanzania

NEW as of June 2012

Hikari Chang
Assigned to the Wesley Foundation


Japan and all Asian countries impacted by the Wesley Foundation

New as of July 2012



Central Asia

To Be Opened




To Be Opened


Current Regional Missionaries are Catherine Akale, Elmira Sellu, Finda Quiwa, Emma Cantor and Serna Samuel. The newest Regional Missionaries as of June/July 2012 are Grace Musuka and Hikari Chang.



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