Many Unity ministries are responding to the enormous challenges of poverty, droughts, famine and massive pandemics that face the continent of Africa. That level of human predicament has not been felt in the US to the degree it has in Africa, and so it brings a wake-up call to Americans. Many folks in Unity are redefining missionary work to embody spiritually inspired social action. People are feeling called into service and are following the Unity principles to guide and define their outreach. Our fifth principle calls us to be God in action, and there are countless ways to do that. Here we will take a peek at a few Unity projects in Africa. While the forms vary, always the principle of giving and receiving is active and people come away feeling changed at depth.
Building Bridges: Sister Churches for Nigeria
In 1929 the Unity message reached Nigeria by radio, and today there are approximately 40 Unity centers in Nigeria and others in Ghana, Benin and South Africa. Since 1998, Rev Helen Evwaraye and Rev Lisa Davis have developed Building Bridges, supporting Nigerian ministries who partner with an American “sister church.” One example is Unity of Portland, Oreg., which mailed 35 boxes of Unity books to ministers in Nigeria. Eight Unity ministers were ordained recently, and many more are waiting to get into the next year’s program, including many young adults. A new scholarship program for young girls was started, and three delegates have received support for their schooling. Rev Lisa says, “The Unity message is a transformative one, which touches lives in so many ways as people hear a message which reminds them they are one with God!” www.UnityBuildingBridges.org
Transforming Medical Care in Tanzania
Paula and Denny Lofstrom retired from their careers but, inspired by the Unity principles they learned at Unity Church of Overland Park, Kansas, felt called to volunteer and put their talents to work once again. Denny, an MD, and Paula, an RN with administrative skills, have been instrumental in building the largest nursing school and a pediatric AIDS hospital in Tanzania. While combating superstitions and lack of awareness of western medicine, they increased health care access tremendously. Rev Will Bowen led a volunteer group from One CommUnity Spiritual Center, Kansas City, Mo., to help them build a birthing center. Paula says that when people come to volunteer, “Everyone comes away changed!” www.IHPTZ.org
LoveLight: Empowering South African Youth
LoveLight in South Africa is a volunteer ministry of The Light Center, Robin Goff’s alternative ministry in partnership with Unity Church of the Hills, Austin, Tex., led by Steve and Mary Bolen. LoveLight’s mission is to empower and inspire South African youth to express their fullest potential. It offers leadership development camps for teens, based entirely on the International Youth of Unity (IYOU) model. In 2012 an Internet center was created to bring computer access to folks in Riviersonderend, a small rural town. The local women’s sewing group is now producing beautiful quilts to raise funds to help children continue their education beyond high school. LoveLight volunteers bring their unique gifts to partner with the local community to build their dreams. www.LoveLight.info
The Global Prosperity Projects:
Responding to the World’s Greatest Challenges
Rev Charline Manuel leads this along with the Unity Center of Miami, Fla. She was inspired at the Parliament of World Religions Summit in 2004 to ask, “What can I do?” She wanted to respond to some of the major challenges facing the world, such as the lack of drinking water. Her congregation began to pray for the opportunity to be of service in the world, and the first answer was to reach out in Haiti. They sent school supplies, helped to build a school, financed four students to go to college, and helped with a summer camp in Haiti. Next the call was to Mali in West Africa, where they were able to provide a well for a village. Charline is committed to living her Unity principles, and finds that outreach work brings people together in a powerful way.
The Malawi School Project: Building Schools
The Malawi School Project is led by Rev Keith Cox, the head of Youth Seminars for the International Centers for Spiritual Living. This project was initiated by youth who were inspired to build schools. A partnership with Build On, who was already active “on the ground” building schools, helped launch Keith’s group to assist with the creation of 20 schools. As well as raising funds, Keith takes groups to help hands-on with the projects. Rev Wendy Craig-Purcell of The Unity Center (formerly Church of Today) of San Diego, Calif., has also been involved in this program, which includes support for teachers, school supplies and adult literacy.
Some common inspirations ring through these projects. While the needs in many places can seem overwhelming, we listen for guidance and respond where we are led. The act of showing up consistently builds deep, caring relationships based on mutual trust and respect. Listen to the archived programs at www.UnityFM.org in the archives of “A World That Works” with Rev Deborah Olive and you will be inspired! The time has come to challenge old assumptions and create new, exciting programs that empower people as we feel the oneness of our global family.