West Ohio Conference Rides the Crest of the Missional Wave
By Melissa Hinnen
"God has got to be super happy," Bishop Bruce Ough emotionally declared after a miracle offering at the West Ohio Annual Conference. The goal was to raise $500,000 "following the lead of our missional partner in Africa, the North Katanga Conference, to purchase a Cessna Caravan plane," Bishop Ough wrote in a pre-conference letter. By the close of the meeting, the West Ohio Conference had raised more than $1 million for the Wings of the Morning aviation ministry.
"To raise over $1 million through an annual conference miracle offering is astounding. No one in their right mind would have predicted that. We thought our $500,000 goal was audacious," said The Reverend Dee Stickley-Miner, who leads the Conference's connection mission and justice office. She continued: "What we experienced, however, was the Biblical truth that nothing is impossible with God. We participated in a current-day miracle--one of extravagant love and generosity that is not possible except through the power of God's spirit."
Responding to the miracle offering, Thomas Kemper, the top executive at the General Board of Global Ministries, said: "The West Ohio Conference goes beyond financial giving. They develop sustainable and personal partnerships in the four corners of the world--creatively connecting with Global Ministries as a resource to facilitate mission." Kemper spoke at the gathering and thanked the Conference for their missional spirit. He presented them with an award from The Advance for the highest financial contribution in The United Methodist Church. For five of the last six years, the Conference has led the denomination in designated giving, supporting ministries around the world.
In his episcopal address, Ough commented on the Conference's "recession-proof mission," describing them as "riding the crest of the missional wave." He continued, "The Cessna Caravan [made] possible through your extravagant generosity will literally allow medicine, doctors, nurses, malaria nets, Bibles, and evangelists to go to villages in the Congo where the roads do not go."
With the density of rainforests, scarcity of resources, and lack of infrastructure, aviation is the only means of accessing hundreds of remote villages. Gaston Ntambo, one of three missionary pilots in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), expressed the importance of aviation ministry. "Every medical flight has a life-saving moment. But at the same time, it also has a spiritual saving moment. You are never the same once you have flown on Wings of the Morning."
In his message to the Conference, Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda, who leads the North Katanga episcopal area, thanked the West Ohio Conference for their offering: "Every pregnant woman will not have to be afraid to give birth because of Wings of the Morning. Any village can call for Gaston to come and bring them to get healthcare. It is a blessing for Gaston and a blessing for all of North Katanga. It is a blessing to all of us."
Campaign of Hope
Following the Conference, Gaston wrote a letter of thanks: "You have just opened the biggest door for mission work and for a country, maybe even countries, to come to know and seek the face of our Lord Jesus, and thank-you is not the word I am looking for. It is not enough!"
In addition to the cost of purchasing a new plane, the maintenance and fuel require additional funding. The United Methodist Church has come together to raise support for Wings of the Morning, laying a sustainable foundation for the North Katanga Conference to continue this vital and transformational ministry. In a letter asking for support, Thomas Kemper wrote that in the DRC, "An airplane can make the difference between life and death. United Methodist missionary pilots provide a link to people living in remote villages--in fact they provide hope--hope with wings."
The Greater New Jersey Annual Conference has committed nearly $300,000, and other conferences have also made significant commitments. $25,000 has been raised within the North Katanga Conference--a region of the world where the average income is less than $10.00 a month. To support the North Katanga Wings of the Morning, please make a donation to UMCOR Advance #3019626.
Photos: (Top) Jacques Umembudi Akasa, a United Methodist missionary pilot for Wings of Caring Aviation. (Bottom) Stephen Quigg (left), a United Methodist missionary assigned to Mission Safety International, consults with pilot Jacques Umembudi Akasa (right), a United Methodist missionary assigned to Wings of Caring. Credits: Paul Jeffrey