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Belmont News newsletter for 4-23-17

Download April 16, 2017 issue



For Tennessee Conference news click here.




For United Methodist News Service news click here.



For news, features, and commentary from the United Methodist Reporter click here




Reflections for October 12, 2014

We are in a season focused on Joy in Giving, and we have been asked to reflect on the places where we have experienced great joy in giving in and through the church. We have heard stories of the ways in which our gifts are making a difference in the world.

I grew up in a household with very generous parents. We were not wealthy, and in my early years we lived a very simple life in an old, drafty farmhouse that had no running water. We grew most of the food we ate, and we worked hard. Most of my school friends lived in the same environment, and there was little distinction between rich and poor. My dad farmed and worked in town. He also sold crop insurance to farmers to help make ends meet. On Saturdays, he would go out to the farms and visit with his clients.

It wasn’t unusual for Dad to return home from his visits with stories of people in need—a farm family who had experienced a serious illness or a farmer whose crops had failed. There were always stories of families who were struggling to pay bills or to have enough to eat. Without hesitation my mom would fill a couple of bags with groceries, and my dad would go to the bank and get some cash. In our old car, the two of them would head out to visit and offer their gifts to the family in need. Giving to others was natural to them, and it gave them great joy to share what they had with others.

When I was growing up, our church used the envelope system for giving. Every church member had a box of envelopes, one for every Sunday in the year. My parents made a Saturday night ritual of preparing their envelope with a check for their church inside. If they missed a Sunday (which was rare), they’d prepare two envelopes. I am grateful for my parents’ continued witness of generosity.


Christmas Miracle Offering thank you

E Readers for Theological Education (a ministry of Discipleship Ministries) thanks Belmont UMC for contributing so generously to the Christmas Miracle Offering benefiting Wembo-Nyama theological school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo! An informative thank-you letter from Steve Bryant and a special note from Daniel Lunge, Dean of the Faculty of Theology at Wembo-Nyama and newly-elected bishop of the Central Congo Episcopal Area, are below.

Photo by Jeff Oliver

Letter from Stephen Bryant

Dear fellow Belmonters,

I am writing to say a BIG THANK YOU to the Outreach Team and to all who contributed to the Christmas Miracle offering of $25,000 to the E-readers for Theological Education Project.  Our family has supported past “Miracle” offerings but it is humbling to have one of my team’s projects selected to be a recipient of Belmont’s generosity and legacy of mission support.

Virtually the entire faculty and student body of the UM theological school in Wembo-Nyama, DRC, as well as a smaller sister school 150 kilometers down the road in Lodja, (the Diengenga Training School for village pastors), now have access to the basic biblical and theological texts needed for pastoral study in the United Methodist tradition.

Belmont’s gift of $25,000, together with an initial gift of $5000 from the Lovell Memorial Mission Trust Fund for mission in the Congo, made this new reality possible and sustainable for these two schools for at least 3 years to come.

A few months ago, I visited those two schools to partially launch the projects.  But more recently, more e-readers and a bank of solar chargers were added, along with new theological content for professors and students.

Let me remind you that you are now partners in a project which is revolutionary.  Only three years ago, our seminaries in Africa could not imagine having access to books and library resources most of us would consider essential to education of a UM pastor. In 2013, the impossible became possible beginning with the pilot project at Gbarnga School of Theology in Liberia. Today, through the E-reader Project, students and faculty in nearly all 22 UM seminaries across Africa are equipped with the e-reader theological libraries and tied into the resourcing network for updating and sustaining the e-libraries. The very remote schools in Wembo-Nyama and Diengenga are two of the last sites to be reached.

I recently received a report from the dean, Rev. Dr. Daniel Lunge Onashuyaka (who was just last week elected as the new bishop for Central Congo) on how the e-reader library project is going at Wembo-Nyama.  This report, translated from French, precedes the second delivery of e-readers but testifies to the impact that the e-readers are making on theological education.  His report (link) is on our website (url).  I will share additional reports as we receive them and I am always available to answer questions or share more information with any of you.

Many thanks for your generous commitment to helping us provide current and relevant material for training pastors for the growing churches of Africa.

Grace & peace,
Stephen Bryant  

Note from the Dean of Wembo-Nyama

Dearest Steve, receive our warm fraternal greetings in Christ.

I would like to briefly respond to your questions as follows:

1. All 70 students who attended our Faculty of Theology this year used the Kindles with joy.

2. Kindles are preserved with great care in the closet of my office, under the management of two assistants and the librarian. At the time of student reading, two assistants bring the Kindles to the library and distribute them to students following the numbering that indicates who owns each kindle. The librarian monitors all use of Kindles and their movements, assisted by assistants who bring [back] the regulated Kindles after the time for reading.

3. The greatest difficulty we have is that 47 kindles we have are not enough for 70 students. It is desirable that each student has his Kindle. [The number is now 70 e-reader libraries available to students at W-N plus 20 for faculty.] It really is a great job for us and even assistants to load [charge] Kindles twice a week and monitor the output to the library and back to my office. We want empowerment and responsibility of each student with her Kindle.

4. Kindles are often used in classrooms when teachers teach and above all in the library.

5. In addition, the Kindles even helped many of our students in learning the computer and browsing the Internet. Despite lack of financial means, no student…did not pay the small amount of $ 30 required for gaining control of the Kindle.

Conclusion. Dear Steve, the Kindles we have significantly help in our Faculty. Teachers have begun research that soon led them to good scientific public material. They have well improved the content of the courses they teach. The students have labored to write good papers based on studies with good selective bibliographies. In short, the level and ability of teachers, as of those students, have known a significant improvement and our faculty is high at the same level as other theological faculties of the United Methodist Church.

God bless the E-reader Project.
Rev. Daniel Lunge Onashuyaka
Dean Faculty of Theology, Wembo-Nyama
Central Congo Episcopal Area


Belmont News newsletter for 4-16-17

Download April 16, 2017 issue



For Tennessee Conference news click here.




For United Methodist News Service news click here.



For news, features, and commentary from the United Methodist Reporter click here




Reflections for September 28, 2014

Recently, a church member who had been hospitalized commented on how meaningful the presence of the pastoral staff had been during his hospital stay. He was uncertain and fearful, and the presence of others with him helped calm his spirit and gave him a sense of being cared for and loved.  A church member in one community was preparing to make a visit to a grieving friend. He wanted to know what to say. I assured him that he did not need to say anything, but he needed to show up and be present to his friend and remind his friend of how much he loved him.  

In seminary we learn about the ministry of presence, but I don’t think we fully grasp the meaning and depth of this ministry until we experience it firsthand. Never underestimate the importance of your presence in the lives of others. Social media and email can be efficient tools in our day-to-day activities but nothing can take the place of a person’s physical presence with another. By our presence we are saying, “I am here. I am with you, and you will not face this alone. I love you.”

Never underestimate the importance of your presence in church on Sundays and throughout the week. There is great joy and delight in the community in one another’s presence.  Last week I greeted a younger friend who has been away because of circumstance and illness. It made my heart glad to see him. We embraced each other and smiled and experienced great joy in our reunion. That is why we commit to being present when we join the church. We are the body of Christ; we are community; we are the gathering of the faithful, and in the presence of one another we rejoice!




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