Relying on God’s blessing, our aim is to improve the quality of life for the people of Panguma, with a special emphasis on the children. The ultimate goal is self-sustainability for the community.
“For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required.” (Luke 12:48)
We are currently in discussions for coordinating the next Panguma Travel Team Trip. We are considering options in the Spring and Fall of 2021.
Nestled in the country’s rich landscape, Panguma had once been a thriving community and the headquarters for the Lower Bambara District of Sierra Leone, Africa. In 1991, rebel forces were fueled by the desire to overtake Sierra Leone’s diamond industry and brutally engaged the country in a civil war. For 10 years, forces occupied Panguma and performed unmentionable atrocities against men, women, and children. Finally, in 2002, the United Nations responded to public outcry and the war ended. Panguma and its people were broken.The United Methodist Susquehanna Conference has maintained a relationship with Sierra Leone since the 1800s, sponsoring missionaries, establishing medical clinics and schools, and enabling Volunteers in Mission to provide aid to the country. Camp Hill UMC was first called to Panguma through the conference’s effort to financially support UMC pastors serving there. We have since partnered with the Panguma United Methodist Church, and Team Panguma—an international outreach partnership—was born.
Camp Hill UMC is partnering with the Lower Bambara United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone to improve the quality of life shared by the people in and around Panguma, with a special emphasis on the children. Our first mission visit was in 2010. Although the war had ended almost nine years earlier, the wounds remained fresh and the desperation was overwhelming. Hunger was rampant. The empty, burned-out shells of homes and businesses littered the landscape. The United Methodist Church lay in ruin, while the UMC primary and secondary schools had neither supplies nor funds. The hospital, the only medical facility for miles, was soon to lose its doctor and funding. Our challenge awaited us. Initially, our expressions of Christian faith led us to minister to the Panguma people by rebuilding the United Methodist Church and parsonage. Hope arose from this revitalization, and we have since progressed to serve the village as a whole. In cooperation with the community elders, Team Panguma identified and continues to supply aid for education, medical care, and quality of life.
Education is the key to ending the cycle of poverty. It is this premise that has guided our transition from church to school. Since 2010, we’ve:
When we arrived in Panguma, the secondary school was on the verge of extinction. No money, supplies, nor trained teachers were available. Our gifts and annual scholarship fund drive have:
Scholarships, school supplies and financial aid are simple means by which we are positively impacting the community of Panguma. However, God is calling us to do more. With every trip that we take to this village, God increases the challenge to our congregation. Much has been accomplished, yet much is waiting to be done.
“CHUM’s commitment to education has ensured that our children now have access to quality education beyond fifth grade.”
– BISHOP JOHN YAMBASU, UMC SIERRA LEONE
Built in the 1960s, the regional Panguma Hospital had a 130-bed capacity and was managed by the Catholic Mission. Occupied and vandalized by the militia throughout the civil war, the hospital’s capability was significantly diminished.
Then, in December 2011, international funding for the hospital ended and there were no prospective suitors. Also, the resident doctor’s commitment expired, and he returned to his home in Great Britain. Left with no doctor and little supplies, the Panguma Hospital was nothing more than a place to die.
In December 2012, accompanied by an American medical missionary, one of our travel teams was on site to assess the needs of this vital, remote hospital. During that visit, a woman arrived in heavy labor with a prolapsed umbilical cord. No surgeon was available at the hospital and she was transported two hours away to the next closest hospital. Upon arriving, the staff refused to treat her knowing she had no money to pay for her care. She and her baby were left to die in the hospital’s waiting room. As you might imagine, our team was deeply moved by these unnecessary deaths and began to pray for a solution.
In April 2013, CHUM took a huge leap of faith and agreed to raise $100,000 to place a Sierra Leonean surgeon, Dr. Suleiman Jabati Wai, at the Panguma Catholic Mission Hospital for three years. With the presence of a surgeon, Panguma Hospital is once again able to provide lifesaving medical care to the people of Panguma and the entire region.
During our team’s recent visit, they were able to witness firsthand the impact that Dr. Wai’s presence is making. Babies and their mothers were alive and well thanks to access to caesarian sections. Other individuals had recently undergone hernia surgeries. Both surgeries are commonplace here in the U.S., but at Panguma Hospital, they are the difference between life and death.
Our relationship with Panguma puts us in a unique position. What began as an opportunity to underwrite a pastor’s salary has blossomed into the adoption of a community. No longer are we called to meet only the needs of a congregation, but rather to improve life shared by an entire village.
“At times, this realization has made us feel small and insignificant; on the contrary, it also has made us keenly aware of God’s presence and how we are the instruments through which new life grows,”
– PASTOR TOM WILLARD, CAMP HILL UMC