Visitors to our church will discover that there is a special level of commitment to African missions.
West Africa: Burkina Faso & Senegal
Our most recent pastor Rich Darr was raised the son of missionaries, and spent much of his early life in Mali, West Africa, in some of the most remote and impoverished regions of that continent. As Methodist minister with a special dedication to African ecology and conservation, he and his brother John have returned to the area of Burkina Faso, where he has delivered medical supplies and helped to start an environmental awareness and care network in local villages. Through conservation and educational programs sanctioned by the government there and under the aegis of AGEREF (www.ageref-cl.com), they seek to protect and preserve local game and land reserves, and conserve this fragile ecology through village education programs and wise practical stewardship of precious resources. Other goals include the growing of a sustainable eco-tourism economy and the eventual seeding of a Methodist Church presence in Burkina.
Partnering with Pastor Rich in these efforts has been the Rotary Club in Park Ridge, which is now financing eco-scholarships for high school age students through its Burkina counterpart. Our First UMC United Methodist Women raised the money for a motorized grain grinder for a Burkina village, this designed to ease the strain on the village women who had been grinding their meal by hand for several hours each day to feed their children.
Recently church members Judy Warner and Deb Hill joined with Trinity UMC Wilmette to visit Senegal, West Africa, to engage with and counsel small local business owners, and to work at local children’s centers.
East Africa: Kenya & Tanzania
First UMC members have been active in support of Global Alliance for Africa, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Chicago. They have traveled to East Africa, helping to build and sustain community libraries in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as develop micro-financing strategies for local business start-ups. Through Global Alliance, a First UMC sponsored group of church members traveled to, and trekked up, Mount Kiliminjaro in 2011; the donated proceeds from this trip were directed to the care for HIV/AIDS orphans. For more information, visit www.globalallianceafrica.org.
Through our UMW we have helped support Paula and Denny Lofstrom’s mission work in Tanzania. They are currently building a referral hospital near Dar Es Salaam, which will focus on care for seriously ill children.