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Africa Upper Room responds to continent's resource needs

8/26/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn

Two related reports, UMNS stories #418 and #419, are available.

By Linda Green*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - A new Upper Room ministry aims at nothing less than helping every African spend time with God daily, and organizers are pleased with its success so far.

The Upper Room, in partnership with the Methodist Church of South Africa, launched Africa Upper Room Ministries in early 2002 to provide resources to individuals, congregations and denominations.

Based at Anathoth House outside Johannesburg, South Africa, the project "has much to provide Africa," said Ross Oliviet, general secretary of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. "It is a substance that can lead to transformation."

Anathoth House has become a hub for coordinating resources for the continent, he told the United Methodist Board of Discipleship Aug. 23.

"God is working miracles in Africa, and we are being used as one of the vehicles for these miracles," said Roland Rink, the Africa coordinator for Africa Upper Room Ministries, in a report he sent to the meeting.

Africa Upper Room aims to give every African "the opportunity to spend time with God each day," he said.

"The whole idea behind Africa Upper Room is to work with the churches in Africa to make available resources for the spiritual life of the people on the continent and to help people be open to God's transforming power," said the Rev. Stephen Bryant, publisher and world editor of Upper Room Ministries, a unit of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship in Nashville.

"We are not there just to be helpful and provide stuff, but to listen," he said. "We believe God has something to say to us and to the world through the faith stories of the people of Africa. We are there enabling their faith stories to be heard."

Oliviet told the board members that Africa Upper Room Ministries focuses on increasing the spirituality, vitality, morality and dignity of Africans. It publishes editions of The Upper Room devotional guide in English, Portuguese, French and Xhosa, the tongue of Southern Africa's largest group of indigenous people. It is expanding its reach into Mozambique, Angola, Nigeria, Egypt and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Africa Upper Room will be introduced at the Nov. 21-27 meeting of the All Africa Conference of Churches in Cameroon, Oliviet said. If successful, he said, it would extend the Upper Room's reach to 139 Christian churches in 37 African countries. The devotional is also sent as far afield as Kuwait in the Middle East.

Other countries of interest include Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Kenya, Rink said. "The devotional is a valuable tool in the life of Christians in Africa," he said.

Said Oliviet: "We sense that we are entering a new era and are on the cusp of an exciting time."

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*Green is United Methodist News Service's Nashville, Tenn., news director.

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