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United Methodists raise funds for Latin American work

2/12/2001 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

NOTE: A sidebar, UMNS story #070, is available with this report.

NEW YORK (UMNS) -- United Methodists promoting a special fund for mission in Latin America and the Caribbean hope to quickly finish raising $1 million to begin that work.

The long-term endowment goal for "Encounter with Christ," a permanent fund of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, is $25 million, according to the Rev. Franklin Guerrero, staff executive with the New York-based agency.

Those financial goals were established by a 32-member study team that spent Jan. 27-Feb. 4 traveling in Guatemala and Mexico to learn more about Latin American ministries and how to promote them for fund raising back home.

The team happened to be in Antigua, Guatemala on the 10th anniversary of a consultation there among the United Methodist Church, the Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches in Latin America and the Caribbean (CIEMAL), the Methodist Church in Great Britain, the United Church of Canada, and the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas. The consultation resulted in a statement, "Covenant of Life and Hope," and led to the establishment of the Encounter with Christ fund.

Created in 1992 by the Board of Global Ministries and affirmed by the 1996 General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body, Encounter with Christ is designed to benefit long-term mission projects in conjunction with Methodist churches in the region. As money is disbursed, it will be monitored both by the board and CIEMAL, whose mission priorities include evangelization and new church development, work with women, children and youth, and community-based health care.

In Guatemala, the study team visited churches and projects in Chichicastenango, Quetzaltenango and Mazatenango; spoke with national church leaders; and greeted a Volunteers in Mission team from Iowa and Wisconsin. The group visited the Gonzalo Baez Camargo Seminary in Mexico and the "Give Ye Them to Eat" project in that country's Puebla area. Developed in 1977 by the Methodist Church of Mexico, "Give Ye Them to Eat" combats hunger and poverty in rural central Mexico.

Team members will be soliciting donations to the fund through a variety of sources, including individual cash gifts and deferred giving; pledges from churches, conferences and foundations; grant proposals to public and private philanthropies; and Volunteer in Mission teams.

According to Guerrero, the Encounter with Christ fund (No. 025100) had $301,000 in cash assets as of December, with another $415,000 pledged in annuities.

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