It was a very hot and humid day! The main airport was closed due to ongoing civil unrest. All land borders shared by three countries were also closed. A very small airfield located in the capitol city provided the only opportunities for “safe” travel in and out of Liberia. The tiny airfield was heavily armed by a West African peacekeeping force sent to bring law and order in the midst of chaos and utter violence. Travelers flew into neighboring countries to connect to one of the few local flights to Liberia.
It was 1995. My husband, Herbert and I were serving as Global Ministries missionaries assigned to UMC
Liberia to assist with an education ministry. In the midst of chaos and civil unrest, in the midst of violence and despair, schools provided children, youth, and young adults an opportunity to escape their turbulent daily existence and to dare to hope in the midst of hopelessness. Government (public) schools had long closed. The United Methodist Church was determined to keep school doors open.
One of our partners was arriving on the local flight! We were impressed and excited by his determination to travel to Liberia in spite of the looming danger. Sporadic armed conflict was part of our daily existence. I was doubly excited! Not only was he coming to Liberia, but, at my request, he was bringing along some peanut M&Ms!!
International travel advisories discouraged trips to Liberia. Prayers from supporting churches and partners for my health, safety, strength and wisdom lifted my spirits and filled me with calm reassurance that I am not alone in my mission work! During those early years of civil unrest, a physical visit from one of our partners was almost unheard of. And fresh M&Ms……..unthinkable!
The small plane loomed, landed, and disembarked! Herbert and I kept our excitement in check. In pre-civil war days, we would cross the tarmac to embrace disembarking friends. During the civil war years, crossing the military barricade to enter the airfield was seen as a threat and you were shot on sight! We spotted our partner waving from a distance! A shout of “Hey y’all!” came from his smiling face! For me, his warm greeting brought on a rush of memories, homesickness, and tears. It was impossible to ignore the massive tanks, the heavily armed men, and sandbag laden barricades scattered strategically within the confines and extremities of the small airfield.
Our partner’s eyes were locked on us. For a while, I forgot about the imminent danger that had become part of my daily life! Staring into the eyes and smiling face of one seemingly undaunted by the imminent threat of violence transcended me to a spiritually safe place filled with love, care, and hope. I thought about the children who braved the streets each day to go to school and the perceived safe haven the schools provided for them and then I knew my purpose for being in Liberia at that time. I knew I was there to do whatever I could to make sure the children could access a school to attend!
For a few minutes, I forgot all about the civil war. I thought about the power of my relationships with the churches that supported me. I thought about how these relationships are centered and guided by our common faith in Jesus Christ. I thought about the depth of the relationship that compelled our partner to visit us under great risk of bodily harm while enduring a convoluted flight schedule. He was upon us now, and after several high fives (for him actually making the trip!!), hugs and tears…. we got in the car and headed home.
After he’d settled into our home, I asked Rev. Sam Dixon, who, at that time served as North Carolina Conference Missions Director, for the purpose of his visit to Liberia. “You and Herbert are the reason I’m here”! He explained he came to support us, to pray with us, to try to understand our challenges and to find out how local churches could better focus their prayers and their financial gifts for the people of Liberia.
Throughout my mission service, I’ve felt the spiritual presence of our partners through letters, cards of encouragement and support…through our rushed telephone conversations. Sam’s physical presence affirmed the strength of relationships. Relationships are strong enough to face dangers, threats, and all kinds of situations; yet humble enough to seek and follow God’s will.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”. Through the challenges and fears of my mission service, through the joys of my mission service, Psalm 46:10 reminds me of the calm, confident assurance that I am not alone in this journey. I am a witness that God, through His faithful, will supply the means to do what He has called me to do.
From everywhere to everywhere sums up our church’s mission work today. 370 missionaries serving in 60 countries, representing many nations, are engaged in a variety of services, activities and programs. Their service is why families are breaking generational cycles of poverty, why struggling communities are transformed into empowered communities, why we can Imagine No Malaria, and why even in the midst of violence and despair, people can hope!
I am honored to continue my mission service. Assigned to our Global Ministries office in New York City, I assist missionaries (representing many nations) who have no or very limited connections develop a network of prayerful and financial support among local churches.
My own mission service would not be possible were it not for the support of churches willing to hear my stories, to pray with and for me, and journey with me in my mission work. Thank you for being the reason why missionaries can respond to our call. I invite you to support me with prayer.
I recently moved to New York City and am in the throes of learning how to survive and thrive in a new and busy environment. Pray that I will find a new church family SOON. Pray for my health and for wisdom as I assist my missionary colleagues.
I invite you to prayerfully consider continuing or renewing your support of my missionary salary through the advance! You may:
1. Use Global Ministries’ website: www.umcmission.org to send a donation for my salary support. At the bottom of the page, click on “Missionaries”. Scroll to my name on the missionaries page and my profile will appear. At the bottom of my profile is a link to make an online donation.
2. Through mailing a check to your local church or conference office. Write “For Mary Zigbuo, #10721Z” on the memo line of your check. If not sending through a local United Methodist Church, you may send your check to: Advance GCFA P.O. Box 9068 New York, NY 10087-9068.
I am so very thankful for my relationship with churches, conferences, and individuals! Our relationships have stood the test of time! As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
Mary Zigbuo Salary Support Advance #: 10721Z MAILING ADDRESS: General Board of Global Ministries Missionary Services 3rd Floor 475 Riverside Drive New York, New York 10115
212 870 3574 (office) 919 702 9401 (cell) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org