Ford Tough and Christ Loving can describe the new truck now in ministry in Liberia thanks to The Detroit Conference.
Senior Editor-Writer, Michigan Area
The first 5,368 miles of the truck’s travels never registered on the odometer. That’s because the tires of the newly-minted vehicle were sitting in a container on a ship bound from Turkey, through the Mediterranean Sea, to Liberia.
And that incredible journey actually began in Michigan. It began with a dream. The Rev. Tom Robinson, then Chair of the Liberia Task Force of the Detroit Conference, guided the group in their dream of giving a gift that would be life-changing for their covenant partners in Africa. He collaborated with Bishop John Innis, episcopal leader in Liberia.
What came into focus was a vision of a truck. Such a gift could indeed transform that part of the world known as the Liberia Annual Conference.
Making this dream come true might seem easy to the average car buyer in the U.S.. But this was a dream too big to be realized by a simple trip to the local dealership.
First money needed to be raised. The truck was made the designation for the Liberia portion of the Ingathering taken at the Detroit Annual Conference. Over time $55,000 came into the Treasurer’s Office for the project.
Research was done on the type of truck needed … heavy duty. Even those used to Michigan’s legendary potholes haven’t seen anything like the craters in the pavement that many Liberians have to endure. Weather, warfare and lack of funds had conspired to make Liberia’s roads a challenge for any vehicle and its driver.
Robinson went to work consulting with a Ford dealership in Detroit. Once in touch with Ford International, the best option was to purchase a truck manufactured in Turkey. Some delays were incurred during the building of the truck due to innovations being made at the factory. But that bad news was offset by the good news that the Detroit Conference would receive a better truck at no extra cost.
The next episode in the life of the truck involved shipping, built as it was half a continent away from its destination. That’s where the cargo vessel came in. Port of call was determined. Voyage made. Duties paid. And on November 23, 2016 the truck was dedicated by United Methodists gathered in Monrovia, among them interim Bishop F. Arthur Kulah and Director of Connectional Ministries, Rev. George Wilson.
“It’s been a team effort from the beginning,” says Kayte Aspray, current Chair of the Liberia Task Force. “Congregations from all across the Detroit Conference gave the money. A group of leaders made it happen. And now God’s people in Liberia will keep the truck in service.”
Katye extends special thanks to DCM George Wilson and Helen Roberts-Evans for their work on the ground in Liberia that corresponded to her work in Michigan over the past year. “They were instrumental in organizing shipment and delivery of the truck,” she states. Helen Roberts-Evans is a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries who directs the Department of General Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church in Liberia.
An important aspect of any gift given between two cultures and countries is sustainability. The Detroit Conference put together a policy on usage and maintenance of the truck. The truck is now the responsibility of The Liberia Conference and its upkeep can be readily managed in-country.
Just in time for Advent 2016, the “life-changing” part of the gift begins. The truck is now on the road and doing what it was intended to do. “With the Cross and Flame painted on the side, there’s no doubt it’s a Methodist truck!” Kayte said.
The truck will transport goods and people to the site of Annual Conference. The truck will deliver desks built at the workshop in Ganta to children at their schools. Supplies will be loaded into the truck and taken to medical facilities. If there’s a well that needs drilling, the equipment will be available on site thanks to the truck.
“We believe that this truck will make it easier to do anything the Liberia Annual Conference needs done,” Kayte concludes.
The first 5,368 miles of the truck’s life was prelude. Every mile after that is driven to the glory of God.