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Spokane teen helps make decisions at global youth gethering

By Deidre Jacobson

As one of six young people representing the Pacific Northwest at the United Methodist Global Young People’s Convocation Dec. 28 through Jan. 1 at Johannesburg, South Africa, Micah Coleman Campbell, 17, learned and shared as delegates suggested “legislation” to forward to the world Methodist leaders.

Micah Coleman Campbell
Micah Coleman Campbell's T-shirt promotes mosquito nets for preventing malaria.

The convocation was the first United Methodist global meeting for young people.  Delegates came from Africa, the Philippines, Europe and the United States.

A Lewis and Clark High School senior who enjoys video games, bicycling, computers and sports, Micah is a member of Highland Park United Methodist Church. 

His heart for serving the church and interest in Africa come naturally. 

The son of two Methodist ministers, John and Joanna Coleman Campbell, he has been active in the church all his life. 

He recently became involved in the Conference Council on Youth Ministries and has helped plan retreats for junior-high age youth.

Two years ago, Micah and his father, John, who is pastor of Highland Park, spent two weeks in Malawi, working at the Ministry of Hope orphanage and feeding center, caring for abandoned infants with AIDS.  His mother, Joanna, is pastor of Cheney United Methodist.

The recent convocation included worship, Bible studies and speakers on topics of international concern and social justice.

Speakers included Bishop Eben Kanukayi Nhiwatiwa, on the faculty of Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe, Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of the Germany Central Conference, Beauty Rosebery Maenzanise, dean of the faculty of Theology at Africa University and Liberto Bautista, the assistant general secretary of the United Nations.

About 300 youth—from 15 to 18—young adults—from 19 to 40—and chaperones attended. Of these delegates, 96 were able to vote on legislation.

Micah was not originally a representative with voting rights, but was given the opportunity when a representative from California was unable to attend.

Legislation included articles that would increase the number of youth and young adults to leadership positions within the church body both globally and at the local church level and require youth and young adults be included in general agencies and boards. 

The representatives also voted to increase awareness and action regarding the situation in Darfur, increase funding to Africa University, increase church involvement in the prevention or the spread of AIDS by providing educational opportunities to congregations and the community. 

The youth and young adults passed an amendment recommending that the membership of all local United Methodist Churches include those who have been baptized and who have professed their faith regardless of age, class, ethnicity, gender, race and sexual orientation. 

The convocation also voted to support the “Nothing but Nets” campaign, a global, grassroots campaign to save lives by preventing malaria, a leading killer of children in Africa.  Malaria is preventable, but infects nearly 500 million people each year and kills more than one million of those people who become infected, states the initiative.

Micah said each delegate had a voting card to express support or opposition.  Three people presented arguments for and three against before the voting took place.  A two-thirds majority was required for the legislation to pass.

“There were a few communication problems.  Information was presented in English.  Non-English speakers used headphones for translation.  Some people had difficulty understanding and the process had to be slowed down. 

A few pieces of legislation passed before the problem was solved.

“What impressed me the most about the convocation was the focus on action.  I realized how hung up Americans can on issues such as homosexuality, when other issues like AIDS and malaria are killing people every day,” he commented. 

“The legislation passed by the Youth and Young Adults Convocation will be sent to the General Assembly, which will have the final say and will vote to appropriate funds,” said Micah.

Conference attendees also did some sightseeing. 

They visited an apartheid museum, which had a chronological exhibition beginning with the Bushmen through the colonization of South Africa to the present.  They also visited the Hector Peterson Museum, named for the first man shot in the resistance, and Nelson Mandela’s home. 

Micah reports that the trip has strengthened his desire to stay involved with the church and especially the youth ministry. 

He hopes to attend the University of Puget Sound after graduation, majoring in history, with a goal of teaching upon completion. 

He would also like to attend the next convocation in four years.

For information, call 535-2687.

Newport woman establishes office for World Medical Relief in her home

Ruth Calkins’ effort to help combat HIV and AIDS through an educational website she started from her home in Newport, opened her to involvement with World Medical Relief (WMR) as another way to address her concerns about Africa.

A TV special on AIDS in Africa introduced her to the World Medical Fund.  In 2004, she emailed the founder, who wanted to expand in the United States.

Ruth offered to help.  Now her home address is the address for World Medical Relief USA.

The organization established mobile children’s clinics, operating in Malawi with three Land Rovers equipped with medical supplies.  They travel to villages to give medical treatment and provide anti-retrovirals to children born with AIDS.

Three medical officers go in each Land Rover with a pharmacist and a nurse.  There are 10 volunteers for every paid person.

When they come to a village, more than 100 people line up. Children are weighed and measured to address malnutrition. 

Every day, they visit three villages, revisiting each every four months in the Nkhotakota Western Lake District of Malawi. 

At each village, they train volunteer health workers to weigh and measure children.  Pharmacists give out medicines and mosquito nets.

In August 2006, WMR held an education program to help protect African girls, who are sexually active at early ages, Ruth said.  Education also discourages them from sexual activity as the best way to prevent AIDS.

“Families are so poor that a girl will offer herself in exchange for a meal,” she said, “even though children can see the ravages of AIDS in their villages.”

World Medical Relief wants children aware early that those outcomes connect with being sexually active at an early age.

“We seek to have churches, mosques and schools cooperate in a program of education for children.  Where the program has been done, the rate of HIV has dropped from 16 percent to 2 percent,” she reported.

In 2006, World Medical Relief treated nearly 14,000 children for malaria and bilharzi—a parasitic flatworm—and distributed 362 mosquito nets.  They reach a total of 30,000 sick children a year.

Michael Burt, WMR founder, said they have given out 5,000 nets, but there is need for 100,000 nets in 586 villages.

Beginning in 1984, he often traveled to Malawi on vacations, volunteering for agencies working with AIDS victims.  He became disillusioned with administrative costs of clinics and offices. 

So he retired early from his job with the British Health Services in 1997 to start World Medical Relief to aid children in hard-to-reach areas with few medical resources.  The average daily income in those areas is 41 cents from subsistence farming or fishing. 

To save administrative costs, Michael operates WMF from his home, just as the treasurer and Ruth work from their homes.  They keep careful records, she said, both to justify expenses and so their work can be duplicated.

A Quaker most of her life, Ruth has also been involved in United Methodist, Unity and now United Church of Christ churches.

Her first husband’s work with Rutger’s Agricultural College took them overseas, from 1959 to 1963, in Sri Lanka—then Ceylon.  Then he worked with U.S. AID from 1963 to 1972 in Nigeria.  They returned because he had a head injury in a car accident.  He died in 1974 in Arlington, Va.

Ruth was a legal secretary there, where she married Dan Calkins.  They moved three years ago to settle near grandchildren in Newport.

Knowing what native villages look like from having lived in Nigeria, Ruth realizes how AIDS adds to the burdens.

With this work, she has less time to keep up the website, which includes statistics and descriptions of AIDS in South Africa, Somalia and Uganda.  She prepares the newsletter for World Medical Relief and gives talks to area groups about the program.

For information, call 447-5957.


The Fig Tree - © March 2007