One of the real success stories of the Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church has been our ministry called "Operation Classroom." This amazing ministry began 25 years ago as the dream of the Lay Leaders of the former North and South Indiana Conferences who were looking for a way to unite the two conferences in mission outreach. They came up with the vision for "Operation Classroom" – a unique at the time ministry of connection local churches and districts in Indiana with Methodist schools in Africa. With the help of Bishop Hodapp, they selected the countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone as the best places for such a partnership – because of their English-speaking populations and because those nations were stable at the time.
Over these 25+ years, hundreds of United Methodists from Indiana have personally visited those countries and seen the needs, while thousands of United Methodists have collected school supplies and given monetary support. Unfortunately the two nations have also endured civil wars and epidemics (like the recent Ebola crisis), but Operation Classroom has adapted to new needs, shifted to refugees resettlement, trauma counseling, medical ministries, as well as the re-stocking of our schools more than once. Our Methodist people in Indiana have been creative and undeterred by these new challenges, and Operation Classroom has continued its faithful service in good times and in bad – led by its Directors Rev. and Mrs. Joe and Carolyn Wagner. Since their retirement, Pastor and Mrs. Bob and Sandy Coolman have continued the work, often without adequate resources of even salary support.
We all can celebrate the success, faithfulness, and impact of the ministry of Operation Classroom and its related health ministries.
But now, things continue to change, and the Board of Operation Classroom is entering into a time of deep prayer and discernment about the future. Already they have determined that the last contained shipments of supplies to the two countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone will occur this December, and then there will not be more shipping of containers. Why? Because the needs in the two countries have changed, and the warehouse and shipping containers are no longer available in the same way.
Now, the Board of Operation Classroom is holding a two-day "summit" in October to decide if Operation Classroom has out-lived its need, or if it can continue in a reshaped style and purpose.
I invite all Indiana United Methodist people to do two things:
- Offer prayers of thanksgiving and celebration for the amazing ministries of Operation Classroom and those who have provided excellent and sacrificial leadership.
- Offer prayers for God's wisdom to guide the Board of Operation Classroom as they enter into their two-day summit.
Starting new ministries is not easy. Neither is it easy to shift gears or directions in a ministry which has existed for over 25 years. Most difficult is knowing when to end a ministry. Such decisions needed to be surrounded in prayer.
So let us pray for Operation Classroom, thanking God for its impact upon lives, and seeking God's will for the future.
If you want to learn more about Operation Classroom, please click on their website at: www.operationclassroom.org.