Twenty years ago, the United Methodist Church began supporting its first international medical ministry, a flight program in the Congo.
“It originated from the Western Ohio Conference, when one of our Toledo churches helped a young man from the Congo to become a pilot,” said Nancy Byrd, Miami Twp. resident and outreach director at Christ United Methodist Church in Kettering.
The young man returned to the Congo to fly medical missions, flying to remote areas and picking up patients and taking them to medical facilities, said church member Doris Kennicott. His ministry is called Wings of Morning and needs a new plane.
“The old plane only holds one patient, who can’t even lay down or be accompanied by a doctor or nurse,” Byrd said. “Our conference started raising funds four years ago, and still needed more than a million dollars. As one of the largest churches in the conference, we were called on to raise $50,000, but ended up with $117,000.”
Christ Church’s success story was helped in large part by yet another project, thought up by Byrd, who came up with the idea of making quilts for those transported.
She contacted Kennicott, a Centerville resident, who’s known for all the sewing she does for the church.
“I gave Nancy measurements for fabric squares, and people started bringing in material,” said Kennicott. “I had a lot of help cutting and sewing the 1,200 squares.”
After Byrd got the squares in April, they were taken to the Kettering site and the South Campus at Dayton Christian School in Centerville for a ‘blessing’ service.
“The squares were passed around, touched and blessed – we wanted members to think about how they were touching people they’d never see,” Byrd said.
Since then the squares were sorted into groups and another member, Sherry Heinzerling, volunteered to help with the construction end. She is sewing the strips together and finishing them into quilts.
Twelve quilts were completed by the end of August. The goal is 24 by the end of September, said Kennicott.
The finished quilts will be displayed at Christ UMC services where they’ll receive yet another blessing before they’re shipped to the Congo, to be placed on board the new jet plane to cover patients during transport.