The connection between Mudge and Pessima goes back years, ever since Mudge first became a United Brethren pastor and was assigned to two congregations in Garrett County. Mudge’s congregations have provided financial aid to Mattru Hospital, Mattru Jong, Bonthe District, Sierra Leone, the only hospital in the denomination. Mudge’s interest stems from the fact that the facility is in the hometown of his good friend Joseph Abu, who pastors a United Brethren congregation of African immigrants in Philadelphia.
Sierra Leone suffered through 11 years of brutal civil war from 1991 into 2002 and the nation is still recovering from the infrastructure damage. Also in Mattru is Centennial Secondary School. In the fall of 2011, while praying about what to preach for Advent, Mudge remembered his friend’s appeal for aid. Since the civil war ended, Centennial School had grown to more than 1,000 students, but was still functioning with no drinking water and no toilets. Engineers Without Borders had designed a well and a solar system to run a pump, but needed $20,000 for construction to begin. The elders of Bethany House of the Lord agreed to challenge the congregation to meet that need. The elders authorized something the group had never done before or since — passing a basket to collect an offering.
“Our challenge to the congregation was to collect $5,000 in a special offering during our Christmas Eve candlelight service, to be matched 3-to-1 with funds from our savings account,” Mudge said. A $5,000 offering as a birthday gift to Jesus, matched by $15,000 from savings, would complete funding for the well project. “Nobody knew what to expect that night, but with 66 in attendance our offering exceeded our challenge — it was $6,400 — and we were able to send more than $21,000 to the school,” Mudge said.
In November, 2013, Joe Abu and Mudge travelled together to Sierra Leone and saw the project themselves. “Not only did we fund a well and solar-powered pump, but many boys at the school were paid good wages to dig trenches for new water lines to eight buildings on campus, and students fees fund a new full-time, on-going position for a maintenance supervisor,” Mudge said.
Mudge came home from that 2013 trip with another Christmas Eve challenge to the Bethany congregation — to endow scholarships to put two young men through three years of training to become United Brethren pastors in Sierra Leone. Again Bethany House exceeded that challenge and with the extra funds purchased land in Pujehun, near the border with Liberia, for the construction of a new United Brethren primary school.
After Mudge preached at other UB churches, the Emmaus Church of Berryville, Virginia, funded the construction of the walls for the new six-room school and also paid to furnish all the desks and chairs. The Living Water UB Church in Winchester, Virginia, funded the purchase of a new solar-powered DVD projector so that the “Jesus” film can be taken by a single evangelist on a motorbike to remote villages. “Our partnership with our brothers and sisters in America is what helps us turn our vision into reality,” said Pessima.
The bishop was hosted for a supper at the home of Doug and Jackie Bauer, where several members of the Bethany House of the Lord who work in the health care field gathered to discuss the needs of Mattru Hospital. During the Ebola crisis more than a year ago, the local congregation shipped 1,000 surgical gloves, as well as gowns and glasses and other medical equipment. Currently, the hospital is soliciting donations of oxygen concentrators, gasoline-powered electric generators and surgical equipment.
Pessima is visiting nine UB congregations in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. Mudge hopes to coordinate a group effort to complete the needs of the new primary school in Pejuehun, including roof, floor, stucco and paint. The United Brethren in Christ have eight secondary schools and 62 primary schools in the African nation, which is about the size of South Carolina.
“In addition to medical equipment for the hospital, we are also soliciting donations of sewing machines for the schools and lots and lots of Bibles,” said Mudge. “Thanksgiving is a great time to be thinking about giving a gift to Jesus, so experience the joy of giving out of our excess to brothers and sisters in true need.”