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Neelley Hicks

Matt Crum teaching Antoine Otoka and Pierre Omadjela how to use Goal Zero solar devices to keep communicating when electricity is down...which is quite often in this setting!

Pierre Qmadjela and Matt Crum

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No greater gift


The Rev. Neelley Hicks
Blog post from

Rev. Neelley Hicks, Director of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) for Church Initiatives travels to Cote d'Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in February to help assess and strengthen the communications infrastructure of the global United Methodist Church. As she travels, she shares stories from the field.

Set out for Kindu at the crack of dawn in Kinshasa, and on the way saw Bishop Gabriel Unda at the airport transfer in Kisangani. Upon arrival in Kindu, Matt Crum, Pierre Omadjela and I were greeted by a United Methodist Conference delegation – we could see them as we were getting off the plane. Much development is going on around the airport – with buildings and businesses and better roads.

Pierre said, 

“We just need peace and then we can build.”

The East Congo Episcopal Area of The UMC is quite a large geographic area that is struggling. The following is quoted from Bishop Unda’s Christmas message:

“As I write these few lines, my heart is too heavy because of the situation going on in Beni territory, north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is part of my Episcopal Area. The efforts of our army are insufficient to protect people.

People there are killed every day in the neighboring villages and we run the risk of losing all our believers. Two weeks ago, a group of Uganda rebels killed people in the villages Kamango, Oicha and Mbawu among which was a Methodist family – a father, his wife and their two children were killed with machetes. Many people are fleeing to Beni and our local congregations there are crowded with displaced people who flee from villages for their lives. We need your prayers. But, as you know, food and basic needs must be met. Our evangelization should reach out people in need.”

United Methodist Communication’s work here is focused on strengthening the communications network of The United Methodist Church so that the bishop, district superintendents, pastors and lay leaders can reach each other more readily via mobiles and mapping. We are working with Rev. Antoine Otoka who is a great collaborator in the work.

We’ve had four projects together over the last year or so. The first includes using the Fenix Ready Set to charge cellphones and bring income to the ministries of the church. It uses solar power so it’s great where there is no electricity. It has brought up to $50 per month and only costs around $180. Also Rev. Antoine has been testing the Classmate Clamshell computer with a Dell low power projector. These two portable items with added speakers can provide an easy means for sharing educational films like the recently produced Ebola video: A Poem for the Living. Mapping and mobile messaging are two other programs that will impact the life of the church now and for the future.

When I responded to Bishop Unda’s Christmas message, he reminded me,

“There is no greater gift one can offer to a friend than prayers.”

I am just wired to “do” things…so I really like putting feet to my prayers. It is why Matt, Pierre and I are here on behalf of United Methodist Communications. Together, we’ll see what more can be done. I imagine I’ll be asking you to help in this work…

For more information about ICT4D and ways The United Methodist Church is using technology to transform lives for the better, or how United Methodist Communications can work with you to develop a strategy for your ministry beyond the U.S., visit us here.