Celebrating global connectivity

Anna Migera and her daughter Elizabeth Chacha show off their COVID-19 vaccination cards. (Photo courtesy of Anna Migera.)
Anna Migera and her daughter Elizabeth Chacha show off their COVID-19 vaccination cards. (Photo courtesy of Anna Migera.)

Did you know that international United Methodist local churches and ministries are able to stay connected to their communities because of the tireless work of the Global Communications Technology team at United Methodist Communications (UMCom)?

The agency’s staff continues to build an innovative communications infrastructure, offer equipment assistance and provide training that equips United Methodists to impart life-saving and life-changing messages throughout the world.

These efforts make it possible to share the gospel and support church ministry.

UMConnect use grew and encouraged good health

UMConnect is a group messaging system used for sending important news and updates quickly throughout the world via texting. Working with the General Board of Global Ministries, the team utilized it to expand assistance with COVID-19 and vaccine education dissemination.

“Usership grew exponentially as a result,” notes Ashley Gish, Director of Strategy for Global Communications Technology at UMCom. “We saw a 160% increased usage with 928,319 messages sent/received between March 1, 2021-March 1, 2022.”

Though the numbers have been impressive, the real celebration can be found in the stories of those impacted by UMConnect.

Pierre Omandjela Tangomo, one of the team’s field staff and Communicator of the Congo Central Conference, shared the story of Anna Migera, who teaches children at her church, and her daughter Elizabeth Chacha from UMC Gamasara in the Mara District of Tanzania Annual Conference. They were vaccinated after the UMConnect communications dispelled misinformation and helped them to learn the facts about the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine. “She is now telling others to get the COVID-19 vaccination. She shared that she now tells others that there are no antibody problems in the vaccines and that they’ll get to feeling better. Many local church communicators have asked her questions. She’s told them that she and her daughter felt okay after the vaccines. This inspired people to get vaccinated or start thinking about it.”

Dr. Marie Claire Manafundu, program officer for the East Congo mother-child health program, spoke with UM News about how their “program works with community relays and the church’s UMConnect messaging platform to make people aware of [their nutrition and healthcare] support and to encourage them to continue follow-up care.”

“We will continue to hone this tool to ensure communication preparedness for future health and safety concerns as well as overall church messaging,” adds Gish. “But we’re excited about the impact we’ve been able to have using UMConnect.”

Radio transmissions sent

United Methodist Radio Network (UMRN) stations provide vital information that is accessible to most rural and urban people due to far-reaching airwaves and ease of availability of equipment.

“It took dedicated work with UMRN to get Radio Lokole, Central Congo’s long-defunct radio station, relaunched last fall. It is now fully back on-air and they have completed a successful first year of re-engaged ministry,” exclaims Gish.

She adds that “we’re now working with Voice of Hope Radio in Cote d’Ivoire on a third station to expand their reach and working with Zimbabwe on their proposal for a station.”

Internet connectivity established

Work has been completed to ensure that there are reliable internet connections in every Episcopal Area in Africa. Efforts are now in place to make sure that these continue to be quality and reliable connections.

While Zimbabwe already had a reliable connection, UMCom continues to be available to support the area’s other needs. “The needs for local churches and the communities they affect and the ways in which to fill those needs are always evolving,” says Gish. “As we head into a new year, our goal for global communications technology remains the same: to ensure that the important work that is being done in The United Methodist Church around the world can have the greatest impact possible.”


*Brenda Smotherman is the Senior Public Relations Manager at United Methodist Communications.

For 80+ years, United Methodist Communications has been leading the church in telling inspirational stories of God’s work in the world through The United Methodist Church, reaching new people, supporting local churches in vibrant communications ministry, equipping leaders and delivering messages of hope and healing.

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