Three young adults among team of four from Memphis Conference headed to Central Africa


A group of four people from the Memphis Conference are part of the 2017 Nashville Episcopal Area mission trip team to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa this month. They will be gone July 12-26.

Rev. Randy Cooper of Martin First United Methodist Church (UMC) in Martin, Tennessee, leads the group that includes three young adults: Erin Marie Bell and Michaela Johnson, also of Martin First UMC and Shelby Johnston of the Wesley Foundation (campus ministry) at University of Tennessee at Martin.

Rev. Neelley Hicks of the Tennessee Conference said the full team of eight will “help build the Mama Lynn Center, assist in local communication efforts to combat (rape) stigma, and build relationships to strengthen the church in all its ministries.”

The Mama Lynn Center is the building component of the “Congo Women Arise” initiative promoted as the offering during the 2017 Memphis Annual Conference. Visit to learn more or watch videos at
Congo Women Arise and the Mama Lynn Center will address the needs of female rape survivors in central Africa. Women in Congolese culture are the foundation of the family, church and village and often targeted and used as pawns in war. Aggressors abandon the women, leaving them with physical, sexual, psychological, social and domestic problems.

As of June 7, the Memphis Conference Treasurer’s Office reported that $22,141.75 had been raised for Congo Women Arise / Mama Lynn Center.

In addition to helping build the center, the trip was designed to support Bishop Bill McAlilly’s missional focus on the East Congo Conference, led by Bishop Gabriel Unda Yemba, who preached at the 2014 Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences AND multiply familiarity among churches in the Memphis Conference with the great needs of United Methodist people of God in the East Congo Conference.

McAlilly is the resident bishop for the Nashville Episcopal Area that includes the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences.

The young adults traveling with Cooper were named in January as the recipients of Memphis Conference scholarships worth up to $5,000 each to be part of this mission team to East Congo. The scholarships support at least two of the Memphis Conference’s areas of focus: to “invest in young people” and “engage the mission field.” Click here to read more about the scholarships.