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Springfield United Methodist Church building 'Tin Can Miracle' for use in Africa
Springfield United Methodist Church
This is one of several banners placed at the project site on the SUMC grounds. - photo by Photo submitted
Tin Can Miracle
United Methodist Church Pastor Ken Morgan, (left) stands by a used shipping container with Rev. Bobby Gale, a United Methodist Church missionary, who will oversee construction on the container to turn it into an OBGYN clinic for women in Africa. It is Gale’s fifth container to be built, outfitted with medical equipment and supplies, and sent to a remote area. - photo by Photo submitted

By Nancy Gould

Special for the Effingham Herald

At nine months pregnant, a Kenyan woman made her usual three-mile trek to a creek to collect water. When she arrived, she paused from the task and kneeled on the riverbank to deliver her baby. 

After a short rest, she walked back to her small mud hut in her village and retired for the evening…but only to bleed to death a few hours later.

Senseless loss such as this is what drives a local United Methodist Church pastor/missionary, the Rev. Bobby Gale, in his ministry, “Unto the Least of His,” to help poor and marginalized people in 25 countries, including Uganda, Ghana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Honduras, Panama and Kenya. His primary missions have been digging wells for clean water and building clinics for medical needs.

But Gale’s overarching goal throughout his 20-year ministry has been to do whatever he can to improve the lives of those who are overlooked and forgotten—many whom he’s come to know and love.

“Villagers should not have to go to bed with hungry kids,” said Gale. “Every single day there are sick people who lie in their vomit because there is no transportation or money for help. We know that clean water and medical help improve the standard of living and make a huge difference in the lives of these impoverished people.”

Now at home in Savannah, Gale continues his mission by teaching South Georgia church groups to build solar-powered obstetrics and gynecology clinics out of sea certified shipping containers.

In May, Gale’s fifth container to be refurbished was placed on the grounds of Springfield United Methodist Church (SUMC). The Rev. Ken Morgan, SUMC pastor, said he knew this mission was one that his church should take on.

“We’re blessed with a deep well of resources,” said Morgan. “We have leaders with vision, knowledge, skills and experience. And thanks to the generous hearts of our members and friends, we have the finances to build a fifth clinic for our brothers and sisters in Africa.”

Containers are designed to have four standard areas: a small front waiting room; behind it, an exam room; a delivery room; and a restroom in the rear.

The cost of the SUMC container was $3,900. But Gale said COVID-19 and inflation have caused an evolution of pricing, making it $2,000 more than the first one purchased in 2020.

Shipping expenses will add another cost for SUMC, one that that is generally paid by “Unto the Least of His” ministry along with a humanitarian group, Yonkafa Project in Africa, Gale collaborated with Yonkafa founder Dr. Gabriella Nanci on the shipping container concept, claiming it to be the most effective use of resources.

Springfield Methodist leaders understand the cost of ministry. For 18 years, the church supported a well-drilling ministry in Honduras and a children’s ministry in Tapachula, Mexico under the direction of Hope and Steve Shearouse, now retired “Mission on the Move” missionaries as well as SUMC church members. The couple “rescued” children from prisons where they lived with incarcerated parents and placed them in group homes where they learned about the love of Jesus and received protection, care and an education. They also ministered the gospel to their incarcerated parents.

Morgan said God always places people where he wants them for ministry and he’s glad the Shearouses are here to lead this project since they understand how third-world cultures work. As leaders with a proven track record, Hope will manage the container overhaul and Steve will help with financial management. Morgan said he is confident the couple and all volunteers will do their best to ensure a quality product.

Construction of the clinic will begin this month. Hopefully, it will take only two to three months to complete.

Before heading to Africa, all restored containers are shipped to Atlanta to get outfitted with approximately $5 million in donated medical equipment and “in-kind”pharmaceuticals.

Once they arrive and are set up in Ghana, government officials coordinate with a local catholic hospital to staff and get the clinic up and running. From that point, the hospital assumes all administrative/operational responsibility for the clinic and its service to 3,000 to 5,000 villagers from remote areas of Ghana.

Through the years, Gale has received multiple letters of appreciation from governments for his “works of mercy” as defined by the Methodist church. But he believes his efforts are humanitarian as much as religious.

“Our work provides a small measure of justice that transcends divided political factions and ideologies of nations, he continued. “When it comes down to it, we’re just people helping mothers and women with health issues.”

Women at SUMC are also helping mothers, women and children. They will pack the “Tin Can Miracle” with homemade items designed specifically for their needs. Church members are also collecting/purchasing new shoes, underwear, cloth diapers, books and soccer balls and umps.

Individuals and groups outside of SUMC are welcome to add to the church’s growing inventory of supplies.

Items needed include:

— Cotton-blend fabric for girls dresses and boys shirts.

— Flannel fabric for baby receiving blankets

— New quality flip-flops or sandals (ages 3-10)

— Children’s underwear (ages 3-10)

— Children’s Christian and other appropriate books (new or used in good condition)

— Cloth baby diapers

— Women’s full cotton underwear (sizes 4-9)

 — Deflated soccer balls

— Soccer ball pumps

Gale said Jesus gave his disciples simple instructions in Matthew 25:35-40 about how to spread the gospel and make disciples—beginning with practical needs.

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…37 "'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”

If you wish to donate, items can be dropped at SUMC, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday at 210 Cleveland St., Springfield, GA. Call 912-754-6646 for additional information.