Farmer-to-Farmer Team Strengthening Connections in Liberia

By Pryde Bass*

We are very excited about what God is doing through Farmer-to-Farmer of the East Ohio Conference. In 2018, two teams from the East Ohio Conference will travel to Harrisburg, Liberia.  The first team left the weekend of January 19.

The team is tasked with continuing to strengthen the connections between Farmer-to-Farmer and the Liberia Annual Conference (LAC) UMVIM program to encourage more team visits to Harrisburg, and to help with the sewing center and the construction of the agricultural high school.

Revs. Catherine and Ray Ake are leading this team.  It is the third United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) trip to Liberia for the Akes, who are retired and now attend Blue Ridge UMC in Mineral Bluff, Georgia.

Rev. Ray enjoys working with the students, teaching them how to build benches, bookshelves and tables, and to repair broken chairs, for their local school.  Rev. Catherine, a co-founder of the Women Empowerment Sewing Center, is traveling with some fabrics in hopes of creating a banner to present to St. John United Methodist Church in Harrisburg. They will also share a meal with the Elders of the community, spend quality time with the children, and meet with the Girls of Promise Scholarship Recipients.

Members of the East Ohio Conference Farmer-to-Farmer team traveling with the Akes are:

  • Freida McMath, a retired nurse who is a member of Vienna UMC (Mahoning Valley District) is also on her third trip to Liberia. She was present when the idea for the Empowerment Sewing Center was conceived.
  • Kim Anderson, who along with the Rev. Catherine Ake will be a guest presenter at the Liberia Annual Conference session, will speak to Conference pastors and lay leaders at the LAC office in Sinkor, Liberia, and will conduct Methodist discipline training in Harrisburg with the pastor and lay leaders of St. John UMC. Anderson is also carrying a suitcase of soccer balls to do some coaching while he is in country.
  • Lori Cook is a photographer and member of Thoburn UMC (Ohio Valley District). After hearing Rev. Catherine tell the Farmer-to-Farmer story when she was a guest preacher at the church, Cook approached her and said that she felt called to go to Liberia and would help in any way. She is the team’s photographer.
  • Mike Fox, a farmer, heard the same message preached at Thoburn UMC and also felt called to make the trip to Liberia. Team leaders had been praying for a farmer to be part of the team because Nathan Brause of Bucyrus UMC (Mid-Ohio District), the Farmer-to-Farmer resident expert farmer, was unable to make the trip.  Fox met with Brause and will carry out his plan to assemble the three Bradley walk-behind tractors that were shipped earlier, and train the farmers on how to use and maintain the equipment.
  • Laurie Collert previously taught home economics sewing. She will offer classes at the Dr. Linda Crowell and Rev. Catherine Ake Women’s Empowerment Center in Harrisburg. Before leaving, Collert borrowed a treadle machine and practiced using it.  She made beautiful uniform shirts she took with her on the trip.

I thank God for each member of this team and I know that they will be a blessing to everyone they meet.  Please pray God’s blessings and traveling mercies for our team members.

God willing, our next team will leave for Liberia in early November 2018.  I will lead that team.  If you are interested in more information, or would like to request an application to be part of the team, you can reach me by phone at (216) 401-4663 or by e-mail at

*Pryde Bass is coordinator of the East Ohio Conference Farmer-to-Farmer ministry.