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What UMCOR means to me

Do you think UMCOR is at work with “them over there”? UMCOR is “us right here.”

Senior Editor-Writer, Michigan Area

Minute by minute, every day The United Methodist Committee on Relief is providing assistance around the globe. Prevention, relief, recovery, and development happen on an ongoing basis in over 80 countries.

But there is one hour out of all the others that is very important for all the ministries of hope that UMCOR supports. That’s the One Great Hour of Sharing. This year, this Special Sunday takes place on March 6. Gifts received from United Methodist congregations around the globe pay all the administrative costs of UMCOR, sometimes with some left over.

So what? So this! One hundred percent of all other donations given through the year do not cover administrative costs and instead go, every penny, to human need. OGHS also enables UMCOR to be among the first responders when disaster strikes or needs arise.

If that seems impersonal and far-away, let’s hear from five United Methodists right here in Michigan who experienced those key characteristics of UMCOR first-hand …

Lowell, Michigan 2013 … the river floods. Lowell United Methodist Church takes leadership in assisting the community. Then Pastor Rick Blunt comments:

Before historic flood waters crested in Lowell, UMCOR had contacted us to coordinate a response. They delivered 1,200 Flood Buckets filled with cleaning supplies, supplied training for local residents to safely respond, and made $10,000 available for expenses in the area. Those three major pieces of support enable Lowell First UMC to respond with volunteers, meals for families in the flood area and workers. We were able to partner with others in the community to help with expenses not covered by insurance, and even able to purchase mosquito abatement during the recovery. The best thing is that the church made contacts with neighbors and foster a sense of community among those affected. One woman commented, “My church has been praying for me, but you’re here shoveling my basement and cleaning my yard.” It was truly putting faith into action. UMCOR helped us be the church. 

Rev. Rick Blunt and Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey were on the scene in Lowell to assess needs. ~photo courtesy Rick Blunt
Rev. Rick Blunt and Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey were on the scene in Lowell to assess needs. ~photo courtesy Rick Blunt

Kentwood, Michigan 2014 … a tornado strikes. St. Paul’s United Methodist Church is on the scene helping with clean-up and reconstruction. Here’s what Pastor Erin Fitzgerald says about UMCOR:

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church was a leader in disaster relief following an EF-1 tornado that struck Grand Rapids on July 5, 2014.  We relied heavily on UMCOR to help us assess damages, coordinate relief efforts, distribute tools and supplies, and train and equip volunteers.  We were grateful recipients of a $10,000 grant that, in turn, provided the impetus for 26 local UM congregations to raise nearly $30,000 of matching funds.  While we grieve the damage that our community suffered, we rejoice in the ways in which our community came together to serve God and neighbor with the help of UMCOR.  

Detroit, Michigan 2014 … torrential rains pour down. The Detroit Renaissance District begins outreach to neighbors that continues today. Rev. Becky Wilson, Director of the Northwest Detroit Flood Recovery Project reports:

UMCOR is the United Methodist Connection at its best. Without the support of UMCOR there would be no flood recovery in Detroit. Although the flood that impacted Metropolitan Detroit on August 11, 2014 was the largest federally declared disaster of the year, there has not been a large scale recovery effort. Through generous grants, training, and consultation UMCOR and its staff have enabled The Northwest Detroit Flood Recovery Project to build relationships with and support the recovery of more than 150 households.

UMCOR's assistance began with thousands of Cleaning Buckets in Aug. 2014. So much more has happened since. ~photo courtesy Detroit Renaissance District
UMCOR’s assistance began with thousands of Cleaning Buckets in Aug. 2014. So much more has happened since. ~photo courtesy Detroit Renaissance District

Flint, Michigan 2015 … contaminated water leaves residents sick and dry. The Crossroads District begins to provide relief weeks before the headlines emerge. Peter Plum, Emergency Water Crisis Coordinator, says of UMCOR’s partnership: 

We have received generous support from UMCOR. They have been an excellent source of assistance and consultation for the Flint Water Crisis.  They continue to be available to help strategize, consult and share resources for networking. They certainly understand their business and are most eager to help and point us in the right direction. Most importantly, they are accessible, available, friendly, easy to work with, and they love Jesus. 

Rev. Jeremy Wicks, pastor of Millville UMC and former Disaster Response Coordinator for the West Michigan Conference, adds:

UMCOR, for me, is about equipping people to be Jesus in times of disaster. Whether it’s at the conference, district, or local church level, the resources that are provided by UMCOR help to empower, and enable the people called United Methodists to do the work of ministry.  Personally, working and training with UMCOR has given me fresh eyes to see the need in the world, especially after media attention turns away from a disaster.  A great example is the Flint water crisis, which is certainly a disaster.  The stories have faded from the headlines, and national (even local) news cycles, but the people of Flint are just beginning the work of recovery – a process that will take years, if not decades.  

UMCOR matters both miles away and close to home. One Great Hour of Sharing is critical as UMCOR does not receive United Methodist World Service or apportionment funds. Without offerings from churches, UMCOR would not exist.

It’s not too late to download resources to use on March 6. Further, while March 6 is the official (fourth Sunday of Lent) date for the offering, contributions are welcome any time.

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