The Michigan Conference is mobilizing a disaster kit rally during April to help replenish supplies for our long-time partner, Midwest Mission.
Calling all Michigan United Methodist congregations! The Michigan Conference’s Disaster Response and Recovery Team is mobilizing a disaster kit rally for April, with pickup dates at collection points throughout the state, May 1-3. Drop-off details for each district, including contact information, are provided at the end of this article.
Midwest Mission, our long-time cooperating disaster relief depot in Pawnee, IL, has asked the Michigan Conference to focus on collecting items for their Home Care Kits and Personal Dignity Kits for this spring rally. Recent shipments of these kits have gone to Haiti and Ukraine.
Churches can gather the items and assemble the kits themselves or focus on one or two low-stock components to ensure participation is doable.
HOME CARE KIT
PERSONAL DIGNITY KIT
- Click here to view the packing list and instructions.
- Click here to watch an assembly video.
- Don’t forget to add $2.00 in each kit for razor and toothpaste. An alternate option would be for churches to write a check and mail it to Midwest Mission noting how many Personal Dignity Kits they are supporting.
CURRENT LOW-STOCK NEEDS
- Shampoo, 12-19 oz bottles
- Liquid Laundry Detergent, 32-150 oz bottles
- Liquid Dish Soap, 16-64 oz bottles
- Liquid Household Cleaner, 16-80 oz bottles (no spray bottles)
Disasters, whether natural or human-initiated like war, are devastating, and the needs are innumerable. Recent tornadoes in sections of the southern United States have resulted in deaths and property damage, including a handful of United Methodist church buildings.
The Michigan Conference has a long history of supporting disaster relief and has cultivated a service spirit that has shaped generations of United Methodists. It’s been a challenge, post-pandemic, to reinvigorate that spirit, and clergy and lay leaders are using this spring rally to garner support for this life-giving mission work.
Rev. Kayla Roosa, pastor of Bethany-Otisville Cooperative Parish in the East Winds District, remembers attending the Detroit Annual Conference as a young adult almost twenty years ago and witnessing rallies where people donated disaster relief supplies. “I remember years when there were Midwest Mission trucks to fill with Personal Dignity Kits and cleaning kits,” Roosa said. “That was just part of the culture historically.”
That passion for mission was tangible. It was reinforced later in her first appointment at Freeland UMC, following the 2017 historic flood in the Midland area, which affected many people in her congregation and community. She got firsthand experience in disaster recovery as she was pulled into a group of clergy and leaders to be a part of the training provided by UMCOR and began learning about the various needs following a disaster.
In the spring of 2020, a flooding event caused partly by a dam failure on the Tittabawassee River impacted the Midland area again. Roosa had to be evacuated from the parsonage the night the dam broke. The flood waters never crossed to her side of the road, but her neighbor’s basement across the road flooded. Some Freeland church members were affected as well.
“Freeland’s response, once the bridge opened up so people could get to and from the church, was to collect supplies.” She fondly remembers a boy from the Catholic church nearby who had been selling lemonade all day giving the church $80 in change as a donation. “It was a neat ecumenical endeavor to be able to partner in the community in that way.”
Roosa is continuing that mission-minded focus at Bethany-Otisville, and has valued the work of planting seeds, as they’ve come out of the pandemic, and educating her congregation on whom they send disaster kit supplies to, what these items are used for, and why we help.
Rev. Bob Freysinger, pastor of Ishpeming: Wesley UMC and the Northern Skies District Disaster Response Coordinator, encourages every church he serves to get involved in disaster kit rallies and actively support the disaster relief ministries of The United Methodist Church.
“Hunger and disaster have been a part of my life, and I’m not sure whether that sounds good or not,” Freysinger chuckled. “But I’ve been collecting items for the buckets and the different hygiene kits for years.” Freysinger is also an Early Response Team (ERT) trainer and has led several volunteer disaster response teams, including one to Long Island, NY, following Hurricane Sandy in 2012. As a result, he has witnessed disaster kits in action during such trips.
Freysinger enjoys educating his congregations by explaining the connectional ministries they are part of as United Methodists and then putting them to work by collecting kit supplies. Participating in a disaster kit rally has been new for some congregations.
He recalled serving Battle Creek: Newton UMC in 2016 and how they got excited about the mission work. Even though they were a worshiping congregation of about 30, they put together 14 disaster kits and continued participating in later rallies.
“So, it’s getting people hooked on it,” Freysinger said, “and helping them understand that these kits always need to be available so they can be sent out at the time of a disaster.”
Reserves for disaster kits are constantly being depleted. The Michigan Conference’s rallies in the spring are crucial to replenishing supplies in preparation for tornado and flood season, as we have seen in the past few weeks. Fall rallies are aimed at preparing for hurricane season.
Midwest Mission, in Pawnee, IL, is a cooperating disaster relief depot with UMCOR, and the Michigan Conference has been supporting its mission for years. Midwest Mission is a key player in the global network of mission partners that connects United Methodists in Michigan with people suffering worldwide.
Brad Walton, Operations Manager for Midwest Mission, explains that one of their primary tasks is assembling and shipping disaster kits all over the world. Currently, their UMCOR disaster kit supply is full, but that will change quickly in the next few weeks. UMCOR relief efforts are ramping up in the south following a string of tornadoes. He says that once he receives the green light, Midwest Mission will ship over 2,000 kits.
Midwest Mission has asked the Michigan Conference to help them increase the inventory of their Home Care Kits and Personal Dignity Kits.
Midwest Mission has developed and refined these two kits over the years as they have built relationships with mission partners in other parts of the world. “We base these kits on what people need,” Walton said. “We never assume what they want. Tell us what you need, and let us work from there. That’s how we developed these kits.”
Midwest Mission sends a large shipping container of almost 500 Home Care Kits monthly to a country in Latin America or the Caribbean. They work closely with Food for the Poor’s Angels of Hope program. Walton says Angels of Hope identifies the country, and Midwest Mission gets the kits ready to ship. Their next shipment, earmarked for Haiti, is shipping any day now.
Walton says cleaning products are the most significant need in these Home Care Kits. Disinfecting is an important task to reduce mold and other health concerns, and that’s critical in the days following a disaster. Plus, even if they are readily available for sale, cleaning products are costly in these countries, and many people cannot afford them.
Personal Dignity Kits are sent all over the world. It’s Midwest Mission’s most-requested kit, year after year. Current shipments have been going to areas affected by war, forced displacement, and earthquakes, and the need has been growing exponentially in recent months. Walton explained, “We sent over 24,000 Personal Dignity Kits out last year. But because of the huge request coming through for Ukraine, Turkey, and Syria, we just shipped a container that had almost 11,000 of them on there. So that gives you a sense of the increase in volume.” That container was the eleventh container they’ve sent to Ukraine since the war began.
Rev. Roosa has visited Midwest Mission with a group of Midwesterners, including several from Michigan United Methodist churches, and knows what an impressive operation they have there. She values the work they do and the vital role they play in disaster recovery.
Midwest Mission will prepare and ship ready-made kits prepared by churches, but they also have groups of volunteers that come to Pawnee and assemble kits. Walton explained, “We have multiple volunteers here every day. If churches can get the supplies to work with, then we can put the kits together here. It gives people a sense of being able to help. Plus, they can find these basic items almost anywhere, like Dollar General or Walmart.”
“I would challenge congregations to zero in on two or three disaster kit items,” said Roosa. She said not to worry too much about perfecting the assembly because, having participated in previous rallies, she knows kit items will be reviewed carefully. “Plus,” she said, “the reality is the items never go to waste. If they’re the incorrect size or packaging, they find ways to repurpose them or donate them to the community.” Churches that have questions about the assembly are encouraged to reach out to their district contact, provided below.
Roosa also noted that this spring rally gives smaller congregations that can’t get out a tangible way to contribute to disaster relief efforts other than giving financially. She said, “Buying the items brings people joy. It makes people feel more involved.”
Smaller congregations may also want to partner with other churches or groups to maximize their efforts. Disaster kit rally coordinators encourage people to tap their neighbors or sister congregations on the shoulder and ask them to help collect items or assemble kits.
Rev. Freysinger has witnessed kits being used during his ERT trips following a disaster. He’s also heard stories from church members, including a story of a woman’s parents being helped by UMCOR following a flood in Minnesota. Even though they had been United Methodists for much of their lives, they had never experienced the love of Christ through relief work until a disaster happened to them.
“That’s how important these things are,” Freysinger said, “because it’s a lifesaver thrown out when somebody’s trying to come up for air. And it can make all the difference as to whether somebody feels like they were a victim of a disaster or a survivor of a disaster.”
Seeing hope in the lives of survivors following a disaster is a rewarding, Spirit-filled response to this mission work, but the bigger change is what happens to those on the giving end. And this can happen by assembling disaster kits, collecting items to be included in kits, or being trained to go on an ERT volunteer-led trip after a disaster.
Freysinger said, “If you’re able to share in one of those events, or if you hear where the buckets are being used, the change of heart is bigger in the person who gave it or did the service than it is in the person who received it.”
Roosa agrees that when a change of heart for service is sparked, it’s wonderful to see how it can take off. She’s experienced that with disaster kit rallies, with trips to Midwest Mission as part of volunteer groups, and with her experience going through multiple floods with her church family.
Being able to join others in disaster relief and recovery through Midwest Mission’s kit collection is life-changing work. “That’s the beautiful thing about seeing Midwest’s mission get planted in people’s hearts and then watching them dive in headfirst.”
The Michigan Conference’s spring disaster kit rally will continue through April, with drop-off set for May 1-3, with locations throughout the state.
Please direct all questions about the kit collection and drop-off to the contacts listed below. Or reach out to Dan O’Malley, Michigan Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, at [email protected] or 616-915-6301.
Northern Skies District, West
Ishpeming: Wesley UMC, 801 Hemlock St., Ishpeming, MI 49866
Drop-off contact: Pastor Bob Freysinger, 906-486-4681 or [email protected]
Collection dates and hours: May 1, 2, and 3, from 9 am to 4:30 pm
Northern Skies District, East
God’s Country Cooperative Parish, Dunlap Ministry Center, Newberry, MI 49869, M-123, under the blue water tower
Drop-off contacts: Pastor Jackie Roe or Randy Hildebrant, DDRC, 906-553-1953
Collection dates: May 1, 2, and 3
Northern Skies District, South
Kalkaska UMC, 2525 Beebe Rd., Kalkaska, MI 49646
Drop-off contact: Dave Stockford, DDRC, 231-384-0504
Collection dates and hours: May 1, 2, and 3, call for drop-off arrangement
East Winds District
Bethany UMC, 353 E. Vienna Rd., Clio, MI 48420
Drop-off contact: Pastor Kayla Roosa, 810-686-5151
Collection dates: May 1, 2, and 3
Western Waters District
Cornerstone Church, 1675 84th St. SE, Caledonia, MI 49316
Drop-off contacts: Dan O’Malley, CDRC, 616-915-6301, [email protected], or Tracy Bowers, Director of Outreach, 616-698-3170
Collection dates and location: May 1, 2, and 3, small trailer in the east parking lot
Plymouth: First UMC, 45201 N. Territorial Rd., Plymouth, MI 48170
Drop-off contact: Pastor Bob Miller
Collection dates: May 1, 2, and 3
Greater Detroit District (focusing on Home Care Kits only)
After the Storm, 18900 Joy Rd., Detroit, MI 48228
Drop-off contact: Cheryl Tipton, DDRC, 517-512-4049
Collection dates and hours: May 1, 2, and 3, from 10 am to noon
Greater Southwest District
Westwood UMC, 538 Nichols Rd., Kalamazoo, MI 49006
Drop-off contact: Nancy Vandenbrink, Missions Chair, 269-344-6945, [email protected]
Collection dates and hours: May 1 and 3, from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm, and May 2, from 3 to 8 pm
Last Updated on April 11, 2023