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UMs pack 5,000 rice meal bags for relief

Women filling rice meal packs for hunger relief

At Annual Conference, the Michigan Conference assembled 5,000 rice meal packs for hunger relief in three hours, feeding 30,000 people.

Content Editor

On Friday morning of the 2023 Michigan Annual Conference, the Michigan Ballroom was abuzz with energy as some 150 conference attendees packed 5,000 rice meal packs for hunger relief.

Leading up to Annual Conference, Michigan United Methodists had donated $10,000 to purchase rice meal packs (at $2/pack) for this first-time hands-on event, sponsored by the Board of Global Ministries and facilitated through our long-term mission partner, Midwest Mission.

Dan O’Malley, the Michigan Conference’s Disaster Coordinator, is on the Board of Global Ministries, and he brought this idea back to the Michigan Conference after attending a Midwest Mission Board of Directors meeting last November.

O’Malley also sits on Midwest Mission’s board as the Michigan Conference’s representative. Midwest Mission works closely with all of the annual conferences in the North Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church and is a veteran UMCOR partner.

He remembers seeing Midwest Mission’s meal pack set-up at the Pawnee, IL, facility and knowing it would be much more suitable than a disaster kit (flood bucket) rally since it gets many more people involved. Teams of about 10 people work around tables in an assembly line.

Packing meals
~ MIphoto/Jonathan Trites

When he first approached the Board of Global Ministries with the idea, and they said yes, the Michigan Conference immediately started donating money to purchase kits.

“And then the numbers kept exploding,” O’Malley said. “I was thinking maybe 2,500 at most, and now we’re going to do 5,000 kits.”

Dan beamed from ear to ear as he looked around and saw the tremendous amount of mission work. “This is just beyond my expectations. And it’s so good to see all this interaction because it brings people together from all different churches, all different ages, and they’re doing it for a common cause.”

Midwest Mission has been offering rice meal packs since 2018. Churches simply raise the money and provide the space with tables and volunteers, and Midwest Mission will supply the meal pack components and guidance on assembling them.

Each meal pack contains a vitamin-filled seasoning packet, dried vegetables, rice, and soy. When combined with hot water, each pack feeds six people. So, when multiplied, 30,000 people will receive a nutritious meal thanks to the Michigan Conference.

Midwest Mission ships relief kits, including these meal packs, worldwide. Recent shipments of rice meal packs have gone to Ukraine, Turkey, and Syria.

The event was a great intergenerational, sensory-friendly mission activity that brought people from all over the Michigan Conference to do good work. And there’s a job for everyone, and sitting is fine, whether it’s measuring out cups of rice or sealing bags.

Packing meals
~ MIphoto/Jonathan Trites

For Rev. Mary Ivanov, pastor of Muskegon: Lake Harbor UMC, “this is a vision of the kingdom of God. One hundred percent.”

At Pastor Mary’s table, she had people from Houghton in the Upper Peninsula down to the Kalamazoo area. Every time her team filled a box with rice meal packs, they shouted excitedly.

Midwest Mission would love to work with local United Methodist congregations and bring mission to them. It’s a great way to deepen discipleship.

Chantel Corrie, Midwest Mission’s Executive Director, noted that their niche market is small to medium-sized United Methodist churches, and they want to help grow United Methodist churches. She said, “We know that if you can get people serving, then they catch on to service and who Jesus is and want to be a part of that.”

She also said it’s a great community outreach project. “People often say, ‘Nobody will come in, or we’re not interested.’ Well, the next generation, they’re all about serving. And that’s why we keep working and keep expanding what we do.”

Corrie asks churches to contact Gene Turner, Mission in Motion Manager for Midwest Mission, at [email protected] if they want to bring this mission event to their church. There are a couple of delivery options, but contacting Gene soon is critical to get on their schedule since it fills up fast.

Last Updated on June 13, 2023

The Michigan Conference