Helping those who help

As the news broke in Japan it wasn’t too long before I got thinking about UMCOR and its role in the relief effort of many of these disasters.  We are blessed to have Japan as the center of much of our United Methodist missionary work in Asia so we had “people on the ground” who could begin making a difference immediately.

One of the great benefits of UMCOR disaster support is that every nickel goes to the actual relief work.  You may recall after 9/11 the Red Cross was largely criticized for using relief donations for new phone systems and other infrastructure costs.  I’m not going to comment on the Red Cross, but I am proud that at UMCOR it all gets into the hands of those who are helping.

This is possible because of the One Great Hour of Sharing, an offering across the general church that covers the overhead expenses of UMCOR.  Last fall I was blessed to hear Rev. Cynthia Harvey speak.    She is the  Deputy General Secretary for UMCOR.  We were amazed to hear that all of UMCOR’s emergency relief work is done with a staff of seven, four who work with domestic disaster relief and three who work internationally.  How many of our local churches have larger staffs than that? 

That’s a ridiculously efficient program and one, I believe, that is worthy of your support.

But Rev. Harvey tells me that support for One Great Hour has decreased over the last several years.  Regrettably the need for disaster relief has not decreased.

I strongly encourage you to participate in One Great Hour of Sharing.  This year that offering will take place in most churches April 3, but I bet they would let you do that any time.  They have a great deal of material that you can order or download.

And those of you in the Five Star Stewardship Program know that you can receive 2 1/2 points for taking the offering.

The County Courthouse shielded most of the church from the devastating winds, but the steeple was taller than the courthouse and was blown off. Fortunately it landed clear of the church and caused no additional damage as it fell.

Just six weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit I was in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi.  Main Street United Methodist Church, just six blocks from the beach, was still standing, although the steeple had been blown off and was on its side next to the church.  The church’s lawn was relief central.  I saw local residents coming to pick up the flood buckets you fill and get the bottled water you sent.  UM volunteers were camping next to the building. 

Never in my life have I had a better understanding of Christians as the hands and feet of God.  Not all of us can do that work.  But I am so grateful that there are those among us who can and do.  One Great Hour of Sharing is your chance to give those people the connection to do the work.

I hope you will.

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