UMCOR: 75 Years of Hope, One Great Hour of Sharing

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) turns 75 this year. What started as a relief effort to help a war ravaged China in 1940 has grown and transformed into a well known, highly respected, global humanitarian and relief organization of The United Methodist Church.

As Christians, we believe that all persons are created in the image of God and have the right to a full and abundant life. Through the work of UMCOR, lives are being transformed and communities strengthened. How does a small organization with a small budget accomplish this? Because YOU are UMCOR!

When you respond to a neighbor in need, you are UMCOR. When you join a mission team to help rebuild a community, you are UMCOR. When you sit and listen to a person overwhelmed by circumstances, you are UMCOR.

How have we been UMCOR in the Eastern PA Conference? In a diversity of ways.

When a dam burst in Luzerne County in 2002, flooding Plymouth Township (part of the Susquehenna Conference, but the county is split with our Northeast District), an Early Response Team deployed to the area to assist in the cleanup. This team assisted several families in a neighborhood a few miles from the primary affected area.

In the aftermath of hurricanes Irene and Lee in 2011, Pine Grove Township in Schuylkill County (Northwest District) needed assistance with early damage assessment. We worked with our disaster response ministry counterparts in the United Church of Christ (UCC) and Presbyterian churches to promptly assess damages and send additional cleaning materials to the area within a week.

One of the UMCOR cleaning buckets tells its own story of how effective partnerships can work. The Mennonite who was working on a stranger’s home picked the bucket up from a depot staffed by the local Lion’s Club. That bucket was dropped off by a Presbyterian pastor who stopped at Asbury UMC in Alllentown to transport it. The bucket was supplied by the Wesley Outreach Depot, a ministry of Wesley UMC in Bethlehem. The label on the outside of the bucket read “Lovingly assembled by St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.”

Superstorm Sandy in 2012 knocked out power throughout Monroe County (Northeast District), especially across the western half, and critically disabled places designated as warming centers. The county called our District Disaster Response Coordinator to see if any churches were available. It took awhile, but after several phone calls McMichaels UMC stepped up and opened its doors for the county to set up a warming center where people could show up for supplies and hot meals.

Whether it was boots on the ground clean-up work, administrative assistance or coordination of resources, one thing is clear from these examples: We are UMCOR! We engage in shared ministry with ecumenical partners. We work with secular agencies. We work with governments. As a church, we reach out to offer a Christian presence and resilient hope during times of disaster.

Visit our Webpage [http://www.epaumc.org/resources/disasterresponse] and UMCOR’s Website for more information about how we represent complete UMCOR within our conference, across our nation and around the world. Also, see more at: http://www.umcor.org/UMCOR/umcor75. Here you will find articles, 75 ways to celebrate UMCOR, UMCOR Kit assembly instructions and a pastor’s toolkit of worship aids for One Great Hour of Sharing on March 15.

Support One Great Hour of Sharing
UMCOR is able to allocate 100 percent  of the money given for disaster response and redevelopment directly to the projects designated by donors. This is possible because all administrative costs are covered through one annual, churchwide Special Sunday offering, “One Great Hour of Sharing.” No apportioned or World Service funds are used to support UMCOR, only the offering receipts. This offering, which most churches will receive March 15 this year, enables UMCOR to carry out its busy, lifesaving, humanitarian mission for the entire year.

Celebrate and Honor UMCOR’s 75 Years of Ministry

Take time to celebrate UMCOR and its 75 years of ministry during your worship service March 15. But don’t stop there. The best way to celebrate UMCOR is to be UMCOR. During this Jubilee year (75), find ways to engage in mission and ministry projects that reflect the goals and ideals of UMCOR, especially in UMCOR-related work areas.

Throughout the year, our conference Disaster Response Ministry Team will make suggestions on how you might show support. Did you know there is work yet to be done from hurricanes Irene and Lee? Superstorm Sandy relief and rebuilding projects are in full swing.

Seven counties in the Eastern PA Conference have active recovery projects from these events and from other storms and natural disasters. When we look, we find opportunities to serve all throughout the conference region and throughout the world.

By the Rev. Greg Ellis, new Conference Disaster Response Ministries Coordinator