Dec 13, 2017

Will launch $100,000 fundraising goal in January

By John W. Coleman

Like the three kings, or Magi, who journeyed to Bethlehem bearing gifts for Christ’s birth, three Eastern PA Conference Cabinet members will visit Puerto Rico in the coming months bringing aid to residents on the disaster-stricken island. Their journey will follow the launch of a $100,000 conference-wide fundraising campaign to help the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico in its disaster recovery efforts.

Three district superintendents, (shown in Magi attire below, from right) the Rev. Irving Cotto, of the North District Superintendent, the Rev. BumKoo “BK” Chung of the West District and the Rev. Tracy Bass of the East District, will visit in February some of the 96 Methodist churches in Puerto Rico and their pastors and members, as guests of Bishop Hector Ortiz.

The Cabinet trip was planned before hurricanes Irma and Maria struck and devastated the island in September. But their missional agenda will now focus on learning about and supporting the ongoing recovery endeavors and urgent needs there.

The team will take with them donated funds and urgently needed supplies, possibly including small, portable solar-powered generators to address what is still one of the biggest needs for many on the island: electricity.

An UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) advance team recently visited to help develop a recovery plan. Specialized teams may be invited in soon, but Puerto Rico is still months away from being ready to receive Volunteers in Mission work teams to do repairs and rebuilding.

The North District has collected over $48,000 for hurricane relief in general, according to Cotto, and sent an initial $6,000 to the Methodist Church of P.R. and another $1,000 to to support the feeding ministry of one church there. The district and the Latino Commission have also collected clothing, food, personal hygiene items, batteries, bottled water and other needs to send to the P.R. Methodist Church. Quakertown UMC (Phone: 215-536-4992) has served as a collection site. Other districts have contributed also.

Bishop Peggy Johnson met with the three DS’s, Connectional Ministries staff, Latino Commission leaders and others Nov. 30 to hear reports on the island’s conditions and plan a coordinated strategy for aiding its beleaguered churches and residents in their long, slow recovery. The conference recently established a new disaster response appeal number—#0345PR–Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Fund—to help with urgent needs.

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Please make checks payable to the Eastern PA Conference and indicate “Fund #0345PR–Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief.”  


The group, which will meet again Jan. 11, decided to start a conference-wide fundraising campaign—as other conferences have done—to raise $100,000 through the special fund. The conference will launch the campaign officially on Jan. 6, Epiphany Day, which is celebrated as “Three Kings Day” (“El Día de los Reyes”) by many Latino Christians. Monies already donated to the special relief fund in 2017 will be included in the full tally. The goal is to raise the $100,000 by the time Annual Conference meets in mid-June.

Churches across the conference have been giving generously through UMCOR to aid Puerto Rico and other victims of the three major, deadly, late-summer hurricanes—Harvey, Irma and Maria—that struck primarily Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and other Caribbean islands, including the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Treasurer’s Office reports more than $360,660 has been donated by Eastern PA Conference churches and individuals so far to UMCOR’s U.S. Disaster Response: Advance #901670

The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico will determine where to target funds, but only a small portion of UMCOR funds may be used to help repair or rebuild damaged churches. Therefore, churches are asked to raise and donate funds especially for the conference campaign to address critical rebuilding needs facing Methodist churches.

Also heavily damaged and in need of substantial repairs is Camp Corson in Jayuya, a Methodist recreational camp founded in 1961 and named for Bishop Fred P. Corson, who led the Philadelphia Episcopal Area from 1944 until 1968.

Bishop Ortiz describes the unprecedented destruction in Puerto Rico as a “catastrophe” that will take years to remedy. But he says the churches there have been “communities of hope.”

The Cabinet-trio’s February visit will be the second for Cotto, who is Dean of the Cabinet. He plans to travel there on Dec. 26 with about a dozen Eastern PA and Greater New Jersey conference members of the MARCHA Latino UM caucus (Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans). They will take small cash gifts for pastors and purchase children’s toys there to distribute for Christmas and Three Kings Day.  They will also join residents in Christmastide celebration and worship (parranda).