By United Methodist News Service
When disaster hits, the United Methodist connection responds.
The United Methodist Church is uniquely situated to respond to disasters because of its churches in almost every county and community across the United States and the worldwide Methodist connection with annual conferences, central conferences, and autonomous partner churches on five continents.
As a disaster unfolds, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is in contact with annual conference leadership to offer assistance.
UMCOR is the not-for-profit humanitarian arm of The United Methodist Church and is part of the Board of Global Ministries. Since 1940, UMCOR’s mission — providing relief in disaster areas, aiding refugees and confronting the challenges of global health and poverty — has helped heal the hurts of humanity in nearly 100 countries.
In the United States, as part of disaster preparedness, UMCOR trains early response teams in annual conferences. Because ERTs are local, they can respond quickly when disaster strikes. Should the annual conference need additional trained ERTs, assistance from neighboring conferences can be requested. A network of warehouses stores relief supplies for distribution in disasters around the world.
Annual conferences can request an emergency grant of up to $10,000 to meet immediate needs when they are confronted with disaster. Additional grants of any amount can be requested for case management and long-term recovery.
When both UMCOR and a conference ask for money, United Methodists who want to help in a disaster sometimes are uncertain where to send their money.
Conferences may set up their own funds to help with the immediate needs of housing, food, shelter and transportation. Conference fundraising is intended for raising money within the conference to meet immediate needs.
Giving to UMCOR through The Advance, the United Methodist official giving channel, ensures that 100 hundred percent of each donation goes directly to the need specified. UMCOR’s programs, procedures and finances are monitored by independent charity watchdogs such as the American Institute of Philanthropy, which gives UMCOR an A, for excellent, rating in financial responsibility.
UMCOR’s administrative costs are covered through a separate fund supported by One Great Hour of Sharing.
The reflections earlier this year of the Rev. Wilma Bone, who was pastor of Henryville (Ind.) United Methodist Church when that the town was badly damaged in a March 2011 tornado, illustrate what the connection means.
“As soon as (landline) phone service was restored, I received calls from pastors in every state in the lower 48,” Bone said. “First, they asked, ‘How are you?’ and then, ‘What can we do to help?’
“UMCOR provided training, teaching people how to work in long-term recovery and case management,” the pastor noted. “They provided lots of media coverage so people would know how to help us and how to respond. UMCOR provided funds to help finish repairing or rebuilding at least 10 homes that other churches had started.
“UMCOR is still working in Henryville, and they have promised to be there until the last need is met.”
News media contact: Maggie Hillery or Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.