The August 25 edition of Time had several stories about the current crises in our country and abroad. As I read the articles, I questioned, “Where is the United Methodist Church during these times of crises?” It didn't take me long to discover that in times of national and world crises the United Methodist Church is in the midst of these crises seeking to share God's grace in Word and deed.
“In the Ebola crisis, , communication precedes prevention and treatment,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top staff executive of United Methodist Communications, in a blog post. Misinformation has complicated efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In response to the lack of accurate information about Ebola, Sierra Leone and Liberia are each receiving a $10,000 crisis communication grant from the United Methodist Communications. Funds will be used for:
- Banners, posters and photocopies of messages that aid in prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
- Radio airtime for messages that address prevention and care as well as the pastoral needs of affected communities.
- Data access through mobile carriers for sharing health and pastoral messages.
UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief), our denomination's humanitarian relief agency, has distributed $87,000 in grant money in response to the Ebola crisis. UMCOR is working to support UM healthcare facilities so that they can keep their doors open. A $50,000 grant through ACT Alliance provides for training, equipment, and construction of an isolation unit in Liberia. UMCOR has also granted $25,000 to the Sierra Leone Annual Conference to provide supplies and build an isolation unit at Mercy United Methodist Hospital in Bo, Sierra Leone. United Methodist Global Ministries missionaries in West Africa have been given the opportunity to leave affected areas, but many – especially our medical missionaries – have elected to stay.
The United Nations estimates that almost a quarter of Gaza's 1.7 million residents have been displaced by the fighting, and all residents are struggling with power outages and a lack of basic supplies. ANERA (America Near East Refugee Aid) is one of the few international organizations that consistently gets health care and humanitarian relief supplies into Gaza. UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) has been supporting ANERA's in kind medical and relief work for over two years. In the latest crisis to hit Gaza, UMCOR has given ANERA two grants for food parcel deliveries to 2,280 displaced families.
UMCOR has been working with a partner in Northern Iraq who has been providing food and other assistance to internally displaced people who have fled from the violence caused by the Islamic State. As this crisis in Iraq continues, UMCOR will continue to explore opportunities for creative partnerships with organizations that are seeking to alleviate suffering without regard to the race or religion of the beneficiaries.
United Methodists are working to ease the Border Crisis of unaccompanied minors and others from Central America coming into the US. Methodist churches in southern Texas have addressed the Border Crisis in a variety of ways. Methodist members are a part of the Laredo Humanitarian Relief Team and are working with Laredo's Holding Institute, a community center that is a United Methodist Women National Mission Institution. The Neighborhood House and the Houchen Community Center, UMW affiliates, serve as front-line centers for helping the parents and children, providing needed health kits and socks. United Methodists in the Rio Grande Valley are providing volunteers and donations of shoes and other clothing. United Methodist Women made a $7,500 grant to the Holding Institute for air-conditioner repairs and other emergency needs. UMCOR has provided 18,000 health kits in McAllen, Laredo, and Brownsville, as well as making an initial $10,000 grant to the SW Texas Annual Conference.
Methodists from all over the country have sent monies and needed supplies to help ease the Texas Border Crisis.
Since August 9, the Rev. F. Willis Johnson, has devoted his entire ministry to fostering peaceful – and – meaningful – responses to the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri. The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown led to days of grief and pain and violence. Pastor Johnson is pastor of the Wellspring UMC in Ferguson. He led prayer vigils, helped with cleanup, met with community leaders, and comforted protestors. The church, in partnership with the Black Psychologists, has provided counseling to anyone in the community who requests it.
When unrest led the Ferguson-Florissant District to cancel classes, the church welcomed children with educational games and healthy food so parents could work without scrambling for childcare. Members of other area UM Churches volunteered to help, and the Missouri Annual Conference provided financial support for the church's outreach. The Missouri Conference Office of Mission, Service, and Justice has also offered support and volunteers to help with such basic tasks as clean up and support for those businesses that have been looted or severely damaged.
As United Methodists, what can we, as a church and personally, do to ease the above crises and others? First and foremost we pray. We pray for the peoples of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gaza, Iraq, Texas, Ferguson, Mo., and for people of other places in the world in great need.
Second, we learn about the dynamics in these places, learn about the culture, about the people, about our life in mission together.
Third, we give of our God given resources to UMCORand other agencies who respond with help during times of crises.As United Methodists, we are in mission and ministry together. May we continue to be in deep prayer for all of God's children in crisis.
In Christ's Love,