Monday, March 22, 2010

Celebrating UMCOR

Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar.  A photo by Mike Dubose/UMNS.

My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As we continue our journey in the Lenten season, on the fourth Sunday of Lent we celebrate the ministry of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), through our prayers, gifts, and other support.

In a recent issue of the New World Outlook, Melissa Hinnen, writes, “In the midst of war and destruction UMCOR serves as a “voice of conscience among Methodists to act in the relief of human suffering without distinction of race, color or creed’. So said Bishop Herbert Welch at the General Conference of the Methodist Church on April 26, 1940. With the outbreak of World War II, Bishop Welch called on the General Conference to respond to the needs of human suffering around the world. On June 2, 1940, Methodists observed a day of prayer and sacrifice, with the offering being used to support the newly formed Methodist Committee for Overseas Relief (MCOR)” (Melissa Hinnen, “UMCOR 70 Years of Hope”, New World Outlook, January/February 2010, p.14).

Later, in 1972, the name of the MCOR (Methodist Committee for Overseas Relief) was changed to UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief.) As we reflect on the ministry and mission of UMCOR on the fourth Sunday of Lent the gospel reading for the day challenges us to reflect on the parable of the prodigal son. Luke writes, “But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

The American Heritage College Dictionary defines compassion as, “Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.” Elsewhere, in the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, referring to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Mark writes, “... he had compassion for them” (Mark 6:34).

As we celebrate the ministry of UMCOR, particularly as we journey under the shadow of the Cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the larger question we need to ask is “Am I a compassionate Christian?” Christians not only make themselves aware of the suffering of the children of God but also make every effort to relieve it.

The compassionate spirit of Jesus Christ challenged the disciples to respond by feeding thousands of people who came to hear Jesus.

The compassionate spirit of the father in the parable of the prodigal son nudged him to run after the needs of a son who was approaching.

The compassionate spirit of Bishop Welch energized the General Conference of our denomination to respond to the “needs of the human suffering around the world.”

Today, the ministry of UMCOR takes us to places where we cannot go ourselves in times of hurt and suffering. Though many of us were not there in person to relieve the pain and suffering of the victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti, we were there in spirit and resources through the ministry and mission of UMCOR.

Though we take an offering for the ministry and mission of UMCOR through One Great Hour of Sharing on the fourth Sunday during Lent, UMCOR is in ministry on our behalf 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in the United States of America and around the world.

May God enable all of us to call for self-examination and to raise a question, “Do we have the compassionate spirit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in us?”

May we all experience a blessed and spiritual Lenten season.

In Christ’s love,

Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar,
Greater New Jersey United Methodist Conference

View more of Bishop Devadhar’s messages on The Relay Online

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Small Churches Give Big to Haiti

Rev. Madlyn Barry Ruch, RN, Pastor, Oklahoma Conference-Parish Nursing

Several of the local churches collected and assembled health kits for UMCOR Haiti relief, a task that is relatively easy for large congregations with plenty of resources. However, our congregations, Savanna United Methodist Church, Savanna, Oklahoma, and Krebs Grace United Methodist Church, Krebs, Oklahoma, are very small in number and resources. Savanna UMC has a membership of only eight, and Krebs Grace UMC has about 15 members.

Nevertheless, these two sister congregations assembled 95 health kits and four layette kits for UMCOR Haiti, a rather large feat for our small congregations. Special offerings have also been collected, and online donations were made directly to the Volunteers in Mission.

Many of our members are elderly and cannot physically serve in the relief efforts. However, they all give from the bottom of their hearts, freely and lovingly, and have pledged to continue collecting items for the kits, as long as is needed. The relief efforts, as well as all of God's children in Haiti, are prayed for daily by each member.

Our small but mighty churches are committed to serve in any way possible that helps to bring God's love to His children who are in need.

Grace and Peace,
Rev. Madlyn Barry Ruch, RN, Pastor
Oklahoma Conference-Parish Nursing

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lenten journey is more than 'following'

One Great Hour of Sharing is March 14, 2010.

March 1, 2010

Dear sisters and brothers,

As the season of Lent continues, we are confronted daily with the journey Jesus makes to Jerusalem and the Cross. We read and ponder the text recorded in three of the Gospels: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, repeated at Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23) The “following” part we have incorporated into our mission statement, and have encouraged from pulpit to classroom. Unfortunately, we have almost made it sound easy, like a game of follow the leader. The “denying” and “taking up” parts are another matter. We would just as soon skip those, but that is precisely what confronts us as Lent unfolds.

Just as we have invested ourselves, our time, and some of our resources in an overwhelming response to the earthquake in Haiti, another one strikes. This time it strikes Chile, and this time of even stronger magnitude than the January quake that devastated so much and took the lives of so many in Haiti. One is left wondering how much more we can endure; how much more sacrificing and sharing will be needed; how many more disasters are yet to be. And each time, our desire, our commitment, and our passion for following Jesus is put to the test. Each time we are called upon to share the burden, the pain and suffering of so many, with each picture telling yet another story.

Once again, we United Methodist Christians in the Western North Carolina Conference will, I am confident, respond with generosity and prayers. Once again, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) will respond with long-term assistance. Already UMCOR is on the scene working side-by-side and hand-in-hand with our partner organizations, Iglesia Metodista de Chile,  
Ministerio Social Metodista, and Equip Metodista de Accio n Humanitaria. Our conference Web site ( will have updated information on our response, as well as information about making donations either through the Conference Treasurer’s Office or directly to The Advance (#3021178).

In the midst of these disasters, we are also approaching the annual Sunday known as One Great Hour of Sharing. On the Fourth Sunday in Lent (March 14), we will once again be invited to share in this special offering that generates support for our on-going work in response to suffering throughout the world. I urge every church across our conference to receive this offering, along with our gifts for the specific crises in Haiti and Chile. As I travel across our area, I am constantly inspired by and grateful for the wonderful way that you are engaged in mission projects locally and around the world. I hope that your generosity and compassion combine for an overflowing offering to assist those who are hurting.

All of which brings me back to where I started, the “denying” and “taking up” Gospel references. To make sacrifices on behalf of others means that we who have been blessed in many ways will have to adjust our own ways of living. Perhaps we will have to deny ourselves that extra purchase or additional meal out; or, perhaps we will have to make a sacrificial gift that stretches us; or, perhaps we will have to trust God deeper. Following Jesus was never intended to be a smooth highway, without challenging moments along the way. But it is the way! 

by Larry M. Goodpaster, Bishop, Western North Carolina Conference

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The People of Haiti Cope – Week 6

Many Haitians found it safer to sleep outdoors or in shelters away from solid structures for fear of an aftershock.
An UMCOR photo by Mike Dubose/UMNS

Haitian people continue each day to sort through what are for many just fragments of their pre-earthquake lives in cities most affected. At night many find greater security sleeping outdoors in tents or shelters away from solid structures. Two significant aftershocks (one at 4.7 Richter) jangled our nerves the second night, helping us sense why some Haitians may still be in a state of shock.

During the day, government and non-government organizations “cluster” under United Nations leadership to share information and coordinate efforts. I attended a meeting of the Relief and Agriculture Clusters with Mr. Anthony Jones, UMCOR Emergency Response Specialist, and learned that local Haitian workers are being paid to remove rubble from public places. Canals and ditches essential for water removal and irrigation for farming during the rainy season (April) will soon receive special attention. Surveys reveal that smaller towns and rural areas have absorbed tens of thousands of internally displaced people from the most severely affected Port-au-Prince / Leogane / Petit Goave corridor. This internal displacement has put pressure on farmers to use seeds for food and even to sell equipment and animals to feed and shelter incoming families. Seeds and tools will be distributed among farmers so the farming season begins on time.

The Methodist Church of Haiti’s rescheduled annual conference moved its venue to little-affected Les Cayes. Methodists from Britain, The Caribbean and the U.S. sent representatives to show solidarity and to pledge prayers, material and financial support for Haiti’s recovery. I was privileged to share UMCOR’s newly forged goal statement that commits resources and promises close coordination of efforts among Global Ministries units (UMCOR, Women’s Division, Mission & Evangelism) and between United Methodist Volunteers in Mission and the Methodist Church of Haiti. Our Haitian brothers and sisters are anxious to see United Methodists live fully into this new statement of commitment.

By Rev. Dr. James L Gulley, UMCOR Consultant for Agriculture and Community Development and Haiti earthquake survivor.