Thursday, February 24, 2011

God's Word Will Stand Forever

(L to R) UMCOR President, Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, Bishop Bruce Ough, president of General Board of Global Ministries, and Rev. Gesner Paul, Methodist Church in Haiti.
Photo: UMCOR

I recently returned from a four-day visit to Haiti. I was there in my capacity as President of the General Board of Global Ministries to review the progress of our disaster recovery work one year after the earthquake that devastated much of Port-au-Prince and left nearly 300,000 dead. This trip also provided an opportunity for further consultation and coordination with the Methodist Church of Haiti. I was accompanied by Mr. Thomas Kemper, General Secretary of GBGM, Rev. Cynthia Harvey, Deputy General Secretary for UMCOR, Bishop Janice Huie, President of UMCOR, and Ms. Melissa Crutchfield, International Disaster Coordinator for UMCOR.

I had last visited Haiti during Holy Week of 2010, just a few weeks after the January 12 earthquake. I was surprised and pleased with the recovery progress I witnessed a year later. Despite the media reports that nothing has been accomplished a year after the quake, there are many signs of hope and resurrection in the midst of what remains a very devastated, chaotic and poverty-stricken country. Most of the rubble has been removed from major streets and highways. Garbage is being picked up. Over half of the 1.5 million people living in tents immediately after the earthquake have returned to their homes, retreated to the country to live with relatives or been removed to temporary housing camps. Many church-related schools are operating in temporary facilities. Micro-lending, work-for-pay and agricultural programs have enabled many people to start supporting themselves and their families. Our United Methodist VIM program is operating extremely well. And, after a slow start, our UMCOR recovery work is engaged in building schools, providing housing, and starting livelihood projects such as agricultural and micro-lending programs.

One of the most sacred experiences of the trip was visiting the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince where Sam Dixon (then Deputy General Secretary for UMCOR) and Clint Rabb (then coordinator of our VIM program) were entombed and eventually died. We were accompanied by Jim Gulley who was trapped with Sam and Clint, but was safely rescued. Jim guided us over the mound of rubble that once was the hotel’s lobby and guest room tower and retold the harrowing experience of the 35 seconds of the earthquake and his 55 hours of being trapped.

Shortly after last year’s earthquake I wrote to the clergy and laity of the West Ohio Conference. In my statement, I quoted Isaiah 40:8:

   The grass withers, the flowers fade;
   but the word of our God will stand forever.

I have seen with my own eyes the truth of this prophecy. God’s word of love, salvation and new creation is active and eternal. God’s faithfulness is absolute. Even in the midst of massive destruction and a non-functioning government in Haiti, God is speaking a word of resurrection. Even in the midst of chaos and grinding poverty in Haiti, God is speaking a word of hope. Even in the midst of withered grass and faded flowers, God is speaking a word of redemption.

I thank you for not forgetting God’s people in Haiti. I thank you for joining with God to speak and demonstrate the word of mercy. We need a sustained response in Haiti. The recovery will likely take a decade or more. I urge you to continue your prayers, your financial support, your volunteer labor and your relationships with our Haitian brothers and sisters.

By Bishop Bruce Ough, president, General Board of Global Ministries

Click here to view original posting on the West Ohio Annual Conference web site.

Monday, February 21, 2011

UMCOR West Sends off First International Shipment!

UMCOR West Director Brian Diggs stands before first international shipment to Gaza.  Photo:: Sina Tukuafu

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." -Matthew 19:14

United Methodists are proud of our connection. Our common commitment to being in ministry to the world is a deep part of our Wesleyan tradition. Together we know that we can make a difference in the lives of people in need in every land. UMCOR West and UMCOR Sager Brown are an integral part of our mission and ministry in Jesus’ name.

On a cold winter day in Salt Lake City, Utah, a faithful group of volunteers loaded a 40-foot shipping container at UMCOR West Office and Depot. They filled the container with 15,792 school kits, which soon will arrive at the shores of the very place where Jesus blessed the children who were brought to him (Matt. 19: 13-15). UMCOR West’s first international shipment was on its way to school children in the Gaza strip.

UMCOR West Office and Depot first opened its doors in mid-2009. While we have been busy collecting and assembling school kits, health kits, cleaning buckets, and all of the other UMCOR relief supplies, we have, until now, sent them to UMCOR Sager Brown in Baldwin, Louisiana, for shipment overseas.

Day-to-day life for most of the 1.6 million people living in the Gaza Strip is anything but routine. Hampered by deep poverty and intense political turmoil, most residents yearn for a time when food will be abundant on all kitchen tables, when the sounds of gunfire and explosions will be replaced by the soft sounds of peace, and when children will go to school without wondering if the school building will still be there when they arrive. In such extreme circumstances, even the most simple of gifts, like an UMCOR school kit, can make a big difference.

“These kits are so important for people in places like the Gaza Strip,” said Michael Tukuafu, materials resource manager at UMCOR West. “When kids have the proper materials to learn — simple things like paper, pencils, rulers, and erasers — they become interested in learning. Their parents sit with them to hear about their day at school and help them with their homework. Family life is strengthened, and a real measure of stability is added to the lives of children, families, and even whole communities.”

This gift was made possible by the generosity of ordinary United Methodists across the United States. One of only two UMCOR warehouses, UMCOR West Office and Depot receives countless supplies from numerous congregations on a daily basis. We also purchase material relief supplies with money received through the Advance. When you give to Material Resource Ministry, UMCOR Advance #901440 , UMCOR warehouses are able to buy in bulk.

The supplies, both donated and purchased, are put together in the depot by volunteers who spend a week at a time in service. If you are interested in volunteering at either UMCOR West or UMCOR Sager Brown, please visit

As the director of UMCOR West I have become profoundly aware of the power of God’s grace through our connection. We are a people who know what it means to live our faith. Our prayer is that the children who receive our gifts might know God’s grace in a powerful way. May God continue to work through the people called Methodists!

By Rev. Brian Diggs, director of UMCOR West Office and Depot