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

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