Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ready for Storm and Flood

UMCOR Assistant General Secretary for U.S. Disaster Response Tom Hazelwood reports that 10,000 United Methodists across the United States have received the organization’s early response training; they are badged and ready.

By Rev. Tom Hazelwood*

With each passing hurricane season, I believe that we as United Methodists are more and more prepared to respond if, God forbid, we are hit with another Katrina-like hurricane.

We are better prepared because we now have more than 10,000 United Methodist volunteers who have taken our Early Response training and have an UMCOR badge signifying they are ready to respond. We have met, week by week, with local congregations and walked them through our Connecting Neighbors local church preparedness training. We have continued to modify and update our case management processes, our signature one-on-one disaster ministry. Finally, we are better prepared because the most disaster-prone annual conferences have made disaster preparedness an important part of their conference agenda.

With all these advances in our preparedness, along with the knowledge we have gained from experience and the amazing support that continually flows from every church pew across the United States, we have the best resources to answer the call when nature hands us the worst of circumstances.

As a faith-based organization specializing in disaster readiness and response, we at UMCOR know that all that we are and do is undergirded by our faith in Jesus Christ. Our ministry is an outflow of God’s work in creation and Christ’s work in us. While we work in response to our relationship with a holy God, we respect the dignity of all persons and never force our beliefs on others, nor is our help ever dependent upon the belief, ethnicity, income, or stance of the recipient. We truly live out the Wesleyan call: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as you ever can.”

*Rev. Tom Hazelwood is UMCOR’s assistant general secretary for U.S. Disaster Response.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Women of Many Faiths Join Hands to Learn and Serve

About 100 women of all faiths joined together to assemble birthing kits for UMCOR. Photo: Cynthia McNeal Plater.

By Cynthia McNeal Plater*

It all started with an advocacy alert from Women of Reform Judaism, an organization that represents more than 65,000 women in nearly 500 groups around the world. The alert begins: “On Yom Kippur the liturgy reads, ‘We have sinned against life by ignoring those who suffer in distant lands.’” So, the Sisterhood of Temple Israel in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, decided to put this advocacy alert into action.

About 100 women of different faiths, including the United Methodist Women of Asbury Church, also of Croton-on-Hudson, got together to learn about the various health issues women face around the world, such as complications during pregnancy and childbirth—the leading cause of death and disability for women in developing countries. In observance of what we learned, we helped assemble over 100 Birthing Kits for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). The birthing kit provides traditional birthing attendants with the basic tools they need to ensure a safe and healthy delivery.

Tina Pershing and Marilyn Bovone (wearing UMW stoles) join the assembly line to prepare birthing kits. 

We were also inspired by a talk sponsored by the Sisterhood about fistula. It was given by local OB/GYN (obstetrics and gynecology) doctors was followed by A Walk to Beautiful, a movie that portrays a powerful story of healing and hope for Ethiopian women who develop fistulas every year. Obstetric fistula is the most devastating and serious of all childbirth injuries. It happens because most mothers in poor countries give birth without any medical help. The condition occurs when a woman has an obstructed labor and lacks a skilled birth attendant. The obstruction may occur because her pelvis is too small, the baby is badly positioned, or its head is too big. Underlying causes include childbearing at too early an age, malnutrition, and others.

The following week we met at the Upper Westchester Muslim Society in Thornwood, NY, where we formed an assembly line to prepare and package UMCOR Birthing Kits. The contents of the kits were donated by local businesses, including Phelps Memorial Hospital, Home Depot, Stop & Shop, Sav-Mor Pharmacy, and Hampton Inn. To save the shipping costs, members of the Asbury congregation then delivered the kits to the New York Annual Conference.

Photo: Cynthia McNeal Plater

I was honored to be among women from all walks of life, and see them come together in solidarity with their sisters around the globe, and to see the donations that poured in from local businesses. Together, I know we are making a difference in the lives of future expectant mothers.

*Plater is a member of the Asbury Church UMW and the Trainer and Desktop Support Technician for the Information Technology unit of Global Ministries.