Friday, March 28, 2014

Faith, health, and peace

Shannon Trilli of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (front) visits with UMCOR volunteers in Kamina, Democratic Republic of the Congo. A UMNS photo by Lynne Dobson.

By Shannon Trilli*

I am honored and energized to be participating this weekend in the annual Lake Junaluska Peace Conference, an interreligious gathering at the retreat center in North Carolina. Since the peace conference was founded in 2008, it has been a place for dialogue, reflection, and sharing. This year, the theme is “Faith, Health, and Peace: Seeking the Basic Right to Good Health for All God’s Children.”

For United Methodists, and for me as director of UMCOR’s Global Health program, the conference is a great opportunity to discuss with others the basic human right to health for all. For UMCOR, that means abundant health for all. Our Global Health work takes place all along the continuum from disaster relief to recovery and development. So when we address health needs at any point on that continuum, we want to accompany communities so that they not only survive but, ultimately, thrive.

I’m excited to learn from the impressive international panel of experts speaking at the event, including Dr. Christoph Benn of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria and Joshua Dubois, former White House spiritual advisor to President Obama. I’m happy to have the opportunity to lead a workshop and share UMCOR’s global health vision and talk about the role of the church and other faith communities at that intersection of faith, health, and peace.

Health and wholeness and the human body and spirit are interconnected. When natural or political disasters or chronic lack of access to food or clean water or nutrition impede communities from maximizing their health and wholeness, UMCOR works with them to identify solutions that promote stability, a thriving life, and peace. We help communities find their own solutions and tools.

As a faith-based organization, UMCOR is cognizant of the unique role the church and other faith communities play in promoting good health and peace. In the wake of disaster or turmoil, it is often the church—which was present before the disaster and remains present throughout and afterward—that can wrap the community in a unifying social fabric. And church networks not only facilitate UMCOR’s relief and development assistance but help communities sustain change that can make their lives more stable and fruitful.

Educated church pastors and congregational leaders can go a long way to break down stigma and inequality in their communities, especially the kind of inequality between men and women that is prejudicial to a woman’s health—and, in the process, denies God’s blessing all people. Pastors are thought leaders in their communities who can inspire practices that promote respectful and healthy relationships and help to ensure safe motherhood for more women. Faith-filled congregations can reach out and host hard conversations on the attitudes and outlooks that put the health of already vulnerable women and children more at risk and place obstacles like stones in the way of stability and peace.

I look forward to sharing with and learning from the presenters and participants at the 2014 Lake Junaluska Peace Conference, which runs through Sunday morning, March 30. Look for my tweets at: @ShannonUMCOR.

*Shannon Trilli is director of UMCOR Global Health.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sacrament of Faith-filled Giving

The Rev. Jack Amick (center) and Ciony Ayo-Eduarte (left) join volunteers to load a truck at the offices of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in Manila with relief supplies for survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Photo: A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

By Rev. Jack Amick
UMCOR Assistant General Secretary, International Disaster Response

Somebody said to me once, “Whenever I hear about a disaster, I know that UMCOR is there; somehow, some way UMCOR is there or UMCOR is going to do something.” That’s a pretty big responsibility to bear. But it’s one that makes me very proud, and I’m honored and privileged to share in this work in this way. It’s a burden and a privilege at the same time.

United Methodists can be proud of the history we have with UMCOR, getting involved to help those who are suffering in times of natural or civil disaster, whatever their beliefs. When we engage in this ministry, we are, as John Wesley said, “Shedding the light of Christ abroad.”

Every grant we make in response to a disaster somewhere in the world is a reflection of UMCOR. Every grant is a gift from people not just in the United States but around the world. It’s a gift from United Methodists—and more than a gift. It’s a sacrament—an outward sign of an inward, spiritual gift—because it’s saying, “We want to be with you; we want to be present as Christ is present to us. We can’t, and so we’re going to do that through UMCOR and through UMCOR’s relationships.”

I look at financial giving to UMCOR as a sacramental act that churches make. We, as the International Disaster Response unit, have a profound trust and stewardship role to see that those funds are used for their intended purpose; to see that they’re used in accordance with international standards; and to see that every grant made everywhere in the world is a grant that works with the poor, ministers with them (not to them or at them), and respects their human rights.

Thank you for giving to One Great Hour of Sharing. This special offering the fourth Sunday in Lent (March 30 this year) covers UMCOR’s costs of doing business and allows United Methodists, through UMCOR, to be present to disaster survivors and to struggling communities endeavoring to build a better life. When you make a gift to One Great Hour of Sharing at this time or any time throughout the year, you make it possible for 100 percent of every other gift made to a specific project to be used solely for that project.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Disaster Recovery: Promise of Abundant Life

Deputy General Secretary Denise Honeycutt, UMCOR, speaks with Bishop Francisco during a visit to Typhoon-impacted Philippines in January. Photo: Ciony Eduarte

By Rev. J. Denise Honeycutt
Deputy General Secretary of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)

It’s absolutely important to respond as soon as possible to a disaster, to be present with the people. In some ways, that’s the easy part. We see the news, it stirs our hearts, and we want to make a difference, and I believe God creates in us that impulse toward kindness and compassion. But we know recovery isn’t done in one moment; it’s a long journey.

In the Philippines, for example, after Typhoon Haiyan last November, UMCOR identified the building of permanent housing as a focus of our long-term recovery work—the typhoon damaged or destroyed more than a million houses. We’ve also provided locally purchased emergency food relief and simple water filtration systems, and are beginning to provide psychosocial care to survivors.

I visited the Philippines in January and was invited into several storm-damaged homes that UMCOR had provided with water filtration systems. One woman kept drinking glasses and glasses of water to show me the water was good to drink. And she was so happy, first of all, because her children weren’t going to get sick. But she also was happy because the money her family had been spending on bottled water could now be spent to start to rebuild their home and put their life back in place.

A GlobalMedic Rapid Response Team representative shares how the water filtration systems works to UMCOR's Deputy General Secretary Denise Honeycutt and International Disaster Response executive Jack Amick in the Philippines.  Photo: Ciony Eduarte

I’m grateful for your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing. They make UMCOR’s immediate and long-term presence with disaster survivors possible. You can—and you are—making a difference, when you give to UMCOR. Thanks to your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing, 100 percent of every dollar given to our disaster response programs supports relief and recovery efforts and helps people reclaim the abundant life God intends for them.

In the Philippines, I walked with our in-country disaster response director, Ciony Ayo-Eduarte, and our International Disaster Response assistant general secretary, Rev. Jack Amick, through some of the communities where UMCOR had provided emergency food relief right after Typhoon Haiyan. And many of the residents recognized either Ciony or Jack, or they recognized the cross and flame imprinted on our truck, and they would stop us and say, “You’re UMCOR! You came to us when we most needed you!” UMCOR was there because of you; it was you the people recognized. Thank you, thank you.