|United Methodists receive licenses for work in Cuba|
Survivors walk down a street in Holguin, Cuba, after
Hurricane Ike struck the island on Sept. 9. A UMNS Web-only photo
courtesy of the Rev. Ivelis Matthews.
By Linda Bloom*
Nov. 4, 2008 | NEW YORK (UMNS)
After weeks of efforts, the United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries has been granted two licenses from the U.S. government for
relief work in hurricane-ravaged Cuba.
The Rev. Sam Dixon
The new licenses will allow the United Methodist Committee on
Relief to provide both short- and long-term assistance to Cubans
affected by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in September.
The Rev. Sam Dixon, UMCOR’s top executive, was elated that the
church's relief organization can finally respond to the destruction. "We
rejoice in this news and look forward to this opportunity to be in
mission together with the Methodist Church of Cuba," he said in a Nov. 4
Cuban Methodists, who reported that many churches had been
destroyed and people left homeless from Gustav, have done some repairs
themselves but are appealing to Methodists elsewhere. "Any type of help
will be well received," the Cuban church said on its Web site.
A 30-day license enables an immediate relief response in Cuba,
while the second license will allow the mission agency to spend up to
$1.1 million in humanitarian work until October 2009. Activities are
restricted to those outlined in the license application with the U.S.
Treasury Department, but will include home reconstruction and church repair, distribution of food, psychosocial assistance and livelihoods assistance.
The board’s previous attempts to renew licenses for work in
Cuba—which has been under a U.S. trade embargo for decades—had been
rejected in the past two years. Dixon credited assistance from Williams
and Jenson, a Washington law firm with experience in obtaining these
kinds of licenses, and "UMCOR’s persistence" in receiving the new
Other United Methodists have also advocated for relief efforts in Cuba, including members of MARCHA, the denomination's Hispanic/Latino caucus.
Grateful for efforts
Bishop Elías Galván, MARCHA’s interim executive director, told United
Methodist News Service the caucus is grateful to the Board of Global
Ministries for its efforts and will encourage donations to UMCOR’s work.
"We’re delighted that the board has been able to obtain the licenses,"
he said. "There’s a great need in Cuba and our people here want to
respond and be in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Cuba."
Bishop Elías Galván
Four former bishops of the Methodist Church in Cuba, currently
residing in the United States, had issued a statement of concern in
October about the effects of the hurricanes.
"As a result of these natural disasters more than 400,000 homes have
been totally or partially destroyed, the economy has suffered greatly,
the food is scarce due to the loss of crops that were kept in storages
and … (sicknesses) are afflicting the people, mainly because of the
contamination of the many sources of drinkable water," the statement
A new Advance number has been dedicated to relief work in Cuba.
Donations can be made to UMCOR Advance No. 3020821, Cuba Emergency, and
dropped in collection plates at local United Methodist churches or
mailed to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Write the Advance number and name on the memo line of the check. Information on credit card donations can be found online.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
UMCOR advocates to provide Cuba storm relief
Lack of license limits UMCOR response in Cuba
Board of Global Ministries
Methodist Church in Cuba