|Concerns mount for missing UMCOR workers|
A massive earthquake struck about 10 miles from
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 12.
A UMNS photo courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
Jan. 13, 2009
United Methodists throughout the world are saying prayers; donating
time, talent and money; and planning relief efforts to alleviate the
suffering of the Haitian people even as the church worries about the
fate of some of its mission workers in the devastated nation.
In the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude quake Jan. 12, church officials
on Jan. 13 were still waiting to hear from three executives of the
Board of Global Ministries who were in Haiti. Sam Dixon, top executive
of the United Methodist Committee on Relief; Clinton Rabb, head of
Mission Volunteers; and James Gulley, an UMCOR consultant, were on the
island on a mission-related trip.
No one has been able to reach the three men since the earthquake
occurred and communications with Haiti have been difficult, officials
“We’ve heard conflicting reports,” said the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, an
UMCOR executive. “We’ve heard they were in a car on the way to the
airport. We’ve heard they were at the Hotel Montana having dinner. We
don’t have any confirmation about what their whereabouts were when the
earthquake hit. We’re still hoping and praying we hear from them soon.”
According to Agence France Presse, about 200 people were missing
after the popular Hotel Montana collapsed during the earthquake.
Amid the concern, church members rallied to help begin healing the
nation rocked by an earthquake that one Haitian official estimated may
have killed more than 100,000 people.
Bishop Joel Martinez, the interim leader of the Board of Global
Ministries, said he was confident the board and its relief agency “will
save lives and restore communities with the prayerful support of our
United Methodist connection.”
Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the United Methodist Council of
Bishops, said officials throughout the denomination were meeting to see
what more the church should be doing.
“We are urging every United Methodist to encourage their folks to be
in prayer, to stand in solidarity, and to give as generously as possible
through UMCOR,” Palmer said.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief immediately began making
plans for an emergency response in partnership with groups such as
Action by Churches Together, Church World Service, Global Medic and the
Methodist Church in Haiti.
“We are working with our partners on the ground to provide immediate
relief to the people in Haiti,” said Melissa Crutchfield, an UMCOR
executive. “UMCOR has worked in Haiti for many years. We anticipate that
there will be years of rebuilding needed and are prepared to work with
the people to help them through that process.”
‘A deeply spiritual issue’
The images of collapsed hospitals, demolished homes and bodies lying
on torn-up streets from the earthquake tear at the hearts of those who
have worked in a nation that before the natural disaster was the poorest
in the Western Hemisphere.
Children attend class at a school in
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, that is sponsored
by Church World Service in this
November 2009 photograph.
A UMNS photo by Don Tatlock/CWS.
The Rev. Ray Buchanan, a United Methodist pastor and co-founder of
Stop Hunger Now, has been to Haiti a dozen times over the years as his
Raleigh, N.C.-based organization has provided meals for Haitian
His voice choked as he talked about the importance of the faith
community’s response to the earthquake.
“This is a deeply spiritual issue,” he said. “We’re called on to
treat each other as family. We have brothers and sisters in Haiti who
are in desperate need at the moment.”
In the past two years, Stop Hunger Now has distributed more than 6
million of its dehydrated, fortified rice-soy meals in Haiti, including a
million and a half in the last two months.
Another container is ready to ship. Buchanan said he was alerted by
Haiti Outreach, a partner organization, that New York Gov. David
Patterson is donating a plane that will come to Richmond, Va., and load
up on Stop Hunger Now meals.
United Methodists were among those trying to reach family members in
“The frustration is that we tried all night to reach my brother and
have not been able to get through, said the Rev. Molege Desir, pastor of
Vailsburg United Methodist Church in South Orange, N.J. “This morning
we were hoping it would be different, but still there’s no contact.
“We need to be in prayer for them because when you don’t have any
means to contact people and you have no way to get to them, the best we
can do for the moment is to pray.”
While concern mounted for those unaccounted for, relatives and
friends of other United Methodist mission workers in Haiti felt relief
as word slowly reached them that mission teams in Haiti from the Texas,
New Jersey, Michigan, North Carolina, Dakotas and Kansas East annual
conferences were safe.
Haiti is an overwhelmingly Christian country. Although the majority
are Catholic, the country has more than a million Protestants, including
the Methodist Church in Haiti, which is part of the Methodist Church of
the Caribbean and the Americas.
The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, top executive of the World Council of
Churches, expressed “condolences and solidarity with the people of
Haiti, as they experience the great burdens of anguish, damage, and
death because of a natural catastrophe."
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Support for relief efforts can be made to Haiti Emergency, UMCOR Advance # 418325. One
hundred percent of all gifts will be used for the emergency.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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