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Giving to those who give relief

 
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7:00 A.M. EST March 24, 2011



Toppled by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the steeple of Main Street United Methodist Church in Bay St. Louis, Miss., rests on the grass. The hurricane damaged much of the area, including the church and parsonage. A UMNS photo by Ginny Underwood.
Toppled by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the steeple of Main Street United Methodist Church in Bay St. Louis, Miss., rests on the grass. The hurricane damaged much of the area, including the church and parsonage. A UMNS photo by Ginny Underwood.
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As the recent news broke in Japan, it wasn’t too long before I got thinking about the United Methodist Committee on Relief, better known as UMCOR, and its role in the relief effort of many of these disasters. We are fortunate to have missionaries stationed in Japan so we had people on the ground who could begin making a difference immediately.

One of the great benefits of UMCOR disaster support is that every nickel goes to the actual relief work. You may recall after 9/11, a popular relief agency was largely criticized for using relief donations for new phone systems and other infrastructure costs. I’m not going to comment on that agency, but I am proud that at UMCOR, every contribution gets into the hands of those who are helping.

This is possible because of the One Great Hour of Sharing, an annual offering across The United Methodist Church that covers the overhead expenses of UMCOR. Last fall I was blessed to hear the Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey speak. She is the head of UMCOR. We were amazed to hear that all of UMCOR’s emergency relief work is done with a staff of seven, four who work with domestic disaster relief and three who work internationally. How many of our local churches have larger staffs than that? 

That’s a ridiculously efficient program and one, I believe, that is worthy of your support.



Brian Scheetz. Photo by Sue Zakovec, East Ohio Annual (regional) Conference.
Brian Scheetz. Photo by Sue Zakovec, East Ohio Annual (regional) Conference.

But Harvey tells me that support for One Great Hour has decreased over the last several years. Regrettably, the need for disaster relief has not decreased.

I strongly encourage you to participate in One Great Hour of Sharing. This year that offering will take place in most churches April 3, but your congregation can select an alternate date, and individuals can contribute at any time. You can order free resources to promote the special offering from www.umcgiving.org/oghs.

Just six weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit, I was in Bay St. Louis, Miss. Main Street United Methodist Church, just six blocks from the beach, was still standing, although the steeple had been blown off and was on its side next to the church. The church’s lawn was “relief central.” I saw local residents coming to pick up the cleanup buckets United Methodists filled. United Methodist volunteers were camping next to the building.

Never in my life have I had a better understanding of Christians as the hands and feet of God.  Not all of us can do that work. But I am so grateful that there are those among us who can and do. One Great Hour of Sharing is your chance to give those people the connection to do the work.

I hope you will.

*Sheetz is executive director of the East Ohio United Methodist Foundation, North Canton, Ohio. He and his family are members of Strongsville United Methodist Church.

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