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Worshippers remember Haiti in prayer, song, gifts

At Wellspring UMC, Tampa, Fla., members and guests lit candles for victims and survivors. A UMNS photo by Derek Maul.

A UMNS Report
By Barbara Dunlap-Berg*

Jan. 18, 2010

Highland Park United Methodist Church volunteers pose for a photo before
the earthquake struck Haiti.  A UMNS photo courtesy of Highland Park
United ethodist Church.

They remembered. They prayed. They sang. And they gave.

Across the United Methodist connection, worshippers responded to the suffering people of Haiti with words and songs of hope, as well as donations of money and supplies.

In the nation’s capital, United Methodists reflected on faith and responsibility. In Raleigh, N.C., they packed health kits for survivors of the massive earthquake. In Sharonville, Ohio, they welcomed a mission team home. In Dallas, they pledged to return to Haiti, despite the loss of one of their volunteers there.

And thousands of miles away, United Methodists in Vienna joined in “heartfelt prayers.”

Washington Area Bishop John Schol encouraged worshippers at Foundry United Methodist Church to overcome their sadness, fears and doubts by relying on God’s steadfast mercy and by connecting with the people of Haiti through prayers and active support for relief efforts.

“When the earth shakes, it’s not unusual for us to be sad and afraid,” Schol said. “You can just imagine the fear of people (in Haiti) and of friends and families here who worry for their loved ones. But it is by acting on behalf of others that we can overcome our sadness and fear.” 

Pray without ceasing

In East Lansing, Mich., the Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai led her congregation at University United Methodist Church in prayer and song.

“Prayer,” said Bigham-Tsai, “brings us together in community. It provides a sense of healing.”

Joining in the prayer service were Haiti natives Luckner and Judith Sanon and their two children.

“No matter what happened,” Luckner Sanon said, “we need to pray. We need God.”

At Wellspring United Methodist Church, Tampa, Fla., director of student ministries Tyler Hettich invited the congregation to a time of open prayer. “Just speak the names of people you know out loud,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do other than pray.

“I’ve been to Haiti twice,” he added. “I have friends there. My heart goes out. I feel helpless. Prayer is what I can do now.”

The Rev. Craig Hammond, Wellspring senior pastor, and his wife, the Rev. Dionne Hammond, associate pastor at East Lake United Methodist Church in Palm Harbor, led the vigil. The two congregations have an active partnership with Zamar Ministries in Haiti. They sent a combined team to the country in November 2009.

“Because we were just there, we are feeling very overwhelmed about the situation,” Dionne said. 

Washington Area Bishop John Schol encourages prayer service attendees to rely on God’s mercy. A UMNS photo by John Coleman.

Craig read from Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the Earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”

“What can I do? I’m just one person,” Craig said. “But we are to literally become the hands and feet of Jesus in this world.”

At Soapstone United Methodist Church, Raleigh, N.C., the youth packed health kits and gathered for a simple meal, donating receipts to Haitian relief.

“We took a special offering during worship,” said member Sylvia Hewitt. “Normally we share a snack supper that is a usual teen-friendly menu, but last night we had red beans and rice, lettuce and water, a meal that Haitians might eat. We talked about seeing God's abundant love in the situation.”

Volunteers vow to return

Prayers of gratitude joined prayers of supplication at Sharonville (Ohio) United Methodist Church, which had an 11-member mission team working on an orphanage when the quake struck. Applause and hugs greeted the volunteers, now home safely.

“We were able to swoop up a couple girls apiece and get them out,” trip leader Barbara Sailor recalled. “Without the extra help, the girls either would have been crushed outside or they would not have gotten out of the building because there just wasn’t enough help there.”

A veranda where the orphans usually play collapsed. The team is anxious to get back to help. The congregation has a long history of sending mission teams to Haiti, and that work will continue, she said.

That ongoing commitment also was evident at Highland Park United Methodist Church, Dallas, which lost one member of its volunteer team. Jean Arnwine had a heart attack on the plane on the way home from Haiti. But the pastor's message was that despite the tragedy, the church must keep trying to help the Haitian people.

The team “made a good point that Jean would have wanted to get right back on the next plane there,” said church member Brook Deklavs.

More prayer

Erin Campbell, director of youth ministry at St. John United Methodist Church, Santa Fe, N.M., coordinated a prayer vigil.

“We shared liturgies adapted from the Book of Uncommon Prayer. We had six prayer stations” symbolizing faith, supplies, volunteers, victims, rebuilding and hope, and letters to God. 

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United Methodists beyond the United States also joined their Haitian sisters and brothers in prayer.

Jerry Barton said the English-speaking United Methodist Church in Vienna, Austria, offered prayers for colleagues and friends.

“We have a few staff of the various United Nations organizations in our congregation, people who travel to regions like this regularly,” he said.” We didn't lose anyone in this tragedy, but we feel the loss within the UN family.”

Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar urged the clergy and laity of the Greater New Jersey Annual (regional) Conference to “join me . . . in prayer, wherever you are, on Wednesday, Jan. 20, at noon. Let us pray together for the comfort, grace, healing and continued work of relief for and with the people of Haiti. Additionally, I prayerfully request you continue to support the United Methodist Committee on Relief with your prayers and your monetary gifts.”

*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5489 or newsdesk@umcom.org.


Haiti Mission Team Returns to Cheers, Hugs

Church Mourns Member's Death in Haiti


Photos from team in Haiti

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Haiti Emergency, UMCOR Advance #418325

Mission volunteers

Foundry UMC, Washington, D.C

Highland Park UMC, Dallas

St. John’s UMC, Santa Fe, N.M.

Sharonville, Cincinnati, Ohio

Soapstone UMC, Raleigh, N.C.

University UMC, East Lansing, Mich.

Wellspring UMC, Tampa, Fla.

English-Speaking UMC, Vienna, Austria

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