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United Methodists give $8.5 million to Haiti

A young girl from First United Methodist Church in Slidell, La., adds
to donations for Haiti. A UMNS photo courtesy of Betty Backstrom.

By Barbara Dunlap-Berg
Feb. 12, 2010

“So we rebuilt the wall, and all the wall was joined together . . . for the people had a mind to work.” -- Nehemiah 4:6

United Methodists have set their hearts and minds to work since an earthquake devastated much of Haiti a month ago.

Through individual gifts and special offerings, benefit concerts and other innovative fundraisers, United Methodists have donated $8.5 million to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, according to Melissa Hinnen, the agency’s director of communications.

The time and talent of church members are meeting more than financial needs.

The relief agency’s Sager Brown Depot distribution center in Baldwin, La., has collected 350,000 health kits. Near Lexington, Ky., members of First United Methodist Church, Paris, gathered and packed about 1,200 health kits. Similar kit-packing efforts are multiplying across the United Methodist connection.

Even before the earthquake rocked Haiti, many Haitian mothers lacked swaddling clothes in which to wrap their newborns. In the days since the disaster, babies have been born amid rubble, in field hospitals and in rudimentary shelters, and surviving parents are even less likely to have clean clothes and diapers to welcome them.

Churches, schools and community groups are purchasing items and assembling layette kits. Each kit contains diapers, washcloths, one-piece body suits or shirts, gowns, diaper pins and receiving blankets.

The efforts, large and small, are making a difference.

“We need ongoing support and prayers for the partnership in Haiti to stay strong,” said the Rev. Paul Doherty, chair of the Michigan Area Haiti task force and an UMCOR liaison. “The journey to bring relief to Haiti is going to be long and hard. It calls for generosity and sacrifice. Thank you for your financial help, your prayers and your volunteer service. A brighter day will come for Haiti. Thank you, Jesus!”

Cheerful givers

Churches report congregants are embracing emergency appeals.

A young boy peers out from makeshift housing in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

First United Methodist Church of Flushing in New York gave $60,000. Parishioners contributed about $45,000 through a special offering, and church funds made up the difference.
"Whenever there is a disaster, we appeal to our members to give—and they give!" said the Rev. Joong Urn Kim, senior pastor.

In a neighboring conference, Korean Community Church, Englewood, N.J., sent more than $42,500 to UMCOR.

Nickerson (Kan.) United Methodist Church asked each member of the congregation to give at least $1 toward Haiti relief. Lauding the effort, the Kansas West Conference Disaster Response Committee issued the challenge to all Kansas West congregations.

In the Western Jurisdiction, bishops and other leaders encouraged United Methodists to learn about Haiti’s history, culture and economy, give $100,000, sponsor 25 mission trips to Haiti over the next five years and build 23,000 health kits.

Benefit concerts

Music is helping to ease the suffering in Haiti.

A benefit concert at Brentwood (Tenn.) United Methodist Church, featuring Point of Grace and Mark Schultz, garnered more than $50,000 to aid earthquake survivors. More than 3,300 people attended the event, while others from 10 countries around the world watched via webcast.

“The success in the dollar amount raised is only exceeded by the volunteer spirit in which it was given. From that perspective it was an awe-inspiring evening,” stated Stuart Dill, Point of Grace’s manager and co-event organizer.

Covenant United Methodist Church, Plainfield, N.J., will host a “Harmonies of Liberty” Haiti benefit organ concert featuring Mark Miller Feb. 28. A freewill offering will aid Haiti relief efforts.

Among other efforts, the Southwest Mississippi Community College Wesley Foundation in Summit, Miss., is donating half of the money earned at the concession stand during games to help relief efforts in Haiti.

Miki Campbell, a junior at Neuqua Valley High School, Naperville, Ill., has traveled to Haiti on a mission trip with Wheatland Salem United Methodist Church. The Friday after the earthquake struck, the Campbell family opened their home for "Miki's Soup Kitchen." Friends and family were invited to stop in and help plan relief efforts while enjoying a bowl of soup.

"I don't care if they donate money," Campbell said. "I want them to see the faces of the kids. I want them to see you can't give enough to the country."

*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.\


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