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The Intersections of United Methodist Women and UMCOR

by Leigh Rogers
April 27, 2012

A United Methodist Women MeetUp on Thursday, April 25 during the lunch break highlighted the connectional ministries of United Methodist Women and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). UMCOR is the disaster relief and health branch of The United Methodist Church.

J. Rollins, director of communications for UMCOR, shared the importance of United Methodist Women members’ contributions to the work of disaster relief. In fact, Mr. Rollins said that United Methodist Women members provide the backbone for helping UMCOR to be early responders with funds, relief-supply kits, and volunteers.

“So much of what United Methodist Women does is support UMCOR,” Mr. Rollins said. He named many intersections of the two organizations of the church–mission education being the most important, which goes both ways.

Mission Education

United Methodist Women members learn about areas of need that UMCOR supports through mission studies, the most recent example being Haiti. While unplanned, a year after the tragic earthquake hit Port au Prince, United Methodist Women came out with their geographic study, “Haiti: Challenges and Hope,” for the 2011 and 2012 year.

United Methodist Women members learn about these issues at Schools of Christian Mission, a mission education event that takes place every summer in every Annual Conference. Mission studies like ones on Haiti and other places provide educational opportunities for members at Schools of Christian Mission to change systems and structures. What members learn from these studies helps inform them about where and what UMCOR supports.

Conversely, UMCOR informs its volunteers and sustainers how they can support areas in need. Knowing how to respond is its own education piece, since not listening to affected communities can potentially turn into a “second disaster,” Mr. Rollins said. “After a disaster, don’t send T-shirts, find where the needs really are,” he said.

Since the organization is often on the ground soon after a disaster strikes, UMCOR uses its connections to look at the needs of the most vulnerable first. “We work on the community level, not individual level,” Mr. Rollins said.

Climate Change

Another issue of intersection between United Methodist Women and UMCOR is climate change. Climate change is one of United Methodist Women’s important action priorities for this quadrennium. (The others are human trafficking, immigration and domestic violence.)

Often, it is hard to make the issue of climate change personal. But when UMCOR can describe the impact of higher tides, and stronger storms, as we have seen in the Midwest United States these last few seasons, these are stories to tell to help motivate United Methodist Women members to give.

United Methodist Women’s Assembly

Every four years, United Methodist Women members converge as one body to fellowship together and celebrate the mission work United Methodist Women members do. Every Assembly, it has been a tradition to have a large “UMCOR truck” where participants compile relief-supply kits of all kinds—health kits, birthing kits, school kits, cleaning buckets. The UMCOR truck, really a large shipping container, sits in the exhibit hall where participants can assemble the kits and put them directly on the truck to be shipped to Sager Brown, one of UMCOR’s relief supplies depots. At the most recent 2010 Assembly, participants were asked to bring supplies for birthing kits with supplies to assist mothers during childbirth.

United Methodist Women’s continued giving and volunteering, through the assembly of kits and mission education of areas of need around the world, helps in “disaster risk reduction,” reducing the impact of disasters that affect the systemic level—social, infrastructural, and economic, said Mr. Rollins.

Disaster risk reduction, starting at the systemic level, is a core philosophy of United Methodist Women, just stated in a different way. United Methodist Women’s international and national ministries initiatives fund programs and projects that target the roots of social and systemic problems that negatively impact women, children and youth. With the continued support from United Methodist Women members, UMCOR and United Methodist Women will work in stride together to help the most vulnerable in need.