UMCOR: Financial Support, not Volunteers, Urgently Needed

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), one of the Christian relief agencies serving the survivors of the South Asia tsunamis, explained that while the images of the catastrophe may compel some people to travel to the destructed area to help the recovery efforts, what is actually needed is financial support.

“UMCOR has worked over a long period of time to develop the capacity of the church in other parts of the world to respond to the disaster,” said the Rev. Kristin Sachen, head of UMCOR’s disaster response. “We see that as our job – not just hand out food baskets, but helping people have the capacity to do it themselves.

“Very often, what they need in a big emergency is money,” she said. “Our partners have the networks, the training, and they simply need the money to carry out their plan.”

According to the latest reports, some 120,000 bodies have been counted from the 12 main countries hit by the tsunamis to date. UMCOR is working with the Christian Auxiliary for Social Action and with the National Council of Churches in Sri Lanka to help with the immediate needs.

According to a United Methodist news service report, the local churches find it easier to work with UMCOR because of the relief agency’s longstanding relationship with the NCC in Sri Lanka.

“They are an agent we can trust to be working before the rest of us even think of it,” said the Rev. John Collett of Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn, to the UMNS. “And UMCOR has decades of experience; they don’t reinvent the whole wheel. They have methods, channels and relationships already in place. What a wonderful thing!”

“The first thing we do in a disaster situation is remind ourselves that we are the agency of a global church,” Sachen said. “We are not just an American or North American church, and that makes a difference in how we approach emergency response.”

In addition to working alongside native churches, the UMCOR works through the Action for Churches Together and Church World Service.

“When we see a gap in the response, that’s where we step in and see what we can do to help,” Sachen said. “Our job is to make sure local ACT partners have the resources to do what they know how do to.” Working through ACT fosters cooperation and order among the donating agencies, she said.

Yesterday, CWS announced it is planning to give $900,000 for initial efforts. Nonetheless, according to Sachen, that is not enough.

“We are hoping for a large offering to come in,” she said. “It will be two or three weeks before it is in the bank and ready to send, but it will be good timing because that is when agencies will have a better idea of what they need.”

Said Sachen: “We put out the appeal and promise that 100 percent of the money collected will be used for the disaster.”

Donations to UMCOR's “South Asia Emergency” relief efforts can be placed in local church offering plates or sent directly to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Designate checks for UMCOR Advance #274305 and “South Asia Emergency.” Online donations can be made by going to www.methodistrelief.org. Those making credit-card donations can call (800) 554-8583.