By Christie R. House
May 12, 2016, PORTLAND, Ore. — Even in the bleakest of times, God can forge a path to bring people out of their deep despair into a resilient future of hope and promise. In the aftermath of a disaster, the path is most often cut by many hands together, and in some communities, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) becomes a valuable partner for sorting out immediate relief needs, planning long-term recovery goals, and assessing better ways to predict and prepare for the next disaster before it strikes.
Bishop Hee Soo Jung, president of UMCOR, and the Rev. Jack Amick, senior director of UMCOR International and U.S. Disaster Relief, teamed up in the Global Ministries exhibit area today during the 2016 General Conference to celebrate and thank some of the partners that make UMCOR’s work possible — United Methodists who believe in UMCOR’s mission and give, in a variety of ways, to further its ministry.
Face Storms Together
Bishop Jung described a recent trip he and Amick took to Tacloban, Philippines, to dedicate 143 rebuilt houses and five community storm shelters, fruits of an UMCOR building partnership in Leyte Province. The shelters will protect the communities, in the event of a typhoon or storm surge and in the meanwhile, will serve them as schools and multipurpose halls. The homes had been destroyed by Super Typhoon Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Yolanda) in November 2013.
Amick said he and Jung met some of the indigenous leaders who had been trained to respond to future emergencies. He recalled that one of them said, “There will be problems, and we will face storms, but we will face them together.”
The Tacloban community lost many lives, homes, and livelihoods to Haiyan. One of the reasons the casualties were so high was because people didn’t understand the warnings they received. They were told to expect a storm surge, but they had never heard that term. Amick said the people assured him: “If they had told us, ‘tsunami,’ we would have run!”
Bishop Jung said he was amazed “at how the villagers welcomed us. Many shook our hands and said, ‘Because of you, we have a second life. Because of you, we can see a future that we can believe in together.’”
Amick added that one of the unique things about UMCOR is that while it can move money quickly during a disaster, it also works with partner organizations to help them improve their operations. “We help them live into the best practices for humanitarian assistance in this day and age,” he said. “We try to build up the capacity of these partners.”
16,000 Trained to Serve
In addition, Amick reminded the audience that, working with annual conferences, UMCOR also conducts training in the United States. Currently, there are about 16,000 U.S. volunteers trained to respond when there is a disaster in their region. Part of that training includes various mitigation projects, such as early warning systems.
“For 75 years UMCOR has been committed to this idea that we will alleviate suffering, regardless of race or creed,” Amick said. “And in today’s age, we talk about that in terms of impartiality, the right to assistance with dignity, and a very Wesleyan concept—first do no harm.”
Christie R. House is the editor of New World Outlook magazine.
What to Do When You Want to Help
- When you see a disaster covered in the media — pray.
- When you see a problem in the world or a disaster strikes — do something locally. Find a way to help in your own community.
- Support UMCOR — become a partner that reaches out to people around the world and to other partners everywhere to help them do good well.