From the Worldwide Faith News archives

United Methodists launch churchwide appeal for hurricane relief

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 08 Oct 1998 15:14:29

Oct. 8 1998	Contact: Joretta Purdue*(202)546-8722*Washington

NOTE: A photograph is available with this story.

By United Methodist News Service

The United Methodist Church is launching a churchwide appeal to provide
funds for the extensive relief effort already under way to alleviate
suffering in the wake of Hurricane Georges, which raked island nations
in the Caribbean and the eastern Gulf states.

In a letter being mailed Oct. 9 to every minister, the Council of
Bishops and the church's General Council on Finance and Administration
are asking each congregation to receive a special offering during
October or in the first week of  November. The letter, along with
relevant information, is in both English and Spanish.

The Board of Global Ministries is coordinating relief efforts through
the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and with autonomous
Methodist churches in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, the
Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas, and the most
affected conferences (regions)  in the United States: Florida,
Alabama-West Florida and Mississippi.

The funds raised by the appeal will be used to:
*	supplement government assistance for humanitarian responses;
*	distribute great quantities of material donations made by
businesses and individuals from across the country;
*	complete repair budgets for basic housing;
*	cover some costs associated with pastoral care; and
*	assist conferences and congregations in the repair of local
church property.

So much damage was done by flooding in the Dominican Republic that
entire communities vanished and many of the dead may never be found.
Gordon Knuckey, UMCOR field staff, termed the situation "a true
catastrophic disaster, the worst I've ever seen." UMCOR team members was
told by residents that they were the first representatives of any
church-related relief group to reach them.

Aid to the Dominican Republic will be channeled through the Iglesia
Evangelica Dominicana (the Dominican Evangelical Churches), an
organization of Methodist, Presbyterian and Moravian churches.

No area of Puerto Rico has been left untouched. Two-thirds of the
population had damage to their home or business, or both. With help from
UMCOR, seven centers have been established by the church to serve as
collection and distribution points for relief supplies. 

Counseling has been given to the children of a community where 200
families were left homeless. Three Methodist camps where the kitchens
are relatively intact have been offered to authorities to use as feeding
centers. UMCOR has shipped generators to the island and is arranging for
other relief supplies to be sent.

In Haiti, the land mass itself has become unstable. Three Methodist
schools were evacuated and stored food was destroyed. Mudslides
destroyed mountain homes. Throughout the islands,  getting drinking
water and food to remote locations continues to be a problem.

The smaller islands of Antigua, St. Kits, Nevis and St. Maarten have
reported extensive damage to homes, livelihood, churches and parsonages.

Throughout the Caribbean, agriculture was severely affected. Crops were
destroyed, and in some cases, recovery of food sources may take three or
four years. Although most of these areas are largely rural, other means
of livelihood were damaged or destroyed as well.

In the United States, recovery is being aided by generators and other
supplies. The first volunteer teams have already entered some areas to
help with clean up and provide support. At least one additional
distribution center has been established in Mississippi. Cleaning
supplies and generators were distributed from UMCOR's Sager-Brown Depot
in Louisiana.

In the Florida Conference, United Methodist churches housed Red Cross
shelters and fed relief workers and those in shelters. Church volunteers
have helped in removing debris and cleaning up - often in areas where no
other organization was at work.

In Mississippi,  recovery is expected to take at least a year.
Additional shipments of cleaning supplies were brought to the Gulfport
warehouse on Oct. 7 and 8. The food pantries at churches in the Seashore
District have had their supplies of canned foods exhausted and have
issued a call for replacements. Rain continues to be a problem for those
with damaged homes and people working on debris removal. Additional
volunteers are needed.  

Historic Gulfside Assembly, virtually destroyed by a hurricane several
years ago, was not in the direct path of Georges and sustained only
cosmetic damage.  Some windows were broken and trees were downed.  Like
other businesses in the area, it lost valuable income. A large group
meeting scheduled that week had to be cancelled. 

More information about hurricane relief is available from UMCOR at (800)
554-8583.  Scheduling volunteers is being handled by UMCOR at (800)
918-3100.  Arrangements for donation of material resources may be made
at (800) 814-8765.

Donations made through local churches will be directed to the Churchwide
Appeal for Hurricanes '98, UMCOR Advance No. 982515-0 by church
treasurers and the annual (regional) conference.

# # #

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