A certain way to help Sandy survivors

I love UMCOR. It is without a doubt one of my favorite things about the United Methodist Church. While the election naturally grabbed most of our attention this week, recovery from the damage done by Hurricane Sandy continues. As always, UMCOR is there.

Through UMCOR, United Methodists extend relief and recovery to people in need in the United States, Africa, Asia, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe. Our work with affected communities helps them build capacity to meet the needs generated by an emergency.

That is from the Disaster Relief project at 10 Fold. (Yep, two years after 10/10/10, 10 Fold is still going strong. Check it out, just a few clicks sends donations to worthy projects. You can donate your own money there as well.) That was written well before Sandy. So was this:

When a disaster strikes a community in the US, local churches provide the first response. This basic understanding—that disaster response is local—is the foundation for all of UMCOR’s US disaster training programs and emergency response. We are, first and foremost, a resource for the local response. UMCOR provides training, expertise, and networking to help communities recover.

The stories of wreckage are hard to read. But worth reading anyway.

He looked up and down his streets, where his neighbors’ piles of ruined belongings were growing next to his own. “It’s unfathomable, the damage,” he said. “You can’t get your mind around the enormity of it.”

The best part of UMCOR is that 100% of donations go to relief. Administrative costs are covered by other means. I doubt there is another relief agency that can say the same.

Donate through UMCOR.

Learn how to create a Relief-Supply bucket.

Pray without ceasing.

“We will work with each other, we will work side by side”

“I’m praying for you.”

I must admit that far too often when I say those words to people experiencing pain, loss, grief, despair, they sound trite. Even though I mean it. Even though I’m actually praying for the person and the situation, I don’t know how to say those words without sounding rote and insincere. Even though I mean it.

And but so anyway (with apologies to Fred Clark), today is the two-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The United Methodist Committee on Relief has a long history of good work in Haiti, work that continues today. By most accounts, there is a ton of work still to do there. I’m proud to be affiliated with a denomination that is still there, working side by side with the Haitian people. I’m proud to be affiliated with a denomination doing its best to live in the way of Jesus: loving God by loving neighbors.

This video seems like a good way to remember victims, honor all the people still rebuilding, and inspire support:


That title comes from “They Will Know We are Christians by Our Love”, which was my favorite Sunday School song growing up. It remains a favorite today because it so succinctly names the purpose of my faith.

Even though it may sound trite… Haiti, I’m still praying for you.

#NHTAD in the midst of #NHTPM

There are as many as 27-30 million slaves in the world today. Yes, today.

Trafficking In Persons Report Map 2010
Image via Wikipedia

Today, January 11, 2012, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. But just one day is truly not enough. And, honestly, “merely” raising awareness is just not enough. Fortunately, this year President Obama declared all of January as National Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

It seems to me that the vast problem of modern-day slavery/human trafficking has become much more visible in mainstream media. It’s certainly all over Twitter. (Just search #NHTAD.)

Heck, there’s even an anti-human trafficking opera now!

There are no so many organizations fighting trafficking, so many people engaged in this struggle to end oppression. My blog roll is in desperate need of updating to reflect all the excellent people and groups I’ve become aware of (mostly through Twitter) who are also abolitionists.

Just yesterday I watched Call + Response for the first time. It is an excellent film, mainly for raising awareness – but also for inspiration to, well, respond. Modern-day slavery is (it should almost go without saying) a blatant, disgusting, soul-numbing, mind-blowing, body-paralyzing evil. This film reminds us of that. But it manages not to get stuck in the funk. In fact, it uses the funk to inspire hope! (Trust me on this. Or, better yet, see the film yourself! We’re hosting a screening at Woodridge United Methodist Church on Feb. 15.)

My hope and prayer is that, wherever you are on the abolitionist journey, you will keep learning, sharing and acting to end slavery in our time.

A few ways to respond today, this month, always:

Learn some basics.

Watch videos from Not for Sale’s Global Forum on Human Trafficking.

Read teen author, Zach Hunter’s ideas to end slavery.

Check out retreat resources from United Methodist Women.

Read about The United Methodist Committee on Relief’s efforts in Armenia.

See how educators like Holly Boardman are inspiring – and being inspired by – their students to end slavery.

In the words of Justin Dillon, writer, director and producer of Call + Response:

This is an open source movement. The platform is written, everybody simply needs to write their code on top. What are you good at? What do you care about? Has this issue touched you? What is your response going to be?

The church is my biggest platform. I will continue to challenge the people of Woodridge UMC to fight slavery locally and globally. God dreams of a slave-free world. We long to bring that dream to life. (Plus I’ll update that blogroll.)

What is your response going to be?

“Water, water, everywhere…”

[Pretty much every week, I write a…something…for my church‘s weekly eNewsletter. Way back when, it was my take on a pastoral letter. Then some time along the way, I started thinking of it more like a newspaper’s opinion column. Now I suppose I think of it as a blog post. Whatever I write for eNews usually ends up here too. Though usually in a slightly different form, edited for the more general audience that I hope is (could be someday?) reading here. Over there it’s called The View from the Dance Floor.]

It seems Oscar Wilde was right. Life imitated art far more than usual for me this week. I’m sure I’m not who ol’ Sam Coleridge (Yes, I can call him ‘Sam.’ We’re tight like that.) had in mind when he wrote his famous poem, but all week I ran into “water, water, everywhere.”

(Although, unlike that Ancient Marnier, I got through the week without killing an albatross. Or any creature great or small, for that matter. Well, at least not that I killed personally; I mean, I did eat this week…um, let’s move on…)

The water theme started with scripture. Both of this week’s lessons (Exodus 17:1-17 and John 4:5-42) involve thirsty people. Both stories depict those thirsty people doing just what you’d expect them to do: trying to find some water to drink!

In their efforts to quench their thirst, the people in both stories have interesting, thought-provoking and question-inducing encounters with God. Questions from these stories that I’m considering and hope you will too:

  • For what does your soul thirst?
  • What things and people are life-giving for you right now?

Let me guess what you’re thinking: thus far this might be interesting stuff, but it’s still pretty standard pastoral musings. I’d be hard pressed to disagree. But that’s where the week took an unexpected turn…

Tuesday was World Water Day. Now, I’ll be honest. I’d never heard of World Water Day and had no idea it existed until it showed up all over my Twitter feed that day. I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t even notice just how available water is to me. Among the kitchen sink, the water dispenser in our fridge and our bathrooms, I probably can’t get more than 20 feet away from a water source!

Meanwhile, here’s something I learned through World Water Day:

  • Between 900 million – 1 billion people on the planet (about 1 in 6 of us) don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water.

Even more sobering are the effects of that lack of access:

  • Every week there are 42,000 deaths due to unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation. 90% of those deaths are children under 5 years old.

Reading that horrible fact made me want to learn more. Fortunately, there are many organizations doing really good work helping developing countries find and access safe water: Water.org, Charity: Water, National Geographic (which has an eye-opening tool to calculate your water footprint, yikes!), World Health Organization

The Untied Methodist Church (UMC) is among them as well. Read an introduction to UMCOR’s work (the United Methodist Committee on Relief is the humanitarian aid arm of the UMC) accessing clean water:

Here are UMCOR’s Water Projects

See videos, pictures, facts and more stories through The Board of Global Ministry’s 10-Fold project. (I must admit, it is difficult to keep all the UMC’s boards, agencies and projects straight. Lots o’ bureaucracy in the UMC!)

All of which leads me to this question:

  • How are you responding (and/or how can you respond) to thirsty voices in your community?

I’ll share more thoughts and questions about water – and offer those present a chance to chime in – in worship this Sunday, March 27. Hope to see you there! Or, you know, comments here are always appreciated.

The UMC is at work in Japan

[Pretty much every week, I write a…something…for my church‘s weekly eNewsletter. Way back when, it was my take on a pastoral letter. Then some time along the way, I started thinking of it more like a newspaper’s opinion column. Now I suppose I think of it as a blog post. Whatever I write for eNews usually ends up here too. Though usually in a slightly different form, edited for the more general audience that I hope is (could be someday?) reading here. Over there it’s called The View from the Dance Floor.]

First a massive, record-setting earthquake that triggered devastating tsunamis. Now a damaged nuclear plant forces us to consider the terrifying damage of radiation as well as forcing us to face the very real limits of nuclear power as “safe energy.”

Needless to say, the people of Japan need our prayers and our support.

Here’s a letter from Northern IL Conference Bishop, Hee-Soo Jung:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Northern Illinois:

In this humble time of Lenten self-reflection and spiritual journeying we are reminded that our world aches for hope and comfort.  The suffering of others, the tragedies and pain that abound in our midst, all call us to extend a hand to those who need to know Christ’s love for their lives.

My prayers and concern have been with the people of Japan and the Pacific area in these hours of devastation, uncertainty and fear following one of the most powerful earthquakes in history and the resulting tsunami.  As loved ones are accounted for we give thanks.  As the death toll mounts we mourn.  As the magnitude of the devastation slowly sinks in we extend our resources.

The United Methodist Church has nine missionaries, six full time volunteers and several mission associates in Japan.  Most have been accounted for.  Over the next few days our United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) will be working with partner agencies in organizing relief efforts for those in need.  Please hold those affected by this natural disaster in your prayers while extending aide through our agencies.

Your Brother in Christ,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung

One big advantage to giving through UMCOR (the humanitarian aid arm of The UMC): 100% of gifts go to the relief effort. That’s right. 100%

This is made possible by The One Great Hour of Sharing, an offering taken each year to fund the administration of UMCOR. Apportionment dollars are not used to fund UMCOR, only One Great Hour of Sharing funds.

Here’s the latest on the UMC’s work in Japan from the Board of Global Ministries.

But this is just a glimpse into relief work in Japan. Let’s broaden the picture: What are you (or an organization you associate with) doing in Japan?

I give thanks for all the ways God is at work in and through and with people and agencies from all over the globe, including the United Methodist Church, bringing healing and hope to so many!