Upon accepting my role as a delegate for the Virginia UMC Annual Conference, Pastor Brian assigned me the task of looking into one of the organizations represented and to write this blog post on it. During one of the conference meetings, a promotion video was shown for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Immediately, I recognized that this was an organization that so truly represented everything I believe in and what we as Christians should strive toward. As the name suggests, the organization works to assist, specifically in the areas of Hunger, Health, Refugees, Emergencies, and Relief Supplies.
For Hunger, UMCOR not only seeks to provide meals to the starving and impoverished, but they also develop plans to help countries grow food supplies. They do this by providing seeds, tools, and agricultural training. For Health, they do not simply provide their own limited health care support. They help provide health education and distribution of medicines and equipment. One of their greatest tools is the Health Kit, provided by churches and other charitable groups, containing all the health supplies (washcloths, soap, bandages, etc.) that these poverty stricken people don’t have access to otherwise. For Refugees, the organization seeks to relieve those who have been forced out of their homes by oppression or violence. Shelter, food, and medication are the priorities given to these families and individuals. Beyond that, UMCOR seeks to help these peoples get back to a functional life. They’ll work with them through the court system, through counseling, and any other social programs necessary. For Emergencies, they provide any form of relief necessary, be it physical, emotional, or psychological, to those affected by disaster. UMCOR has provided services after hurricanes, tsunamis, even a volcanic eruption. Aside from this, they respond also to smaller more common disasters. The final focus of relief is Relief Supplies and it is the most crucial. This area of focus provides for the other four. Relief kits are donated in six varieties; bedding, cleaning, health, layette, school, and sewing. All of these kits are essential in some way to get suffering people back to a sustainable way of life and are often a part of the healing process.
What I find most remarkable is that UMCOR channels 100% of donations to relief efforts, and with all the work being done by volunteers. This is a perfect representation of what living a Christian life means. Nothing in this is for gain, only charity. Depending on which version of the Bible you read, the Greek word “agape” can be translated to either to “charity” or “love.” I find this appropriate because my interpretation of love has always been to put someone before yourself. That is what this organization aims to do. The only drawback to UMCOR’s incredible generosity is that have little ability to advertise. They don’t have the budget to publicize themselves, because they’re spending it by loving people. That’s why this is the organization I chose to promote on the pastor’s blog. It is an example of the absolute goodness God has in this creation.
I have always considered myself an optimist, believing that mankind is inherently good. I believe this is essential to Christian faith. This worldview has certainly been challenged. But I have seen people leave fast food restaurants and turn the car around to hand a bag to a homeless man at the side of the building. I know of people who won’t just give a dollar to someone holding a sign at a traffic light, but step out to pray with them. And I know of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Thinking of this organization, I’m reminded of the Matt Maher song, “Hold Us Together.” He sings, “Love will hold us together, make us a shelter to weather the storm. And I’ll be my brother’s keeper, so the whole world will know that we’re not alone.” And like the song says, “It ain’t the law of the land or the government, but it’s all you need.” UMCOR lives the message of this song. It’s people who want to do everything they can do. And ultimately, if they can show this amount of love to others, they may be able to fulfill our mission and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.