By Jessica Brodie
Propelled by a firm call to help their neighbors half a world away, many churches are stepping up with funds and prayer after a massive earthquake claimed the lives of more than 8,000 souls in Nepal.
The 7.9-magnitude quake hit the village of Barpak, near Kathmandu, April 25. It is thought to be the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal in more than 80 years. Entire villages were flattened, and the quake triggered nearby avalanches, as well. Two and a half weeks later, a 7.3-magnitude quake struck Nepal, killing an additional 120 and injuring thousands more.
As of the Advocate’s press time, more than 16,000 people had been injured in the devastations, nearly 300,000 homes destroyed and another 234,000 homes damaged, leaving some 37,500 people displaced, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Across the globe, people, churches and organizations are stepping up to help, and United Methodist churches in South Carolina are no different. Churches are teaming up to pray for the people of Nepal, as well as taking up special collections to give to UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, which is supporting the work of partners on the ground in Nepal who can provide quick-acting assistance. UMCOR said emergency supplies—clean drinking water, hygiene kits and non-food items such as tents, tarps, blankets and cooking implements—are among the most urgent needs, which these partners are providing.
Chapin UMC, Chapin, is one of the churches that took up a special offering for the Nepal relief effort, donating thousands of dollars to help. Chapin’s pastor the Rev. Jody Flowers said the people of his church continually amaze him with their love for God and for neighbor.
“They take very seriously their vision statement that says, ‘CUMC exists to help people connect with the saving love of Jesus, grow in His love and share His love freely with each other and the world.’ And they believe with all of their hearts something that Pastor Rick Warren once said: ‘A great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission leads to a great church,’” Flowers said.
A developing nation situated between India and China, Nepal was already struggling with high levels of hunger and poverty before the earthquakes. Since the devastation, the need has skyrocketed, which has prompted many to help.
Panola UMC, Greenwood, is a small church in a former mill village that typically has just 35 in worship on Sundays. But their pastor, the Rev. Jonathan Payne, said they, too, are collecting funds for Nepal. Payne said despite its size, the congregation always tries to do what it can to support people in need around the world.
“Our philosophy is that when disaster strikes in another part of world or even in our own country, we might not have the capacity to send teams, but we can share financially,” Payne said. “They realize it’s not just about Greenwood or South Carolina. It’s around the world. We are part of the church universal, and we need to respond where we can.”
Another small church, Mount Zion UMC, Kingstree, is also stepping up. With several competing requests for funds, the Rev. Jeannette Cooper said they couldn’t afford much, but they dug into their pockets and made a contribution nonetheless.
“In a blighted town, we struggle to pay the norm, but they try to reach out,” Cooper said.
Tranquil UMC, Greenwood, will take a collection for Nepal on May 31.
“Tranquil is a caring church,” said the Rev. Ed Reynolds. “We understand that by donating to the relief efforts in Nepal, we can demonstrate the spirit of Christ in an area that has been greatly impacted by this natural disaster.”
On the coast, Joseph B. Bethea UMC, Myrtle Beach, took a “second-mile giving” offering May 17 to go to UMCOR, and the Rev. George Olive said the church has also included the victims, their families and the responders on their church-wide prayer list.
Belin UMC, Murrel’s Inlet, has been in prayer constantly for the people of Nepal, the Rev. Mike Alexander said. Immediately after the first quake, Belin held a special prayer during the morning worship in all four services. To date, $2,256 has been raised.
“We are asking people to continue to pray and give,” Alexander said.
Likewise, North Orangeburg UMC, Orangeburg, is offering through its Tuesday Prayer Ministry Group daily prayers for the people affected by the earthquake, and they also hope to send an offering to UMCOR soon.
Shady Grove UMC, Irmo, also lifted up prayers for the people when they learned about the quake. But as the death toll rose and as the aftershocks kept coming, they were soon moved to take up a special offering for the victims, said the Rev. Robert Vincent. And in Spartanburg, St. James UMC will be holding collections for earthquake relief for the next few weeks.
“When a local church gives, it is a chance to see the global church in action,” said Matt Brodie, communications director for the South Carolina Conference of the UMC. “The United Methodist response to the Nepal earthquake is a chance to see the global church in action. Every time a local United Methodist church gives through UMCOR, 100 percent of its giving goes directly to aid the relief efforts in Nepal, and together, each church is able to do far more than any single church could do alone.”
According to UMCOR, their group has supplied hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to four partner organizations: GlobalMedic, a Canada-based organization with regional partners in South Asia; Church Auxiliary for Social Action, which is based in India and working with locally based United Mission to Nepal; to UMN itself; and to the Nepal Community Empowerment Group.
For updates and developments regarding the UMC and UMCOR’s response to the earthquake, visit www.umcor.org and www.umcmission.org. To help with a donation, give to UMCOR International Disaster Response, Advance #982450. You can donate online at www.umcor.org; mail a check to Advance GCFA, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068; or donate by phone at 888-252-6174.
By Jessica Brodie