By Jessica Connor
South Carolina's United Methodist churches are pitching in to help in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines Nov. 8.
With 195-mile-per-hour winds, the category 5 storm is thought to be the strongest storm ever to make landfall, claiming thousands of lives and displacing more than 600,000 people.
Now, the UMC is standing in solidarity with its Filipino brothers and sisters. The United Methodist Committee on Relief approved a $97,000 emergency grant to provide emergency food, water, and water purification tablets to 7,500 individuals (or 1,500 families) in Tacloban City, Leyte Province, an area worst hit by the typhoon. Countless other United Methodist individuals, churches and organizations are donating money and praying for those struggling to recover and survive.
In South Carolina, Bishop Jonathan Holston is encouraging UMCs to make a difference in the aftermath of the storm through their prayers and financial support.
Across the Philippines, the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan is extensive, Holston said. As United Methodists, we can be the hands and feet of God to those who have lost so much. Through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), we can support the relief and recovery efforts in significant ways. Please give to the International Disaster Response, Advance # 982450.
Many UMCs from the Upstate to the Lowcountry are busy collecting funds to send to UMCOR.
Moncks Corner UMC, in the Charleston District, received $550 in a special offering for Philippines relief, while Wightman UMC in Prosperity, St. Luke UMC in Spartanburg and Mount Hebron UMC in West Columbia are collecting funds through Sunday morning offerings and will send that through UMCOR.
The Rev. Timothy Rogers, Mount Hebron pastor, said the church offers people an opportunity to do what they already want to do ”which is to help the people who have suffered so much.
It is natural that as we see the suffering of others we want to help, Rogers said. Our connection offers an opportunity to do that.
The Fairfield Circuit, Winnsboro, has collected two special offerings for UMCOR s efforts in the Philippines, and its church members continue to keep the Filipinos in their prayers as they move forward in recovery and rebuilding efforts.
As a connectional church, we fully support all relief efforts to our Christian brothers in sisters, worldwide, said their pastor, the Rev. Terry A. Roof. We are all one in Christ Jesus.
Bethany UMC, Summerville, one of the largest UMCs in S.C., gave the congregation an opportunity to contribute to disaster relief Nov. 24, and they have decided to give half its Advent offering to Philippines relief.
The people of the Philippines have been included in our corporate and personal prayers since the devastating typhoon inflicted so much damage to the country and untold loss of life, said Bethany senior pastor the Rev. Bob Howell. Our people understand the devastation of hurricanes and have been the recipients of Christian response in their time of need.
Bethany member Dave Braddon said giving to people in need is part of who Bethany is.
A portion of Bethany s purpose statement reads ˜Called to Care ... around the corner and around the world, Braddon said We try to conduct ourselves accordingly. Our prayers were raised as soon as we learned of the magnitude and path of this horrific storm.
But even tiny churches are playing a significant role. Whaley Street UMC, Columbia, which averages 30 to 35 elderly people each Sunday, chose to use its MINAS savings for typhoon relief.
Our treasurer is sending $1,000 to UMCOR this week and other initiatives will be taken on by the generous members of Whaley Street UMC, said the Rev. Rex Wilson, who noted he is humbled by and proud of his Whaley Street UMC family.
Likewise, Spartanburg District Superintendent the Rev. Paul Harmon said J. D. Bright, member of Fosters Chapel UMC, Jonesville, just brought him a check for $6,300 for UMCOR. Fosters Chapel (average worship attendance 80) is a small rural congregation in Union County, and Harmon said Bright felt the Holy Spirit nudge him to move that Fosters Chapel contribute 10 percent of funds on hand; members agreed.
Elsewhere in S.C., Bethel UMC, Rock Hill, and Philadelphia UMC, York, took up offerings Nov. 17, and they both are lifting Filipino brothers and sisters in prayer. Their pastor, the Rev. Emily Sutton, said she was excited to see her congregations commitment to helping.
The members at Bethel and Philadelphia understand that in supporting UMCOR, our donations will help in a way that is culturally appropriate and will serve people in some of the hardest-hit areas, Sutton said. Also through supporting UMCOR, we realize that UMCOR already had staff on the ground prepared and ready to respond the day the disaster happened, and that in five years, when people are still rebuilding their lives, UMCOR will still be there supporting and loving all of God s children. As United Methodists we are glad to show God s love by giving to UMCOR and knowing that Christ love is being shared here in York county and around the world through the ministry and work of God s people.
The Rev. Betty Kay Hudson, pastor of Lynnwood UMC, Lancaster, said her church is called to help pray and financially support Philippines relief as a way to give back after the generous help it received from the Connection.
Lynnwood has been the recipient of the United Methodist Connection at its best for our Bridge Ministry, and we would like to pay that blessing forward to help those brothers and sister in Christ in the Philippines, Hudson explained.
Wesley UMC in downtown Charleston lifted the people of the Philippines in prayer during Sunday services, and Zion UMC, Blythewood, has storm survivors on their ongoing Prayer List. In addition to an offering, Zion is also taking on the typhoon relief as its Christmas mission this year. Zion pastor the Rev. Debbie Miller points to Matthew 23 as the impetus behind their desire to help: ˜You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ˜You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
The Rev. Frederick Yebuah, Orangeburg District superintendent, said that before Jesus ascended into heaven, He admonished His followers to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea, Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the world. Followers of Christ cannot pick and choose where they express their love in the world, Yebuah said.
There are times when it is urgent to share His love in places where there is the greatest need for His light and love. Today, the Philippines is that place where His light and love are needed the most, Yebuah said. We must consider ourselves the ones Christ is counting on to extend His love to them. The
invitation to help our brothers and sisters in the Philippines is also an opportunity for us to stretch our faith, dig deeper in order to shine brighter. It is our response to the debt of gratitude that we owe our Lord.
Support UMCOR s relief and recovery work in the Philippines by giving to International Disaster Response, Advance #982450. All of your gift, 100 percent, will be used to help those in need. Visit www.umcor.org. You can also text the word UMCOR to 80888 to give an immediate $10 donation.