Conference Celebrates UMCOR Sunday

Photo: Courtesy West Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church

Photo: Courtesy West Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church

UMCOR Sunday is March 26

In the Rio Texas Conference, we have supported UMCOR for many years through One Great Hour of Sharing.  This year the name has been changed to UMCOR Sunday.   

The Methodist Ministry we now call UMCOR was born at the General Conference in 1940.  Ministry to people hurting because of war and conflict continues to be an important part of the UMCOR ministry but it has expanded relief to those impacted by natural disaster and now includes disasters in the United States as well as those around the world. Another important change over the years has been extension of the ministry to include recovery and development, rather than simply relief from the immediate suffering from war and disaster. 

Today, UMCOR operates several interrelated programs. UMCOR's Global Health program's top priorities are water and maternal and child health.  In addition to these top priorities, they address malaria, HIV/AIDS, and malnutrition. UMCOR works with communities rather than simply “dumping” programs on them without their involvement.    

UMCOR helps communities fix existing water infrastructure as well as help to dig new wells.  Education is also important so the community can develop long-term strategies to meet their water needs. Unfortunately, water is not the only problem. In developing countries, diarrhea kills 2.2 million people each year so sanitation education and infrastructure are also important.  UMCOR builds latrines and hand-washing stations so that people can live healthier lives.

During this time of war and strife, UMCOR is deeply involved in ministry to refugees.  In Syria and in Africa, they are ministering to displaced people just as they did when they started their work in 1940.  UMCOR works closely with Church World Service who has an extensive network of resettlement houses across the United States. They also work with local United Methodist Churches to help them become more welcoming congregations. 

Of special interest today, UMCOR founded JFON in 1999 and, although it is now a separate organization, UMCOR continues to support their programs. 

In the past three years, UMCOR has given $220,000 of grants for refugee programs in the Rio Texas Conference. They have made a $100,000 gift to the Austin Chapter of JFON and have awarded the Rio Texas Conference $120,000 to assist with immigration ministries related to the influx of unaccompanied minors and women and children from Central America. 

UMCOR provides aid to communities all around the world following natural disasters.  Whether it is a tsunami in Japan, an earth quake in China, Ebola in Africa, or Tornadoes in San Antonio, UMCOR can be counted on. In the short run, disaster response relieves human suffering while in the long run they work with community partners to build capacity and to reduce disaster risk.

Most people in the Rio Texas Conference may not know the extent to which UMCOR supports our disaster response effort.  During the past eight years, UMCOR has made 21 grants through the Southwest Texas and Rio Grande Conferences totaling $612,500. This is in addition to the $220,000 to immigration programs mentioned earlier.      

Grants are important but they are not the whole story. UMCOR provides many additional services at no cost to the Conference.

  • UMCOR has provided expert consultants to work with Disaster Response leadership as well as pastors and congregations in areas devastated by disasters. 
  • They send subject matter experts to teach courses needed to carry out our disaster relief ministry. 
    • During the past eight years UMCOR has offered Spiritual and Emotional Care workshops on four occasions
    • They have offered Case Management Training ten times.
  • They train and certify Early Response Trainers within the Conference so that more than 500 Early Response team members have been trained and credentialed under UMCOR guidelines.
  • UMCOR supplies flood buckets and health kits when the supply in the Conference is insufficient to meet the demand during a disaster.
  • UMCOR Academy at Sager Brown in Louisiana is held each year and offers advanced training to Disaster Response leadership in the Conference.
  • UMCOR provides assistance to the South Central Jurisdiction to offer an annual Disaster Response academy.  Dozens of United Methodists from the Rio Texas Conference have attended these workshops.
  •  UMCOR has developed tools to assist local churches as they develop their own disaster response plans and has trained coaches in the Conference to assist churches as they develop their plans.

During the past year, UMCOR has impacted Disaster Response in the Rio Texas Conference in the following ways:

  • Two case managers and a construction manager have been working in Caldwell and Guadalupe Counties on a grant from UMCOR.  The case managers are still working with survivors of the devastating Blanco/San Marcos River floods of 2015 while the construction manager is working with volunteers to repair homes damaged by the flood and tornadoes that hit later in that year.  So far, $150,000 in UMCOR grants have supported this effort which is scheduled to be completed in August 2017.
  • A case manager has been working with survivors of the 2015 floods in the Coastal Bend area for the past year.  UMCOR has underwritten this effort with a $100,000 grant which also provides funds for materials used to repair homes.
  • UMCOR has provided Case Management training for case managers hired by the Rio Texas Conference as well as other case managers working with survivors of disasters within the conference.  In addition to the two areas mentioned above, training was provided to case managers working in the Rio Grande Valley and in Travis County.
  • An UMCOR consultant has worked with our case managers to assist them in offering high quality service to clients.
  • A $10,000 emergency grant provided support for the relief work done by the conference following floods in Aransas Pass and Ingleside.
  • Disaster response leaders in the Conference attended training at Mt. Sequoyah that was underwritten by UMCOR.
  • UMCOR designed and supports the Early Response Team program which is active in the Rio Texas Conference.  Although no direct financial support is provided, UMCOR serves in a coordination and advisory capacity. Eleven trainings were held this year with 105 people being trained.  During the past year, ERT teams responded to three disasters in the Rio Texas Conference and were also deployed to floods in Louisiana.     
  • The Martinez Disaster Response Center in Kerrville is a member of the UMCOR Relief Supply Network. UMCOR kits stored in the warehouse are part of the national inventory of kits and are available to be distributed as needed. 
  • UMCOR’s Connecting Neighbors program provides guidance and materials to support churches who develop disaster plans for their local congregations. 

All UMCOR does for and through the Rio Texas Conference and all they do throughout the world is done because United Methodists give special gifts to make it possible.  UMCOR receives no apportionment funds.  They depend upon UMCOR Sunday and gifts designated for specific disasters to fund their work.