upper room daily devotions

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Haiti Health Kit Ecumenical Response

Several weeks ago, Woodland Park UMC offered to be a collection site for health kits made by churches in the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church. At that time a need had been expressed by the Salt Lake City Depot of the United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR) that it had shipped out 23,000 kits and needed replacements. With ongoing efforts around the world, health kits and other kits are always needed, but with UMCOR's response in Haiti and the Philippines, this call was an urgent one. I was hoping for a good response from the United Methodist congregations in the area. What surprised me was the ecumenical outpouring of support.

Most United Methodist congregations appear to be sending their kits to the depot as soon as they make them. However, some churches are bringing kits to WPUMC. But, churches outside of the UMC connection -- churches and individuals without an ongoing relationship with UMCOR -- have been bringing incredible numbers of kits to WPUMC. The response has been tremendous, and I have so very grateful to be a part of this local response.

When we notified the annual conference that we were willing to receive kits made by other churches, we also said that we would go pick them up from places if that would be helpful. The Church Council of Greater Seattle saw the announcement and publicized it in their email updates. This broadening of the recipient base was a wonderfully unexpected gift; it meant that dozens of churches outside of the UM connection were learning about UMCOR and its response to Haiti. Additionally, our church puts out a weekly email update to many people who no longer attend the church but like to be kept abreast of happenings in our congregation; these folks saw our announcement and they responded. I received a call from a woman in West Seattle. "I have four kits. Can you come get them?" A church from Mercer Island had a few dozen. A UW campus group from the LDS church had a trunk load. Another LDS ward had a few. Mt Zion Baptist Church had a trunk load. And the calls kept coming. We've had kits delivered or picked up from:
Roman Catholics
United Methodists

As a matter of fact, we've an interfaith response. People in the area who identify as Buddhists, Jews, and Muslims have all responded to the call as well.

In addition to area congregations sending kits, so have individuals. Our church printed flyers for all of the groups who use our building. 12 Step Programs, the Suzuki Music School, various musical groups, and other renters all received flyers with instructions on how to make kits. So far more than a dozen kits have been turned in through this outreach effort. Additionally, we have printed letters of invitation for our neighborhood. These letters are being hand delivered to neighborhood businesses and homes right around the church.

Our concentrated focus on this effort is scheduled to last until Easter Sunday. As time goes on I expect the response to taper off, but I hope that kits will continue to come until Easter. It's tempting for people who belong to a small church to think that their outreach, their efforts, and their abilities to have a deep and lasting affect on the world are limited. After all, a health kit won't make a great difference in a devastated nation's recovery. Yet, the response to our call for health kits has also shown that a few kits here and a few kits there add up to a truck load of kits that will make a difference for a family, a village, a community. This is a tangible way for people in Seattle to reach across the miles and say in real ways that they care. It is proof that when given clear needs and clear instructions on how to meet those needs people will respond with grace and love and kindness.

I am overwhelmed at the ecumenical response that we've received with this effort. I thank all of the pastors and lay folks who have publicized the kits, those who have sat down and assembled kits, and those who have shared information with neighbors and friends. I am proud of the kids of our church who spend an hour every week diligently going through every kit turned in to check them for accuracy. We want every kit sent to UMCOR to be complete and ready to be shipped out to whatever place and people need them.

Several hundred kits litter our chancel area. I hope that the chancel becomes nothing more than a communion table surrounded by kits from the floor to the ceiling. I want to see boxes stacked all around. These boxes of kits stand as proof that God's healing breaks into the world one little $12 kit at a time. This is proof that small churches, single families, and individuals make a tremendous difference in the world when we respond together. When I think of Lent and the brokenness that is laid bare during this season, I am moved at this healing response.

We will be receiving kits through Easter Sunday. If you are part of a congregation and would like more information on how to get your kits to us, please call Woodland Park UMC at 206-784-6969. Information on assembling health kits can be found on UMCOR's website. We also accept layette and birthing kits. Any contribution to WPUMC for help in transportation and shipping is tax deductible.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Pacific Northwest, Western Jurisdiction, and Local Church Haiti Relief Update

Haiti relief efforts continue in the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church. Our efforts have grown out of a local desire to respond, and they are in conversation with the Western Jurisdiction's call to response entitled "Operation Resurrection." While I was excited to see that the bishops and other leaders of the Western Jurisdiction devised a hoped-for response for us, I believed they set their sites too low. People are compassionate. And, I am glad to say that we in the PNW have already surpassed the overall financial goal for the jurisdiction. The jurisdiction's goal was $100,000 to be met by Easter. As of last week, the PNW had surpassed $100,000 right here in Washington State and Idaho! God is good.

Need continues to be great, however. And, Operation Resurrection concerns much more than raising money. It is a four point plan designed to engage our congregations, connect them with the people and place of Haiti, and utilize our connectional system to keep the United Methodist Committee on Relief agile enough to respond to other emerging and ongoing needs across the globe.

Goal #1-Plan to learn about Haiti’s history, culture, and ecnonomy.
Goal #2-Gifts totaling $100,000 for recovery and relief through UMCOR
How can I help?
- Remember the people of Haiti in worship and receive a special offering
- Encourage a discipline of Lenten giving
- Make a personal contribution
- Host a Haiti relief fundraiser with your neighbors
For more information or to give on-line go to
www.umcor.org. Gifts through your local church should be marked for “UMCOR Advance #418325.”
Goal #3-25 Volunteers in Mission (VIM) trips to Haiti over the next 5 years
How can I help?
- Schedule and organize a team from your local church, district or conference
- Join a group that someone else is planning
- Sponsor a young person to join a VIM team
Contact Heather Wilson, Western Jurisdiction UMVIM Coordinator at
Goal #4-Replace 23,000 Health Kits that have already been shipped from UMCOR West Depot
How can I help?
- Ask members of your Sunday School Class, Youth Group, or UMW to assemble
health kits and drop off at Woodland Park UMC (302 N 78th St, Seattle, WA 98103) or send directly to UMCOR West (1479S 700 W, Salt Lake City, UT, 84104). You can also send $12 per kit to UMCOR West marked #901440 for Health Kits
- Schedule a VIM team to travel to Salt Lake City to help assemble kits
1005 of gifts through UMCOR go directly to relief. To track progress and for more resources go to

We at Woodland Park UMC have set goals for ourselves. We plan to assemble 500 health kits between now and Easter. We are reaching out to other faith communities inviting them to also make health kits. Mennonites, several LDS wards, Quakers (Friends), Roman Catholics, and ELCA Lutherans have responded to this call. Each day I hear from another community interested in making health kits. We have received over 100 kits from other faith communities.
We are also reaching out to our local neighborhood and to organizations who utilize our facility inviting them to join us. And, it is our hope to organize a kids' work party for United Methodist congregations in the north end of Seattle. Little churches can make big differences; that is our belief.

And, even as make 500 kits and receive kits from others, we challenge the Pacific Northwest Conference to complete 5,000 health kits in an effort to replenish the 23,000 kits sent to Haiti and to equip UMCOR to send kits to all places in need.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Seattle's First UMC Consecrates New Facility

I was privileged to be at the consecration service for Seattle First United Methodist Church's new church on Denny Way. It has been a long haul for the congregation. Their former church facility was a beautiful historic building on 5th and Columbia, but due to age, damage from earthquakes, and changing needs, it no longer fit the missional requirements of the congregation. After years of effort, a new building program began in another location, allowing the old sanctuary to be partially preserved and used for other purposes. Yesterday the congregation worshiped in their new sanctuary and the bishop consecrated the building. Founded in 1853, First UMC was the first congregation in Seattle. I hope it will be in the heart of our city for many years to come providing valuable ministry for the young and old, the rich and poor, the housed and the homeless, and all who need spiritual healing. Congratulations, First Church! Your journey is just beginning.

At the ceremony yesterday, King Co. Executive Dow Constantine was on hand, as was Dept. Mayor Phil Fujii, two city council members Sally Bagshaw and Tim Burgess, and hundreds of worshipers and clergy from many denominations. We wanted to celebrate the rich history of this congregation, note its struggle to be reborn on Denny Way, and to voice our hope for its missional future.

The Seattle Times carried an article covering the ceremony, the congregation, and its history.

The photo used on this page was taken by Erika Schultz for The Seattle Times: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2010947385_firstmethodist01m.html

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