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.

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