My heart is overflowing with gratitude for your generosity! It has been an incredible privilege to come on board during a year of such amazing response by UCC members to the natural disasters that plagued the globe in 2005.
In the past year, you donated much, much more in response to special appeals than in any previous year. After September 11, 2001, our members gave a record-breaking $2.1 million over a two-year period. But, in 2005 alone, combined giving in response to the devastating Asian/East African tsunami, the terrible hurricanes in the southeastern U.S., drought and starvation in the Sudan, and the horrific earthquake in Pakistan/Kashmir, totaled nearly $9 million!
This outpouring of gifts means that we are working with partners around the world in an amazing number of projects - helping people from fishing villages in India to rebuild houses, churches and schools and to recover their livelihoods, building 150 new houses in the Aceh province of Indonesia, and rebuilding churches on the island of Nias. Our work with partners in southern Asia will continue for many years.
Whether in Asia or in this country, our partnerships run deep. Our knowledge of those with whom we work is personal and historical, enhancing our ability to get resources to places most in need. Trust is a great gift at a time like this, and you can feel confident that your donations are being put to excellent use.
Because of congregations' on-going support of Our Church's Wider Mission basic support - which funds the everyday infrastructure of our global mission work - 100 percent of money given to special appeals directly helps those in need.
But "basic support" is absolutely crucial. Without it, we could not nurture our partnerships around the world, nor would we have missionaries in 35 countries. Without it, we would not even have the ability to open your envelope, record the gift, or deposit it in the bank! (Or maintain the website where more and more of you are now giving electronically.) So, please encourage your congregation to support OCWM even more generously in 2006.
UCC members responded graciously to special appeals in 2005, but there were a number of other, smaller disasters which did not receive mass media attention. But because of your donations to the One Great Hour of Sharing special offering each March, we were able to respond to those lesser-known calamities. OGHS receipts in 2005 were less than in recent years, but we hope and pray the total will be much greater in 2006 so that we will have the ability to respond immediately and continuously the next time a village is washed away by flood or an environmental nightmare destroys a community - even if you don't read about it in the paper!
Thank you for being a caring church that responds generously to the call of our Stillspeaking God.
The Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte is executive minister of Wider Church Ministries and a member of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers.