OGHS Stories

UCC Disaster Ministries deploys Matthew recovery volunteers to Florida

From Florida to the Carolinas, Hurricane Matthew survivors in the United States are asking, "What do we do now?" United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries Is playing its part in helping them move toward recovery, most recently with deployment of two long-term recovery volunteers to Florida and training in long-term recovery basics in the Carolinas.


UCC Ecuador Earthquake Response - Updated

Summary, updated in mid-November, of the April 2016 Ecuador earthquakes disaster and what United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries is doing to help relief and recovery. The page includes an Ecuador earthquake bulletin insert, materials for children, a youth activity and a bookmark.


Concert benefits Hurricane Matthew, Louisiana flood recovery

Update of a 10/14/2016 story: An Oct. 22 benefit concert of Brazilian music featuring musicians originally from the Philippines and France raised more than $2,700 for UCC Disaster Ministries to support recovery from Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean in October and from flooding in Louisiana in August. Thank you, and congratulations!


S.C. homeowner praises disaster volunteer work teams

"I was just so amazed that someone would take time to come to volunteer their services to do the work, not taking anything for it.  And the service that was rendered was so professional!" That’s how Angela S. of Gadsden, S.C., expressed her appreciation for an ecumenical volunteer work team's help with major repairs to her home, damaged in South Carolina's week-long deluge in October 2015. 


OGHS supports Hurricane Matthew response in Caribbean, U.S.

Hundreds of thousands of lives have been uprooted by Hurricane Matthew, from the Caribbean to North Carolina where flood waters have yet to crest, let alone recede. UCC Disaster Ministries, which has been present to the affected areas since long before the storm, is responding with support for survivors - first, emergency food, water, shelter and sanitation, then early recovery and livelihood restoration, then long-term recovery.


UCC, Disciples issue joint Hurricane Matthew appeal

Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti on the morning of October 4 and in Cuba later that afternoon. This powerful and slow-moving storm battered islands of the Caribbean and the United States' Atlantic coast. Over 1,000 people have died. Devastation and displacement abound. The United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are well situated to respond robustly to people impacted both in the Caribbean and within the United States. 


UCC solidarity grant to Iowa church as floods sweep state

United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries has just awarded a $3,000 solidarity grant to Immanuel United Church of Christ in Clarksville, Iowa, which is helping members and neighbors affected by severe flooding. Heavy rain that started in mid-September and the resulting flooding are causing tremendous damage to homes and crops in Iowa. More than 30 inches of rain in two weeks have caused several rivers to overflow their banks, beginning in the northeast and rolling south.


Long-term disaster recovery volunteers meet for training

Imagine volunteering in a disaster-stricken community for a month or longer at a time. That is the commitment of 17 participants from three denominations, including 10 from the United Church of Christ, who are beginning an 11-day Disaster Project Leadership Training today (Sept. 27).


Helping Nepali children, adults recover from post-quake PTSD

Disaster-related psychosocial trauma can take up to three years to heal, especially for school children. In Nepal, UCC Disaster Ministries' support is helping tens of thousands of children and adults recover psychologically from the terrifying effects of the April 2015 earthquakes, Nepal's worst in more than 80 years. Program Executive Zach Wolgemuth just returned from a 10-day visit to Nepal, and tells the story.


UCC helps Nepal villages recover quake-damaged water systems

In Nepal, last year's two powerful earthquakes damaged or destroyed many communities' water collection and distribution systems. They even moved or emptied many underground water sources as the earth shook and shifted. UCC Disaster Ministries has helped many communities repair or replace their water systems. Program Executive Zach Wolgemuth tells the story of one such community, in Nepal's Dhading District.


South Carolina church houses disaster recovery work teams

The contributions a local congregation can make to long-term recovery following a disaster that affected its area include not only "stuff," but also space and basic hospitality. Consider the example of Holy Apostles Orthodox Church in West Columbia, S.C., a community hard hit by the record rainfall and flooding that beset South Carolina last October. The church has been hosting disaster recovery work teams almost every week since January.


Prayers on the 15th Anniversary of September 11, 2001

The following prayers were prepared on the 5th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.  A few adaptations have been made as they help us observe this 15th anniversary on 9-11-2016.


UCC steps up its support for West Virginia flood recovery

United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries is stepping up its support for West Virginia communities struggling to recover from their second "one in 1,000 years" flood in June. UCC Conference Disaster Coordinators Jim Ditzler (Ohio) and Karl Jones (Pennsylvania Southeast) are working with affected communities to establish long-term recovery groups and to lay the groundwork for eventual deployment of UCC work teams.


UCC Disaster Ministries supports Louisiana recovery

Parts of Louisiana received 30 inches of rain within three days in August, leaving 20 parishes in a state of emergency and stranding nearly 30,000 people. In all, over 12,000 needed to seek refuge in shelters, nearly a dozen died, and an estimated 40,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas.  UCC Disaster Ministries ordered 1,000 CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets for distribution by the Red Cross and other partners and will support community-led long-term recovery, including deployment of work teams.  


Deadline August 31 for Disaster Recovery Support position


The disaster ministries of the Church of the Brethren, United Church of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have partnered to develop the Disaster Response Support Initiative (DRSI) and are seeking applicants for a Long-Term Recovery Group Formation Specialist.  The application deadline is August 31.


UCC gives hope to Ecuador community after flood, quake

Residents of Sua, Ecuador, had already suffered damage to their homes and the loss of household furnishings and livestock to 4-foot-deep flooding in January when the April 2016 magnitude 7.8 earthquake added another layer of destruction. The back-to-back disasters greatly diminished coastal Sua's fishing and tourism industries, the community's economic base. With support from UCC Disaster Ministries, 33 Sua families will soon have access to flexible financing and training to help them resume their livelihoods.


Disaster volunteers urgently needed for South Carolina

Attention potential volunteers! South Carolina homeowners still struggling to recover from last fall's devastating storms and floods need your help. Week-long work teams are being recruited now, especially and urgently for September and October.  UCC Disaster Ministries and its partners in the ecumenical Disaster Recovery Support Initiative (DRSI) had planned to wrap up their work in South Carolina in August, but are extending it at least through October given flood survivors' yet unmet needs.


Volunteers help war veteran salvage homeownership dream

For 48-year-old Iraq veteran Robert Z. of West Columbia, S.C., buying a house was an important step in his years-long recovery from war-related post-traumatic stress disorder.  But the storms of October 2015 caused damage that upset Robert's dreams - until UCC Disaster Ministries and its partners in the ecumenical Disaster Recovery Support Initiative stepped forward to help.  


UCC offers aid to W. Va. flood survivors

United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries is looking for assistance to help the people in West Virginia recover from historic floods. Thousands are facing a prolonged cleanup effort following deadly and devastating storms that swamped much of the state last week, and the UCC will be there to help long-term.


Ecumenical volunteers help waterlogged S.C. homeowner recover

When it rained hard and steady for more than a week in South Carolina last October, homeowner William H.'s love for the sound of rain on the roof was sorely tested. "The rain was so heavy that water leaked in through all the edges of my home, including the roof and door and window frames," he said.  He struggled to find help repairing the damage until the ecumenical Disaster Recovery Support Initiative stepped up.


How support for Nepal earthquake recovery touches lives

A widowed shopkeeper in need of a safe home; a chicken farmer in need of "seed money " and a business plan; three villages whose wells suddenly went dry – these are among the beneficiaries of UCC Disaster Ministries’ support for relief and recovery in Nepal following last year’s devastating earthquake, which now totals $240,000.


New Ecuador quake resources for churches

The situation is urgent and the need is great in Ecuador, which suffered a catastrophic earthquake in April that killed 663 people and injured 6,274. Nearly 30,000 people are still in temporary shelters. One million people and 90 percent of homes have been affected. The United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are seeking to raise $500,000 for Ecuador earthquake recovery and have just co-published resources for churches to use to educate their members and rally their support. 


UCC Ecuador Earthquake Response Page

A summary, updated in early June, of the April 2016 Ecuador earthquakes disaster and what United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries is doing to help relief and recovery. JUST ADDED TO THE PAGE: an Ecuador earthquake bulletin insert, materials for children, a youth activity and a bookmark.


Disaster Ministries addresses UCC churches in Micronesia

The United Church of Christ's Micronesia churches took steps toward increased disaster preparedness and resiliency this month when they invited UCC Disaster Ministries Executive Zach Wolgemuth to address their biennial General Assembly.  It was an important step in capacity building in this Western Pacific region prone to cyclones, earthquakes and drought and rapidly rising sea levels due to climate change.


Deadline Now May 31 for Disaster Recovery Support Initiative Applicants

The disaster ministries of the Church of the Brethren, United Church of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have partnered to develop the Disaster Response Support Initiative (DRSI) and are seeking applicants for the following positions: a Case Management Specialist and a Long-Term Recovery Group Formation Specialist.  The application deadline has been extended to May 31.


UCC aids flood recovery in Texas

As the cleanup continues in Texas following high winds and flash floods in late April, UCC members are teaming up with the Houston Association of the South Central Conference and UCC Disaster Ministries to help the people affected by the storms find normal again.


New UCC homes help shelter Filipino families

With each new house that goes up, another family steps closer toward recovery from the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. As the rebuilding effort in the Philippines continues — more than two years after the most destructive storm to make landfall ripped through the South Pacific — the United Church of Christ continues to help shelter the survivors who lost everything. As of March, UCC Disaster Ministries has provided a total of $1.13 million to support the initial recovery effort and future needs of the survivors.


UCC affirms commitment to Nepal quake recovery

As the people of Nepal mark the first anniversary today of the most devastating earthquake to hit their small country in more than 80 years, the United Church of Christ is reaffirming its long-term commitment to help survivors put their lives back together.  


UCC Nepal earthquake response page

April 2016 update of main UCC Nepal Earthquake Response page, including "By the Numbers," "Latest Resources," links to past stories and updates, and how to help.


Joint Appeal for Ecuador Earthquake Relief

The United Church of Christ One Great Hour of Sharing and The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Week of Compassion issue this joint special appeal for $500,000 for Ecuador earthquake relief and recovery.  Our response will include immediate needs and to be strategically active in long-term accompaniment as people recover their lives and livelihoods. Because the scope of the damage is so immense, we are leveraging our existing partnership to respond jointly.


Refugee Work in Thailand

The Border Consortium (TBC) works in nine main refugee camps located close to the Burma/Myanmar border.  Support to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and others in rural areas affected by conflict spans a wide geographical area from Shan State to the Tanintharyi region. Assistance includes cash transfers for impoverished civilians, small grants to communities for recovery and rehabilitation initiatives, and food assistance to IDPs in camps next to the Thailand border.

In June 2014, the total population of the camps (Verified Caseload) was 118,917 persons. At the time of print of the June 2015 Programme report, the refugee population in TBC camps was forecast to decrease to just over 85,000 inhabitants. From 2004 through 2015 approximately 100,000 refugees in Thailand were assisted in departing to 13 other countries.

Half of the funding for the 2015 budget for TBC was given by the US government, according to the January-June 2015 Programme Report.


UCC Supports W. Va. Bridge Project

UCC Disaster Ministries is contributing $5,000 to an innovative, increasingly ecumenical "Bridge Project" in southwestern West Virginia that is restoring access and safety to residents whose small "private access" bridges were washed out by severe flooding last spring. The floods damaged or destroyed 1,000 homes, also washing out 300 "private access" bridges, forcing people to take inconvenient detours at best, or to risk dangerous crossings at worse.


Japan Partners Thank UCC for Support After Triple Disaster

It's been five years since Japan's triple disaster - earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor meltdown - killed about 16,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands of others.  The United Church of Christ has provided more than $1 million in recovery assistance. Two ministry partners from Japan just visited the United Church of Christ to share updates on their post-disaster work, which is ongoing.


UCC Remembers Japan's 2011 Disasters


Colleagues from Japan visited the national setting of the United Church of Christ in Cleveland to share information on the continuing effects of the 2011 disaster in Japan which included an Earthquake, a Tsunami and a Nuclear Power Plant Radiation Explosion. Staff and visitors gathered for a lunch, and heard of the lingering effects the nuclear contamination is having.

The UCC was honored with a certificate of appreciation for being a church who has walked with them through the devastation.

Thank you so much for your support of this disaster. Continued prayers are requested.


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Xiaoling_being_tested_for_Radiation.jpg

Blog page written during an OGHS delegation to Japan and the Philippines, Summer 2015

JAPAN - It is painful and extremely moving to bear witness to those who are living with the effects of nuclear contamination. Most of us were moved to tears as we listened to our hosts share their personal stories as well as the changes to their communities and families they have experienced since March 11, 2011.  That date is known here in Japan as 311.

My mind began to think of the United States and its experience with 911, a day that changed our country forever. Likewise in Japan, 311 changed Japan forever, and it has also changed our planet forever. Nuclear radiation contamination is invisible. Japan remains a beautiful lush green country. We have heard repeatedly that one of the most difficult concepts for people to accept is that everything has changed though nothing appears to have changed. This past week's lectionary readings ask us to look beyond appearances, to not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, and to mature as Christians. " Speaking the truth in love, we must grow into Christian unity..."

Bearing witness to uncomfortable truths and then sharing these stories by speaking and blogging  the truth in love, is promoting the up-building of the body of Christ.

Hope and despair often live side by side for the people of this area. It is through relationship we create hope, even when disparate feelings are also present. These raw and honest stories share themes of fear of government under reporting, broken trust within the local community, contaminated food fears, short and long-term health issues, and also great love for family and place. 

The question was posed and answered by one speaker: "How do you go on when everything could be poisonous yet nothing seems to have changed its appearance? 'Life.' For future life, and for our lives given by God, these must be lived as long and honestly as our natural lives were intended."

It is challenging to find words which adequately express the experience our group is sharing. Looking beyond appearances, we all are, no doubt changed forever by bearing witness.

For more in depth information about Japan, follow the blog of Global Ministries Missionary Jeffrey Mensendiek, at: http://jeffreyfromjapan.blogspot.jp/.

 

Written by Rev. Merida Wilson and Samuel Wong-Wilson (11)
St. John's UCC, San Francisco, California

The travel blog is still available for review at:  http://www.ucc.org/japan_and_philippine_trip_blog


UCC Helps Winston-Battered Fiji Rebuild

Heavy rain Monday and Tuesday and now Tropical Cyclone Zena are adding insult to the injury Fiji suffered from Tropical Cyclone Winston in February. Thousands of Winston survivors are once again in emergency shelters across the country.  UCC Disaster Ministries is monitoring the impact of the latest storms even as it undertakes important repairs in Navakawu. 


UCC Fills Critical Unmet Need in Fiji

The story of UCC Disaster Ministries' food aid to a small Fijian island in the wake of Cyclone Winston illustrates the denomination's commitment to stepping up to fill critical gaps. The aid was delivered earlier this week to Kioa Island, whose root crops were destroyed by the severe (Category 5) tropical cyclone - the strongest ever to make landfall in Fiji.


UCC Cyclone Winston Response Page (Fiji)

This is UCC Disaster Ministries' "index page" with information about Tropical Cyclone Winston's impact on Fiji and how the United Church of Christ is helping with disaster relief and recovery.  Page just updated with news from UCC Disaster Ministries Executive Zach Wolgemuth's visit to Fiji March 12-22.


Koy Hey: 17 Years a Refugee

Koh Hey has been living in a refugee camp along the borders of Thailand and Burma since 1998. He works hard and says he is proud of what he is doing because the bamboo he grows is good for the earth.


Crossing Borders for Survival

Migrants find themselves needing to criss-cross borders to find dignified responses to Central America's great level of violence.


Richshanda's S.C. Flood Recovery Story

When last October's heavy rains flooded the yard around her Columbia, S.C., mobile home, Richshanda G. thought she and her five-year-old daughter Mylon would be fine once the water receded. But when her home's floors began to buckle, and the wheels of her wheelchair started sinking in, Richshanda knew the water had caused serious damage to her home.  That's when she reached out to the ecumenical Disaster Recovery Support Initiative.


Hopes and Dreams: Eve Gym for Women

“I tried many times to follow a weight-loss program, but none of them were long term”, said Tamam, a 42 year-old female participant in a health education workshop on obesity offered in 2014.

“Most weight-loss programs focus on a rigid regimen for a short period of time utilizing a list of allowed and forbidden foods. The 2014 workshop was different and I lost 15 pounds.”

 


Small Transformations

My heavy teaching loKaren_and_youthsm.jpgad often drains me; stories about lack of transparency and abuse of power in the church can leave me sad and frustrated. But when I have an opportunity to experience the energy of students who are learning valuable lessons of faith and practical ministry from humble pastors, wise congregants, and from each other . . . well, my faith is lifted up and my heart filled.

Karen Campbell Nelson pictured with students who did their field education in Belu Presbytery.


Dancing with Delight

Sharing_brings_joy.jpgAfter hearing about the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan; the lack of government assistance; the struggle to create a sense of hope; and little ability to provide tangible needs, people who lost everything welcomed us extravagantly.Beyond anything I could have imagined, dancers wearing bright yellow and red costumes, and smiles as big and as bright, graced us with their presence. 
Today was a great day! We experienced a message of Truth; a message of Love; a message of Justice; a message of Compassion; a message of Hope; which is the Message of God! Amen!"Keep the Faith, Never Give Up the Fight, Righteousness Shall Prevail!"

Japan and Philippines Trip Blog

The United Church of Christ's delegation to Japan and the Philippines has reached its completion. On our journey to Asia and the Pacific, which began Aug. 4, we have learned about disaster response and deep poverty. We have increased our understanding of how devastation impacts the lives of everyday people, just like you, and just like me.  First-hand accounts go a long way into helping us see past our own levels of comfort. And it was in the uncomfortable times that we allowed ourselves to be open to a new truth. We have learned through first-hand accounts of the great impact the United Church of Christ, One Great Hour of Sharing and Global Ministries have made and continue to make in impoverished communities striving for life. It proved to us why disaster relief and rehabilitation are essential following disasters long after most people have forgotten the images that once were on news broadcasts, or that made front page news. Through this trip, we have become witnesses to great need and suffering, hope and blessings.

Participants have blogged along the course of the journey.  The journey in our own words ....


Meet Missionaries You Support Through OGHS

Who are the missionaries you support through OGHS, and what are they up to these days?  Here are snapshots of – and thought-provoking quotes from - Timothy and Diane Fonderlin, Teresa and Anil Henry, Donald and Maryjane Westra, and Karen and John Campbell-Nelson, with links to their web pages and blog posts. 


Solidarity Visit to Middle East by UCC and Disciples Leaders


A Thank You Letter...

Last summer thousands of unaccompanied children fled from violence and hunger in Central America to seek refuge in the United States. Through UCC ministries and with  your contributions to One Great Hour of Sharing and Neighbors in Need, you have created family. Read this update from Bethany Children's Home in PA. 


Death Penalties


Karen Campbell-Nelson serves with the Evangelical Church of West Timor as a Professor. Her appointment is supported by your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing, Disciple's Mission Fund, Our Church's Wider Mission and special gifts to support her work.

In the middle of January on the island of Sumba (to the west of Timor), a young woman, 20 years old, was said to have fallen—or jumped—off the bus she was on and died. The Chief of Police in West Sumba, who learned from the woman’s parents that their daughter had sent them a cellphone message (SMS) saying she was uncomfortable as the only woman on the bus, was suspicious of bus driver’s claims and initiated an intense investigation.


Feb. 15 - Transfiguration

Feb 15th is Transfiguration Sunday.  Mark 9: 2-9, The whole context of the Transfiguration story is that Jesus is teaching his disciples what it means to follow him.  As part of that experience, Jesus takes those disciples, Peter and James and John, to a high mountain apart, and chooses to give them a glimpse of his fullness.  The writer of Mark describes it poetically as “his clothes became dazzling white such as no one on earth could bleach them.”  Jesus appears, talking with Elijah and Moses.  To know the fullness of Jesus is to experience his role as one of the prophets who spoke into being what no one could imagine and as integral to life in all generations.  


Vocational Education in Honduras

Vocational Education is a key that opens doors for people to learn what they need now to earn a better living in the future. It is making a great impact in Honduras.