The United Church of Christ has issued an emergency appeal to assist several countries in Africa devastated by two deadly tropical cyclones which ripped through the Southern Hemisphere just weeks apart. UCC Disaster Ministries hopes to raise $200,000 to increase the International Emergency Relief Fund to respond to disasters around the world, including in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, left reeling by Cyclone Idai on March 15 and Cyclone Kenneth on April 24.
UCC Penn Southeast Conference Disaster Coordinator Karl Jones is National VOAD's Volunteer of the Year. He was presented with that honor last night (May 8) during the association's annual meeting, being held May 6-9 in Nashville, Tenn. National VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) cited Jones' long-time partnership with people and communities in recovery following disasters, both within and beyond the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Since March 14, Tropical Cyclones Idai and Kenneth and resulting flooding have claimed more than 600 lives in Mozambique and neighboring countries. Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced to temporary camps. The UCC has begun its early response and planning for recovery with partners. Thus far, $65,000 has been provided to address the needs, and a special appeal has been launched.
Renovation of a second volunteer house means that now work teams of up to 20 persons at a time can come to Port Arthur, Texas, to help restore homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey. UCC Disaster Ministries aims to "book" at least 20 work teams in 2019.
Hundreds in coastal towns of Sumatra and Java were killed by a tsunami the weekend before Christmas 2018. It was just September 2018 when a powerful earthquake and tsunami killed several thousand people in Central Sulawesi. UCC Disaster Ministries contributed an initial $23,000 for emergency needs following the September disaster and has authorized $15,000 more to train an entire village in disaster resiliency.
Bill (William) and Ellen Matten of Boalsburg, Pa., long-time Disaster Coordinators for the UCC's Penn Central Conference, enthusiastically live their faith. Not only do they generously share their time and talents, they share what they learn and experience after participating in group mission trips with their local church and with the UCC Humanitarian and Development Ministries.
Millie Oliphant of Vernon, Conn., recently translated her passion for line dancing into a fundraiser for United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries. Her eight-week class helped participants chase away the “dead-of-winter” blues and raised $600 for the greater good in the process.
Christians are called to be fearless relationship builders, writes United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries Executive Zach Wolgemuth in a UCC "Witness for Justice" commentary. And the Church offers many opportunities to build relationships, which dispel fear of "the other." For example, Wolgemuth said, "when individuals serve at one of our (disaster) recovery sites, they often find themselves serving in marginalized communities where they are able to build relationships with those impacted by greed and prejudice."
Six weeks of rain caused repeated flooding last summer in Schuylkill County, Pa. Some areas had severe damage to homes, including loss of furnaces and water heaters. A UCC Disaster Ministries grant of $10,000 is ensuring that affected families have heat and hot water through the winter. The funds are being allocated through the UCC's Pennsylvania Southeast Conference and its Schuylkill Association, which have stepped up to support the flood recovery effort.
UCC Disaster Ministries' cash and volunteer support totaled some $2 million in 2018 for disaster recovery in 26 countries and more than 16 U.S. states and territories, not counting funds and goods we helped secure for survivors from other sources.