Offering helps UMCOR keep doing its job


By Woody Woodrick

Advocate Editor

Ed Blakeslee has learned quite a bit over the past three or four months.

As head of the Mississippi United Methodist Katrina Response, Blakeslee has learned about trying to organize and mobilize a disaster response. Among the most important lessons Blakeslee has learned is the role and importance of United Methodist Committee on Relief.

“No one, I mean no one, was prepared for a disaster of this magnitude. So, we are learning on the fly,” said Blakeslee, a member of Trinity UMC in Gulfport.

“Like many Methodists, I didn’t understand what UMCOR’s role was in a disaster. UMCOR’s primary role is directed towards long-term recovery efforts, not the emergency phase. However, UMCOR did provide about $1.3 million for the emergency phase, including almost a quarter of a million dollars for relief for local churches.”

UMCOR will continue to support the Mississippi Conference as the recovery moves into the long-term phase. However, doing so takes funds. UMCOR is funded entirely by contributions. One of the key sources of funds is a special offering called One Great Hour of Sharing. This year’s special offering will be taken March 26.

“The One Great Hour of Sharing offering on March 26 is absolutely essential to UMCOR,” says the Rev. Paul Dirdak, the agency’s chief executive. “UMCOR receives no World Service funds or any other apportionments. Through their gifts to the offering, United Methodists can assure that when catastrophes cause suffering, your church, impelled by Jesus’ love and compassion, will be in the lead to ease the pain.”

UMCOR has established a strong reputation for its commitment to long-term recovery.

“UMCOR is recognized as the expert on case management and is looked to for training and direction across all faith-based organizations in this area,” Blakeslee said. “And, we look towards UMCOR for advice and guidance as we put together our long term response. Without UMCOR, the Methodist church would be in a difficult position to try to sustain an extended effort towards recovery.”

Best known in the United States for disaster response, UMCOR works in a variety of ways both at home and around the world. From helping soldiers reintegrate into their communities as productive citizens to feeding schoolchildren to establishing medical clinics in remote villages, UMCOR is hope for millions in more than 80 of the poorest countries in the world.

Contributions to One Great Hour of Sharing fulfill three major objectives:

Keeping the lights on — Gifts to the One Great Hour of Sharing underwrite UMCOR’s “costs of doing business,” so that 100 percent of every dollar donated to a specific UMCOR project can be spent on that project and not on home-office administrative costs.

Fill-in fundraising — Offering gifts over and above those used to cover administrative costs are channeled where they’re most needed: to assist the most vulnerable people whose need is greatest. Donations to the One Great Hour of Sharing offering also assist UMCOR programs that have not been fully funded through designated Advance Special gifts.

Answering Jesus’ call — United Methodists’ donations often become the springboard for additional funding. Jesus promised to be with us always, “to the very end of the age.” And Jesus extends this call to us to “be there” as well; to be the hands and heart of the church wherever people are suffering. Gifts to the One Great Hour of Sharing, channeled through United Methodist Committee on Relief, enable the church to answer that call.

Blakeslee said UMCOR’s role in Mississippi will become more important as the recovery progresses.

“We have learned much in this disaster which should help prevent some of the mistakes that we have made to date,” he said. “All disasters are a learning experience but obviously this one is in a magnitude all by itself.

“We are a team. UMCOR provides funding, case management expertise and some sage counsel based on many years of experience (around the world) in responding to all kinds of disasters. Our conference must put together the organization on the ground to utilize this experience to optimize helping the families and individuals who need help the most.”

Some information for this story was obtained from