Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Disaster Relief

I do enough ragging on United Methodists in this space that I feel it worthwhile to brag on them when they get something right.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is a good example of Methodists getting something decidedly right.

UMCOR is a surprisingly effective and efficient organization for mobilizing disaster relief, largely due to its commitment to using 100% of directed donations for the projects the donor designates.

Administrative and overhead costs are entirely funded through a one-day denomination-wide offering (One Great Hour of Sharing), expressly for the purpose of eliminating the need to fund these costs through directed donations. UMCOR also does little advertising outside of the denomination--a double-edged sword, allowing it to funnel more money to where it's needed, but preventing them from gaining the widespread recognition of the American Red Cross, UNICEF, or World Vision.

It also emphasizes indigenous Methodist-affiliated churches as centers of relief distribution and coordination. (As Gustavo Guttierez has famously said, if you want to know how best to help the poor, try asking the poor. If you want to know how best to help victims of disaster, try letting them coordinate and distribute things.)

If you attend a United Methodist church, please consider giving generously to the One Great Hour of Sharing offering this March. It will keep UMCOR nimble, active, and ready for the disasters and emergencies that will strike, that will always strike this side of the eschaton.

And if today's news--the photos, the reports, the desperate, urgent need--moves you to contribute to disaster relief in Haiti, please consider donating through UMCOR. There is already an UMCOR field office in Haiti, and The United Methodist Church has a long-standing relationship with churches and organizations there through which relief aid will be coordinated and distributed.

And, as always, pray. Pray while you're writing the check, to be sure! But do not neglect to pray.