BY LINDA BLOOM
Eight days after the January earthquake in Haiti, Melissa Crutchfield led a small team to the island to start assessing emergency needs for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
The ability of her team to get to Haiti quickly was due in part to One Great Hour of Sharing, an annual churchwide offering for UMCOR taken on the fourth Sunday in Lent. This year’s offering is on March 14.
To Crutchfield, who coordinates international emergency response for the relief agency, One Great Hour of Sharing “is the backbone of what makes everything possible.”
Because that fund pays for everything from staff salaries to electricity to cell phones, UMCOR is able to pledge that it will use 100 percent of donations earmarked for specific disasters and projects on the projects themselves.
And by supporting UMCOR’s headquarter operations, One Great Hour of Sharing allows for both emergency and long-term responses to a wide range of domestic and international disasters and ongoing projects related to hunger and development issues. “All of that takes an enormous amount of coordination and communication,” Crutchfield said.
The high-profile disasters that receive extensive media coverage—the Haiti earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, the Asian tsunami—generally draw enough donations to finance UMCOR’s long-term recovery projects in those places.
But other small-scale disasters do not.
In 2009, for example, localized flooding in New York, Illinois, Hawaii and North Dakota drew requests for assistance but little attention to those unaffected. However, UMCOR can still help with money from One Great Hour of Sharing or other undesignated funds, said the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, who oversees U.S. disaster response.
“Those are disasters for which no money, or very little money, may come in from donors,” he added.
Keeping the promise
In a March 4 message to the denomination’s bishops, the interim top executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, UMCOR’s parent agency, noted that gifts for Haiti relief are expected to top $25 million and reminded them of the 100-percent pledge.
“As you know, UMCOR is able to make this promise because administrative expenses are covered through the One Great Hour of Sharing,” wrote Bishop Joel Martinez.
“Because UMCOR does not receive World Service funds or any other apportionments, the costs of doing business are underwritten by The One Great Hour of Sharing. I encourage you to please highlight March 14th with your Annual Conference as a day to lay the foundation for UMCOR to seek justice and mercy for suffering people everywhere.”
In Western North Carolina Conference, Bishop Larry Goodpaster had already urged his local churches to go the extra mile and receive an offering for One Great Hour of Sharing.
“To make sacrifices on behalf of others means that we who have been blessed in many ways will have to adjust our own ways of living,” he wrote in a letter to church members.
“Perhaps we will have to deny ourselves that extra purchase or additional meal out; or, perhaps we will have to make a sacrificial gift that stretches us; or, perhaps we will have to trust God deeper.”
Churches can order free offering envelopes or posters for One Great Hour of Sharing by calling (888) 346-3862. Other resources can be found at http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umcor/give/oghs.
Linda Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York. She can be reached at 646.369.3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.