Largely lost in the cycle of annual conference was an announcement that the churches of East Ohio had donated $634,423.74 for relief in Haiti. This is money that people donated through their local churches to UMCOR for this important cause.
That’s a lot of money. Of the nearly 800 local churches in the conference there are only about two dozen with larger annual budgets than this amount. And it came at a time with our region is full of economic challenges.
So what made thousands of United Methodists dig deep into their pockets and give money to a country that few of us will ever see, to help people we will never meet and make God’s presence known thousands of miles away from our steeples?
Because there was a need, and we knew we could make a difference.
I imagine church treasurers fell into one of two categories as they were seeing those gifts come in and writing the checks get this aid to where it needed to be. Some swelled with pride as they saw their members respond to such devastation with so much generosity.
But I bet others were a little ticked off. Giving at their church may have been flat for the last few (or even many) years. The carpet needs to be replaced, apportionments aren’t paid and the staff has to use both sides of copier paper because the budget is tight. They may have wondered why people were so generous to the need in Haiti while the need in their own church seems to be less important than their members’ consumerism.
One of my mantras is that giving follows vision.
In Haiti the vision was pretty easy to understand. People were hungry, homeless, desperate. UMCOR had been there for decades and was prepared to make a difference in these people’s lives. John and Jane Doe sitting in the pews knew that their financial support was the link between people who needed help and those who could provide this help.
They gave because they knew it would make a difference in someone’s life.
When was the last time your local church sent that message to its members? What need in the community are you solving? How are lives better because your church is in the community?
St. Francis of Assisi is often quoted as saying “Preach the gospel at all times and use words when necessary.” UMCOR’s work in Haiti is a wonderful example of how the gospel teachings of compassion, love and generosity are being preached without words.
Commit your church to preaching this same way and challenge your members to support it financially. We were exceptionally generous to people in Haiti. Don’t you think your people want to be that generous in their own community?