UMCOR supporters donated items and money in a "Joy of Giving" event hosted by UMCOR West.
By Susan Kim*
January 7, 2014—A three-day holiday event called “Joy of Giving” helped supporters of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) reclaim the sacred side of a season that has become steeped in commercialism.
On December 13 and 14 and again on January 5, the UMCOR West Office and Depot in Salt Lake City, Utah, invited people to “give back to God” by donating items and money in support of UMCOR West, the Crossroads Urban Center, Family Promise, and Homeless Youth Resource Center. In addition to advancing UMCOR's national and international relief efforts, donors were able to support local organizations that provide an emergency food pantry and assistance for homeless families and youth.
Four Christmas trees—representing each of the four non-profit organizations—were placed inside the UMCOR West warehouse. People were encouraged to bring in suggested items and place them either under or on the trees at any time during the three-day celebration.
The idea for the “Joy of Giving” event stemmed from an effort launched by the First United Methodist Church in Salt Lake City.
Jessica Patton, a member of the church, and her husband chaired the church's outreach committee for 15 years.
“During Advent, we all decorate a 'mitten tree' with all kinds of warm winter coats, socks and other items. Then, at Epiphany, we donate all of it to a local thrift store that gives away 80 percent of what it takes in. We definitely have a heart for mission,” Jessica said.
For the UMCOR tree, donors focused on supplies for school kits, health kits, and layette kits. They found specific lists of items to be included in each of the kits by visiting UMCOR Relief Supplies webpage.
Members of the Tongan United Methodist Church in Salt Lake City drew inspiration for their participation in “Joy of Giving” from a challenge issued by their pastor, the Rev. David Ofahengaue.
Ofahengaue, who first started serving the church in July, observed that the congregation was in need of healing. “I decided to help people focus on outreach, on helping others,” he said.
He established a relationship with the UMCOR West Depot, and members of the church began volunteering at the depot at least once a month.
When Ofahengaue found out about the “Joy of Giving” event, he saw an opportunity for his congregation to reach even more people.
“I challenged the church members to donate $2,000 for UMCOR, $500 for the other agencies, and 500 cans of food for the homeless,” he said.
An added incentive? If the congregation met the challenge, Ofahengaue pledged to shave his head.
“On Christmas Eve, they met the challenge. I shaved my head right in the middle of the sanctuary,” said Ofahengaue. “Then another man shaved his head because he didn't want me to do it alone. Not only that, five women came to the front and cut their hair short.”
Supporting UMCOR has helped bring a sense of closeness to the church, Ofahengaue concluded. “As a congregation, UMCOR has been so very important to us.”
The need for relief kits continues in this new year. In fact, school kits and health kits are urgently needed. For information on how you can continue the “joy of giving” through this ministry please visit UMCOR’s relief-supply pages. Your donations to Material Resource Ministry, Advance #901440, will also help UMCOR purchase supplies for the kits.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.