UMCOR Philippines Opening Dedication
*By Melissa Hinnen
July 24, 2009— The Salakot Chapel was overflowing with bishops, General Board of Global Ministries directors, disaster response coordinators, district superintendents and volunteers who were among the nearly 200 people celebrating the grand opening of UMCOR Philippines. The new office is about 50 miles south of Manila and establishes a field presence in Asia as well as an on-site storage facility for material resources.
UMCOR’s top executive, Sam Dixon, addressed the group saying, “Your presence tells me that this is a joint ministry to serve the most vulnerable and to bring help and hope to this part of the world.” Dixon spoke of the prophetic vision of Joseph who in the seven years of plenty, put aside resources so that people would have enough to eat during the time of famine that was to come. Said Dixon, “Through UMCOR Philippines, we are being prepared, storing up our resources and our experience so that when a disaster happens, we can prevent a bad thing from becoming worse.”
After Dixon presented the office building and truck, Bishop Rudy Juan of the Baguio Episcopal Area accepted, declaring, “Jesus told us, ‘I don’t have hands but yours.’ UMCOR is an agent of hope and I accept this new office on behalf of the connection to use for the honor and glory of God.”
Members of the community brought gifts to the altar, including blankets representing hospitality, the traditional salakot hat as a reminder of God’s workers in the field and the protection the hat provides, and a painting by a local artist that depicts the images and stories of the people.
Bishop Leo Soriano of the Davao Episcopal Area led the dedication saying, “We dedicate this building and vehicle to giving hope to those who shall come and even those who will be sent, to the service of the many volunteers who will work and share, to the ministry of administration and service and connections, we dedicate this building and vehicle as we dedicate ourselves anew to that service of humanity in which we perform the true service of God.”
Following the ceremony, guests gathered on the lawn and enjoyed a lunch and time of fellowship. The community is excited to see the long promised office come to fruition. There has been an outpouring of volunteers to prepare the space and to plan the celebration. Said one guest, “UMCOR is an expression of love in the way that Jesus intended. We are so happy to be a part of it in the Philippines.” Churches are looking forward to establishing a kit ministry to build the capacity of the material resources of the new office.
Disaster Response Training
For three full days before the opening, superintendents, disaster response coordinators and bishops attended workshops to develop a disaster response plan. Led by Melissa Crutchfield, executive for UMCOR’s International Disaster Response and Lisa Jackson, executive in charge of special projects for UMCOR, the group identified areas of concern in each of their regions, partners they can work with in a disaster situation, and supplies and resources they have and can develop to help them through the emergency response phase of a disaster.
“While many of them conceptually know most of this information,” Crutchfield says, “actually thinking through each stage and writing down contact information and a plan of action now will be much more effective than trying to pull together the specific information when a disaster occurs.”
Text messaging is a primary means of communication in the Philippines and when Crutchfield sent out a practice emergency alert via text to each of the coordinators; they were able to walk through the drill with their team, coming up with responses to each of the potential scenarios.
Dixon thanked them saying, “The time will come that we will need to put this plan into action. Your time and leadership here will save time and lives when a typhoon, fire, flood or civil conflict presents a disaster in your region. Thank you for having the will to put your faith into action to care for needs of those in your communities.”
How to Help
To volunteer with UMCOR Philippines, please contact Ciony Eduarte, Office Manager, at CEduarte@umcor.org. Support for the new office can be made through Philippines Emergency, UMCOR Advance #240235.
*Melissa Hinnen is the staff writer for UMCOR communications