Texas Mission Leader Will Link Haiti Relief Work to US Churches
by Elliott Wright
January 28, 2010—A Texas mission leader with extensive experience in disaster relief will serve as liaison between United Methodist operations in Haiti following the January 12 earthquake and the enormous response of annual conferences and congregations in the United States.
The Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey of Houston is taking a leave of absence from her current ministerial appointment to assist UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, in a time of challenge and transition.
UMCOR's chief executive, the Rev. Sam Dixon, and the Rev. Clint Rabb, the head of the volunteers in mission office, both died as a result of injuries received in the earthquake.
"Rev. Harvey will be a strong asset to UMCOR staff in helping to communicate and interpret needs in Haiti and the resources of funds and volunteers available," said Bishop Joel N. Martinez, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, of which UMCOR is a part.
Harvey has worked with Texas Conference disaster relief responses to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 1995 and Hurricane Ike last year. She has international experience in health ministries through a partnership program with the Côte d'Ivoire Annual Conference in West Africa. She helped to coordinate the distribution of almost a million mosquito nets in Côte d'Ivoire in 2008.
"Because of the outpouring of money and offers of voluntary service," UMCOR is on the job and we are moving to expand our capacity," said Bishop Janice Huie of Houston, who is president of UMCOR.
There are close relationships between relief work and mission volunteers. Both Dixon and Rabb had been working together to strengthen this interaction. They were in Haiti exploring ways to improve health and other human services, partly through the use of volunteers.
Bishop Huie is permitting Harvey to immediately undertake the temporary responsibilities with UMCOR in New York City. Harvey is currently director of the Texas Conference's Center for Mission Excellence, which equips leaders to carry out ministries of mercy, justice, and wholeness.
As Haiti relief liaison with conferences and volunteers, she will work with the staff in developing and carrying out UMCOR's Haiti strategy, identify and channel support for that strategy, and serve as the contact person and coordinator for volunteers.
"We are thrilled to have Cynthia Harvey as part of the UMCOR Haiti team," said Melissa Crutchfield, assistant general secretary for international disaster relief. "Her experience, energy, and commitment will enable UMCOR to reach out to the United Methodist family in providing meaningful support to the people of Haiti."
Harvey worked in the corporate sector prior to entering full-time ministry a dozen years ago. She has served as associate pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church, Houston, in the early 1990s and as associate of Memorial Drive Church, a 6,900-member Houston congregation from 1996 to 2008. Earlier, she worked in youth ministry for an annual conference program.
Fluent in Spanish and trained in journalism, Harvey is a member of the board of directors of the United Methodist General Commission on Communications and serves on the board of the Foundation for United Methodist Communications. She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas, Austin, and received her theological training at the Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree in 1999.
Cynthia Harvey and her husband, Dean, have an 18-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Grace.
Elliott Wright is an author and consultant to the General Board of Global Ministries.