Korean Language Group Visits UMCOR West Depot
Fifty Korean United Methodist Women members from around the country gathered for a mission seminar and hands-on service at United Methodist Committee on Relief’s western depot in Salt Lake City, Utah, last fall.
Our experience began with a seminar on UMCOR’s mission. June Kim, executive secretary of UMCOR’s World Hunger/Poverty and Sustainable Agriculture and Development section, gave an overview of UMCOR, including when and how it started, when it became a part of the General Board of Global Ministries, and locations of its U.S. depots and eight field offices in different countries. She also talked about the agency’s disaster response and national and international development work in 80 countries.
When war, conflict or natural disasters disrupt life to such an extent that people are not able to recover on their own, UMCOR responds to help the communities, Ms. Kim said. UMCOR is not only to be there at the beginning of disaster but also provide long-term relief and transitional development. It’s often in the long-term outreach that UMCOR partners with United Methodist Women to help communities stabilize and develop after a crisis.
The Rev. Brian Diggs, executive director of UMCOR West Depot, explained daily operations of the facility and the nature of interfaith cooperation in fulfilling its mission. UMCOR participates in the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable and cooperative relief efforts with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), also known as the Mormons, and other faith based organizations.
For the hands-on segment of the event, we divided into three groups rotating in shifts to work at the UMCOR depot, Habitat for Humanity and the LDS Welfare Cannery. The first work site for my group was the UMCOR depot, where we assembled school kits. While I was wrapping each kit, I prayed silently that the child who received the kit would study well and grow up to bring many good things to this world.
The next work site for my group was Habitat for Humanity’s home improvement thrift store. We cleaned shelves and floors and sorted recycled home products according to category. The manager of the store told us the proceeds from the “Re-Store” are used to build housing for low-income families. The Re-Store reminded me of the “Sharing Room” of our local church, although it was a lot bigger. Donating to this kind of recycling program is ecofriendly because it not only assists in building houses but also reduces the amount of materials sent to the local landfills.
The last stop for our group was LDS Welfare Square to work at the church’s cannery. The tour guide took us to different parts of the LDS Welfare Square, which included a grain elevator, bakery, cannery, bishops’ storehouses, thrift store, milk processing operation and employment center. The tour guide said the LDS’s welfare system has three purposes: to care for the poor and needy, to help people become self-reliant and to create opportunities for work and service. We were told that volunteers in Salt Lake City alone donate more than 200,000 hours of labor a year. To our disappointment, the cannery where we were supposed to work that day was closing early so we were diverted to do outdoor gardening.
A popular trend of mission programs among Korean churches focuses on local churches setting up their own short-term overseas mission projects. However, after this mission experience, I envision us doing mission work together with UMCOR and other United Methodist Women partners for more efficient results to more people and geographical areas.
Lija Kim is Korean language coordinator for United Methodist Women in Greater New Jersey Conference.