The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is a non-profit organization dedicated to alleviating human suffering around the globe. UMCOR’s work reaches people in more than 80 countries, including the United States, as they provide humanitarian relief when war, conflict, or natural disaster disrupt life to such an extent that communities are unable to recover on their own. UMCOR is a ministry of The United Methodist Church, and their goal is to assist the most vulnerable persons affected by crisis or chronic need without regard to their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
UMCOR’s mission has drasticly expanded from its beginnings in 1940. A day set aside for prayer and fasting on June 2, 1940, resulted in a $30,000 offering from The Methodist Church to help support war-displaced Chinese refugees. The offering was a response to an appeal by Bishop Herbert Welch at the General Conference of the Methodist Church on April 26, 1940. He called for the Methodist Church to “be a voice of conscience among Methodists to act in relief of human suffering without distinction of race, color or creed.”
As the organization began to respond to needs in the United States through the United Methodist annual conference disaster-response system, the organization officially adopted the name United Methodist Committee on Relief. Part of the committee’s work in the United States involved local churches responding to an increase in refugees. In 1979, when thousands of Vietnamese refugees arrived in the United States, UMCOR helped resettle 2,500 people through 260 local United Methodist churches that sponsored refugee families. While UMCOR is not a first-response organization, they stand ready to accompany communities in need over the long haul of their recovery, until they are well on their way to establishing a “new normal” after a crisis.
The Haiti earthquake in 2010 presented UMCOR with one of its greatest challenges. The 7.0-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 230,000 and left more than a million people homeless also took the lives of the UMCOR workers: director, the Rev. Samuel Dixon Jr., and the director of United Methodist mission volunteer programs, the Rev. Clinton Rabb.
From rebuilding homes and providing spiritual and emotional care after Hurricane Sandy or establishing health boards around the world to providing refuge for those fleeing Syria or planning a long-term response to the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, UMCOR’s response is based on community strengthening and relationships. The head of UMCOR, the Rev. Denise Honeycutt, said, “Our work is not just about charity. When we are engaged in God’s mission we build relationships with God’s people.”