New Offering Envelopes, Crises in Syria and Somalia, and Fair Trade Chocolate

New Offering Materials for Week of Compassion, Feb. 17-24, 2013

You may have noticed, or will notice in the coming weeks, a new piece for our Week of Compassion special offering season.  Despite the address printed on the inside envelope of your Week of Compassion bulletin insert, we ask that you do NOT send those back to our office in Indianapolis but rather place them in the offering plates at your local church, just as you have always done. Please share this information with everyone in your congregation.                                                                                                                     

Allow me to give some more background.  Since 1950, Week of Compassion has been a part of the Ecumenical One Great Hour of Sharing Committee.  As participants since the inception of this ecumenical committee, we have striven to work in coordination with our sisters and brothers across the mainline Protestant spectrum who have also participated in the annual One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) special offering. While we have been receiving a special offering during the Week of Compassion since 1944, and have thus been called “Week of Compassion” ever since, the partnering denominations at the Ecumenical One Great Hour of Sharing table all refer to their special offering as “One Great Hour of Sharing.”  For a more detailed explanation of our relationship, please see http://onegreathourofsharing.org/week-of-compassion/.

The very first “One Great Hour of Sharing” offering was received in 1946 (to read a full history, visit http://onegreathourofsharing.org/the-history-of-one-great-hour-of-sharing/. As a faithful member of this ecumenical committee, Week of Compassion staff meet regularly with staff from other OGHS-participating denominations to design offering materials and resources together.  In this way, we are modelling wise stewardship of resources, both financial and human, as well as fostering on-going ecumenical and ecclesial relations. 

This past year, the OGHS Committee looked critically at our resources, the current state of our respective denominations and financial situations, and our materials and design.  In an attempt to decrease the costs of our materials, maintain our low overhead, and become ever more “green” and ecologically sustainable, together we decided upon a new piece that would combine our traditional bulletin insert with our standard offering envelope.  This has, admittedly, caused some confusion for our congregations as the piece is quite different from years past.  The ecumenical committee also decided to include the address of our general ministry on the outside of the envelope so that those who may not have been at church during Week of Compassion, or the homebound, or many of our donors who may no longer attend (or never did) Disciples congregations, could easily participate in the Week of Compassion special offering season.  The inclusion of our address at the Disciples Center was in no way intended to send a message that we hope our friends and supporters bypass the local congregation—on the contrary. 

It is our profound hope that our churches will use the new piece in exactly the way that they have always used the offering envelopes—and that they will be received during worship, collected by the congregation, and sent into our Week of Compassion office by the local congregation. 

We strive always to seek out fresh, innovative, creative, and thoughtful ways to do the work we have been called to do—to feed the hungry, house the homeless, offering healing to the sick, welcome the stranger, and alleviate suffering.  If we have offended anyone or any community in the process of attempting to experiment with a new type of offering material, we ask for your understanding, patience, and grace. 

We look forward to sharing the joy in giving with you this year, yet again, just as we have done since 1944. 

Do you have an iPhone? 

Consider downloading our new app, created by the Ecumenical One Great Hour Sharing Committee!  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/one-great-hour/id530683036?mt=8

Syrian Humanitarian Disaster

The situation is Syria only seems to be worsening. Through the Middle East and Europe Area Office of Global Ministries, Week of Compassion has been supporting the Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue in Lebanon as they respond to the overwhelming humanitarian needs in Syria. Your gifts have supported thousands of persons who have been affected by the violent conflict and fighting in the city of Homs and Aleppo and are now displaced in the suburbs and surrounding countryside areas. Winter’s arrival has led to a new set of needs as the freezing temperatures increase the severity of the current crisis. Week of Compassion also continues to support the work of International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) through the ACT Alliance and Church World Service as they continue to respond to the immediate needs of refugees, IDPs, and the churches. We ask for your prayers and support for the people of Syria and the surrounding areas as they endure this horrific humanitarian, political, and economic crisis. 

Somali Food Insecurity

More than 2 million Somali people remain food insecure as a result of drought (climate change), famine, and economic and political instability. Although this figure represents a 17% decrease in 6 months of the number of people living in the most dire levels of food insecurity, the total remains among the world’s highest. The food insecurity continues to cause displacement, resulting in increased pressure on already crowded IDP settlements around Mogadishu and in urban areas of Somaliland.  Week of Compassion has been supporting these refugee camps throughout the food and humanitarian crisis, thanks to your gifts. 

The climatic forecast for the upcoming months calls for a probability of above average rains. Although this may lead to improved agricultural and pasture conditions in some areas, the enhanced rains and high river levels are likely to lead to flash flooding in agropastoral areas and flooding in certain areas. Flooding is likely to disrupt agricultural activities, cause spreading of livestock diseases, damage communication infrastructure and limit trade. 

The Dadaab refugee camp received a massive influx of Somali refugees in the latter half of 2011. More than 160,000 new arrivals in 2012 brought the total population of the camp to 451,5003. While the basic services in the most recently opened Kambioos camp are still being established, 35,000 vulnerable refugees in this camp are in need of life-sustaining assistance, and 25,000 school aged children are at risk of abuse and exploitation in the absence of education structures.

Thus, Week of Compassion continues to support the incredible, life-saving, critical work of our international partners in the ACT Alliance as they respond to this drought-ravaged, famine-stricken land and its people.  Our prayer and our deepest hope is that we no longer have to write about food insecurity in the years to come...thank you for your ongoing gifts to support our sisters and brothers in Somalia.

Fair Trade Chocolate for Valentine’s Day

Show your love with fairly traded, delicious products that support small-scale farmers worldwide!  Remember, for every Equal Exchange fairly traded product you buy as a Disciple, Week of Compassion receives a portion of the proceeds back to support our Food Security Fund!  For chocolate hearts and other delicious items, visit Equal Exchange Website.

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance:

Texas, Emergency Assistance for Refugee Family

Serbia, Improving Access to Safe Drinking Water

Malawi, Flooding and Windstorms Assistance

Solomon Islands, Earthquake and Tsunami Assistance

Syria, Humanitarian Crisis

Somalia, Humanitarian Support for Somali Refugees

Democratic Republic of Congo, Assistance to Internally Displaced People

Development & Long Term Recovery and Rehabilitation:

Texas, Support of Long-Term Recovery Work for Hurricane Sandy Relief

Hurricane Isaac and US Summer Storms 2012 Assistance

Florida, Support of the Coalition of Immokalee Farmworkers

Lafayette, Indiana Growing Project, Foods Resource Bank