Responding in Joplin and Domestic Disaster Forum

March Opening for Joplin Mission Station

Week of Compassion and Disciples Volunteering are thrilled to announce the launch of a Disaster Response Mission Station in Joplin, Missouri.

After a number of lengthy conversations with different partners, arrangements are being made to host volunteers beginning in March 2012. The Joplin Long Term Recovery Committee has made important, local decisions regarding the prioritizing of needs, the distribution of grants, and the process for coordinating out-of-town Mission Groups. The city of Joplin has weighed in on appropriate details for the recovery and for the presence of this Mission Station. Disciples Volunteering, Week of Compassion, the Ozark Lakes Area, the United Church of Christ Volunteer Ministries and Disaster Response Ministries, and First Christian Church, Joplin and South Joplin Christian Church have gathered and conferenced, laughed and cried, planned and prayed and planned some more, and at long last, we have a great plan in place!

Our Disciples response in Joplin is unique from other responses because we have undertaken our work and witness there in partnership with the United Church of Christ. While so much of the work of Week of Compassion and Disciples Volunteering, including partnering with Church World Service and Long Term Recovery Committees, is rooted in deep ecumenical commitment, this is a new undertaking. In working together with the UCC, we will be able to stretch our resources and make better use of the gifts with which you entrust us, including the time volunteers offer to this recovery effort.

Projects will include, but not be limited to, home repair, rebuilding, and new construction, as identified by the Joplin Long Term Recovery Committee. Week-long Mission Trips, with housing provided by South Joplin Christian Church, will begin March 18, 2012. Mission Groups will arrive on Sunday evenings and depart by Saturday morning. Work days are Monday - Friday. The mission station will be equipped for hosting up to 30 persons per week (generally, 15 DOC and 15 UCC each week). Check with registrar Howard Self (contact information below) with questions about availability or register for your top two preferred weeks. Registrations will be honored in the order they are received.

Registration Information:

Registrar: Howard Self, UCC/DOC Disaster Ministries' Registrar (Joplin Response)
     e-mail: hjself@live.com
     phone: c) 618-318-2445

Registration: https://discipleshomemissions.org/pages/VOL-form-Joplin

Minimum Age: 14 years. Those under the age of 18 have specific waivers requiring parent/guardian signature.

Adult to Youth Ratio: There must be at least 1 Adult for every 5 Youth in your Mission Group.

Accommodations: Housing is provided by South Joplin Christian Church. Bunks, bathrooms, showers, kitchen facilities including utensils and cookware, and access to laundry facilities are available at the church.

Cost: $75 per person per week, to cover utilities and on-going use of housing facilities, and to support the operation of the Mission Station.

A NON-REFUNDABLE deposit of $25/person will be due within 3 weeks of your registering, in order to complete the registration process and confirm your trip. The balance of $50/person will be due at least 3 weeks prior to arrival.

Checks should be made payable to "Disciples Home Missions" with the memo "Joplin Disaster Recovery."

Payments may be mailed to Disciples Home Missions, UCC/DOC Joplin Disaster Response, attn: Brenda Tyler, PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206

Cancellations: Please keep Howard informed if your group size changes and especially if you need to cancel your trip. Cancellations made at least three weeks prior to arrival will receive a refund of $50 if already paid. Please remember the $25/person deposit is non-refundable.

Questions about payments may be directed to Brenda Tyler - btyler@dhm.disciples.org or 888-346-2631. Please direct all other questions to the UCC/DOC Joplin Registrar, Howard Self.

Church World Service Forum on Domestic Disaster Ministry

Save the Date! Registration starts in January.

March 19-21, 2012, New Windsor, Maryland

Bringing together scholars, researchers, theologians, volunteers and staff who work in disaster programs throughout the broad inter-religious community to:

  • Explore the changing nature of response to natural, technological, and human-caused disasters
  • Tap the wisdom of the collective, yet diverse experience of participants
  • Identify issues affecting disaster ministry for the future
  • Suggest forward-thinking, practical resources for the changing needs of disaster ministry

Speaker and registration info is available online at www.cwserp.org.

For more information please contact Tim Shenk at tshenk@churchworldservice.org or 212-870-2728.

 

Magnifying Joy! Gifts that Change Lives

Teetering between the waiting of Advent and the joy of Christmas, The Song of Mary--the Magnificat-- in Luke’s Gospel is one of those sections of scripture that pulls it all together for me.

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

I find the words of this early Christian hymn echoing in my mind, and no matter how many times I have read it, heard it read, or heard a version of it sung in worship, I always find myself having a sort of epiphany when I hear it.

Mary’s joy has a prophetic edge to it.

She has received news of an incredible gift--she will have a son. But her gift is not hers alone. Like the prophet Isaiah, for Mary, the birth of Jesus signifies dignity for the poor, food for the hungry, and God’s enduring care. Mary, herself a young, vulnerable woman, sees incredible possibility in the promise of her child: not only for her own sake, but for all of those who long for hope to replace their hopelessness:

For the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

Like the words of so many women throughout history and around the world, Mary’s words not only celebrate life and the presence of God, but also call us to live out our deepest joys, heart-held concerns, and boldest commitments in all of the things we do.

That's why Week of Compassion has teamed up with partners old and new to promote unique, life-changing gifts for celebrating Christmas this year. Our gifts can reflect our values, and as we share smiles and presents this holiday season, we can also share in ways that bring joy, create new opportunity, and share skills with our neighbors near and far.

Prosperity Candle, a new partner with whom we’ve teamed up this holiday season, empowers and accompanies refugee women who are making new lives for themselves. Sales of their handcrafted candles allow them to earn a living wage. In addition, Prosperity Candle will donate 10% of your purchase to support the Week of Compassion Women's Empowerment Fund.

Equal Exchange, one of the most-trusted fair trade companies in North America, has a variety of gifts for the coffee lover, tea drinker, and chocoholic in your life. For example, EE’s African Gift Box supports the efforts of women as mothers, daughters, sisters and farmers. Together with the Panzi Foundation in the D.R. Congo (a Week of Compassion partner through IMA World Health!) and BeadforLife® in Uganda, Equal Exchange is helping to build East African economies through income generation and to support women that have been affected by violence. The African Gift Box contains specialty products that inspire hope and encourage change while supporting our sisters in need at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Purchases through Equal Exchange’s Interfaith Store not only help provide a fair price for small scale farmers worldwide, but also support Week of Compassion’s food security-related sustainable development projects.

You may also choose to support our partners at Church World Service through their Best Gift catalogue. These gifts help support a wide array of Church World Service projects, including food security, access to water, education and micro-finance.

And as always, you can give a gift to Week of Compassion in the name of someone you love and admire, demonstrating that sharing--with those we love and with those we are yet to know--does indeed bring joy.

As our hearts continue to travel on the path from Advent contemplation to Christmas celebration, may our souls, like Mary’s, magnify God’s gracious love for the world; may, too, our gifts reflect our commitment to the dignity of all of God’s people and the care of all creation.

Preparing the Way

A few years ago, I was traveling by bus from Port-au-Prince, Haiti to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I saw billboard after billboard for a Dominican presidential candidate claiming that he was “El Presidente de los Pobres” (President of the Poor). I didn’t know much about this man, but I wondered if he truly did lift up the interests of those living in poverty as a priority. Then I started to ponder, “Who, really, is the President of the Poor? Who, truly, has shown us a Way out of no way? Who is the Prince of Peace, who came to live and work among us—indeed, to become one of us—so he could demonstrate a new way of living with compassion and working for justice for all?” 

As Dominicans were preparing for their next round of presidential elections that winter,  I recall the flurry of activity and high hopes coupled with consternation that accompanied their preparations. I particularly remember walking down one of the main streets in the beach resort town of Boca Chica, where tourists lounge outside in street cafes, bronzed bodies having just come in from a day at the beach. The smell of fresh seafood wafts through the air. Haitian paintings adorn both sides of the street and there are souvenir shops full of trinkets you don’t really need, but you get sucked into the shops because of the owner’s persistence and charm. There are children playing everywhere, and I especially notice quite a number of little boys with wooden boxes and brushes. After a double take, I realize that the boys weren’t “playing” but shining shoes. Awfully young to be doing that, I thought, and walked on by. 

I walked further down the street searching for the Caminante Center. Caminante is one of our Disciples and ecumenical partner organizations in the Dominican Republic, founded by a Catholic nun with a heart for reaching out to street children and those caught in the sexual exploitation of the resort town of Boca Chica. Entering the building, I was greeted by the Caminante staff and offered an incredible meal of rice and beans and avocado. As I savored every bite of my food, I listened to the staff describe the situations they dealt with on a daily basis—abject poverty, violence, and hopelessness. Just a few minutes later, in came the shoe-shine boys:  8, 9 and 10 year-old boys with their wooden boxes and brushes. Beautiful, innocent, loving, carefree boys. Or so they should have been. The stories of violence and poverty and gangs and child labor…they were talking about those boys I had walked by on the main drag. 

How long had it taken for Sister Denisse, the founding director of Caminante, to prepare the way for this life-saving work among street children to be done? Surely the shoe-shine boys did not know to come to the safe haven that is the educational, spiritual, and recreational center they now call home until someone had prepared, promoted, and prompted them to come. 

Advent is waiting, as I depicted last week, but it is most certainly not a passive waiting. It is an active season of preparation. It is a time set apart from the rest of our liturgical year and spiritual lives where we prepare the way for the Advent—which literally means, the “Coming”—of our Lord. Without the engaged, active, intentional preparations of so many of our partner organizations across the globe, including Caminante, Week of Compassion simply would not have a way to respond to the needs of so many. We make a difference, thanks to your gifts and trust, because of the painstaking preparations of our sisters and brothers in places of poverty and injustice. 

They are those who know, intimately, who the President of the Poor truly is. And it is Him, our Prince of Peace Jesus Christ our Lord, for whom we now prepare the way—together.

The Season of Waiting

The room at the hospital was packed with people. Of the many images of East Africa that remain vivid in my mind’s eye, the wall-to-wall crowd in the waiting room of the HIV/AIDS department of the Bugando Hospital in Mwanza, Tanzania is one that will be always with me.

It is an image of waiting.

Literally hundreds of people had come from near and far, some walking for days or even weeks, in hopes of receiving medical treatment and care. Their long, expectant faces barely looked up when I and my colleagues from IMA World Health entered the room. We had come to monitor the health programs Week of Compassion and other members of IMA World Health had funded and supported. As we opened the doors and were confronted by the crowds living with HIV/AIDS, it was perfectly obvious just how long many—if not most—of them had been there, waiting. Waiting…

Waiting to be tested, finally, to find out whether or not they had HIV or AIDS. Waiting for life-prolonging medicines and treatment. Waiting for counseling and support from nurses, hospital staff, and others living with HIV/AIDS who could offer solidarity and understanding. Waiting for the affirmation that they did the right thing by coming to the hospital and seeking treatment and not allowing the stigma of AIDS dissuade them from getting the help and support they need and deserve.

While in East Africa, the news I received from the Horn of Africa only seemed to get worse. The scenes of children, women, and men waiting for water and food and a safe place seemed unending. I couldn’t help but wonder just how agonizing it must be for a mother to have no other recourse than to wait, as her children look up at her asking for something—anything—to eat. How does one wait under those circumstances? How does one wait for rain, when, in the meantime, there is nothing to drink, bathe in or wash with? What must it be like for the 13 million people affected by the drought and famine across Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya to wait in refugee camps for their lives to change? How would you find the internal strength to continue waiting to survive yet another day when all around you points to death?

How would you wait for that?

Advent is a season of sacred waiting. At Week of Compassion, we’re admittedly not very good at waiting. We never, ever want to wait to get life-changing and often even life-saving help to those who need it most. We know that you don’t want us to wait to respond to human need and suffering in the world. We know that you count on us to work immediately, effectively, and efficiently. Most importantly, we know that those who need our help and hope wouldn’t want us to wait, but to act. To reach out. To make a difference. To trust God to work through our gifts and resources to transform those lives that otherwise do way too much waiting…

As we wait for the birth of the Christ child, may we hold close all those who have no other choice but to wonder and to wait…

Thanksgiving Hope in the Midst of Suffering

One of the questions I hear the most is, “How do you remain hopeful when you so regularly witness such tremendous human need and suffering in the world?”  
 
My answer?  “For as many needs as there are in the world, I believe with all my heart that there are at least that many solutions.” 
 
Each of you is a solution.  Each of you is a response to human need.  Each of you is already a part of our movement of courageous compassion as we, together, share our resources and change lives.  For you are your best offering. 
 
I remain hopeful because of each of you.  I remain hopeful because of the seemingly invincible women, children, and men who--day in and day out--wake up yet another day even though they’re not sure how they’ll survive.  But get up they do, to do their best to feed the kids and work the land and fetch the water and grow the crops and love one another abundantly despite the lack all around them.  I remain hopeful because of the partnership we share with people all over the world who receive hope and another day to live, thanks to our generosity, faith, and compassion. 
 
For that hope I give boundless thanks. To you.  To all those in need whom we accompany. 
 
And I give all the honor, glory, and gratitude to our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, who is Hope Incarnate. Praise be to God!

Time To Serve: Disciples Volunteering Offers Opportunities for 2012

Disciples Volunteering organized work groups at the 2011 General Assembly in Nashville, TN.

Josh Baird serves as Director of Disciples Volunteering. Week of Compassion and Disciples Volunteering work in partnership to help Disciples respond to needs in communities recovering from disasters. Josh offers this update on three opportunities for mission in 2012.

Disciples Volunteering, in partnership with Week of Compassion, local congregations and their Regional or Area ministries, is currently seeking Mission Teams for 2012. As a ministry based on partnership and serving side-by-side with others, Disciples Volunteering develops relationships with community-based Long Term Recovery Committees and other local partners, supports local decisions, and organizes volunteers to assist in the recovery for as long as we can be of service. Disciples Volunteering is in the midst of planning mission opportunities in three communities recovering from disaster, and invites you to explore ways you can volunteer with us in the upcoming year.

Tuscaloosa, AL was among the numerous communities hit by a tornado in late April of this year. The record-breaking outbreak wrought devastation across the south. Disciples are coordinating their response through First Christian Church, Tuscaloosa and Cottondale Christian Church. Mission Teams are needed through much of 2012 to rebuild homes, build relationships, and be present as signs of hope in a community in need of rebuilding. Tuscaloosa is also the location for Disciples Volunteering’s Alternative Spring Break, Feb. 26 – Mar. 31. The recovery in Tuscaloosa is only just beginning. With a steady stream of Mission Teams, Disciples have the opportunity to make a lasting impact in the area.

Communities along the Gulf Coast continue to recover from the hurricanes of 2005 and 2008. First Christian Church, Slidell, LA, is hosting Mission Teams for work in communities north and east of New Orleans. Through First Christian, teams are matched with Northshore Disaster Recovery, an ecumenical recovery group that has rebuilt nearly 13,000 homes since late 2005. Meanwhile, First Christian Church, Lake Charles, LA, offers the only fully operational recovery center in its parish and serves communities across southwest Louisiana. Because so many other recovery groups have closed their doors in the parish, First Christian has inherited enough open cases of people seeking assistance to keep the recovery going for several more years.

Disciples volunteers hard at work

Disciples are also working behind the scenes and on the front lines in Joplin, MO, to prepare space and opportunities to help with the community’s rebuilding effort. When all of the pieces fall into place, Disciples Volunteering and Week of Compassion will extend the call to come and stand with the people of Joplin, serving as help is needed in their long-term recovery.
 
For information on any of these opportunities to serve, please visit Disciples Volunteering on the web, email Brenda Tyler or Josh Baird, or call the Disciples Volunteering office at 1-888-346-2631.

Just a Few More Days to Submit Proposals!

You are invited to submit a Presentation Proposal for the 2012 Church World Service Forum on Domestic Disaster Ministry. The theme for 2012 is, “Sacred Hospitality: Compassion and Community in the Wake of Disaster." This theme grows out of the need for the faith-based community to adapt its work in the midst of economic and social change to meet humanitarian needs caused by disasters while maintaining CWS's traditional mission of serving the most vulnerable while practicing good stewardship.

Topical themes for the presentations and workshops include:

  • Hospitality in Disaster Care: Integrating Effective Spiritual and Emotional Care Practices
  • Hospitality in Stewardship: God's Generosity, Human Response and Advocacy
  • Hospitality in Shared Response and Recovery: Make New Friends and Keep the Old

Each subdivision will explore the changing nature of response to natural, technological and human caused disasters by tapping the collective yet diverse experience of our participants. This process will identify issues affecting disaster ministry in the future and suggest forward thinking yet practical responses to human needs.

If your application is accepted, Church World Service will pay your forum conference fee, meals and lodging.

We kindly ask that you return the completed downloadable Presentation Proposal by November 21, 2011 to Barry Shade, Church World Service Emergency Response Program at bshade@churchworldservice.org. If you have questions, you may also call (361) 389-0402.

Africa's Worst Drought in a Generation: How Will We Respond?

We will soon be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with our families and our churches. In a year of many challenges and opportunities, we give thanks for the blessings we have received and remember those who are less fortunate.

This year, I ask you to remember our sisters and brothers in the Horn of Africa. The United Nations has declared that southern Somalia is in the midst of a true famine—a situation so bad that more than 3 in 10 children are acutely malnourished and people are dying daily. A severe drought has killed crops and livestock across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, leaving more than 13 million people without enough food.

A crisis this big should be on the front pages of our newspapers. We must not ignore it!

There are several ways that you can help today. Through our partners at Church World Service and in the ACT Alliance, people of faith are providing food and other essential aid in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. While a civil war continues in Somalia, our humanitarian workers are reaching people in the country and in enormous camps along the borders. Displaced persons and vulnerable rural households in Somalia are receiving emergency food aid and access to sanitation through the work of our partners at Norwegian Church Aid.

In Ethiopia, multiple partners, including Lutheran World Relief, are working to provide emergency food and water, as well as long-term sustainable food and water interventions to drought-affected regions.

CWS has expanded emergency food distributions through local partners in Kenya's Eastern Province, as well as working with the Kitui Diocese to distribute drought-resistant seeds. CWS’s "Water for Life" program continues to help develop water sources in drought-affected areas of Kenya's Rift Valley and Eastern provinces, and has included the construction of 14 sand dams, 11 shallow wells, three borehole wells, one earthen dam and 12 rainwater tanks in 18 Kenyan communities last year.

Please consider joining with Week of Compassion in supporting this response.

Second, please speak out about the need for continued U.S. humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa. Aid that saves a life or creates a more secure future for children is not wasteful spending.

Our leaders need to hear this message now more than ever. Write a letter to your Congressional representative or local newspaper; sample letters are available here and here.

Finally, pray for those who are hungry in the Horn of Africa and around the world. In our places of worship and at our dinner tables, let us remember those in need as we give thanks for the abundance we have received.

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance

Guatemala, floods and mudslides
Illinois, resettled refugee assistance
Oklahoma, earthquake damage

Tackle Hunger with Us in 2012!

January 16 – February 5, 2012

The number of Americans living in poverty is the highest it has been in 52 years. One in seven households in our nation is food insecure, which affects more than 16 million children. This is why we need YOU! The good we do lasts all year!

Souper Bowl of Caring (SBoC) is a national movement of youth working to fight hunger and poverty in their own communities around the time of the Super Bowl football game. In the weeks leading up to or on Super Bowl Sunday, young people take up a collection (many use a soup pot), asking for one dollar or one item of food for people in need. They give 100% of their donation directly to the local hunger-relief charity of their choice. Last year over 250 Disciples of Christ congregations participated in Souper Bowl of Caring. That single act contributed over $100,000 to the fight against hunger. Nationally, more than 260,000 youth collected over $81 million in dollars and food for local hunger-relief charities. What a tangible way to demonstrate Jesus’ love and compassion to our fellow neighbor in need!

Be part of this movement to tackle hunger in America! Learn more and register your church today at tacklehunger.org to receive your FREE 2012 Playbook with resources to help make your collection a success.

More information on Souper Bowl of Caring and hunger in America can be found here. Please share this information with your friends, colleagues, and congregations and encourage them to join the team that tackles hunger!

Floods Continue to Affect Thailand

Heavy monsoon rains have been plaguing South East Asia since July and have severely affected one-third of Thailand's land mass. A total of 3.4 million acres of farmland--a landmass 13 times the size of Hong Kong--is submerged under water.

More than one-third of Thailand remains under water and more than 12.3 million livestock have been seriously affected. Authorities say the death toll has exceeded 307, while at least three people are still missing. More than 2.4 million people, including 700,000 children, have so far been affected.

In addition to the loss of life, the flooding has exacted a heavy toll on homes, businesses and infrastructure. The floods have so far incurred losses of US $1 billion.

More than 2 million tons of un-milled rice have already been destroyed during the flooding, affecting the economy of one of the world's largest exporters of rice. Transport links to the main ports in Bangkok and Laem Chabang have also been badly disrupted.

Church World Service (CWS) is responding as a member of the ACT Alliance--specifically, ACT forum members in Thailand, which include CWS, Diakonia, Dan Church Aid and Norwegian Church Aid. CWS is utilizing as its local implementing partner the Church of Christ in Thailand, known as CCT.

Initial efforts have included the work of CWS-supported members of CCT's team conducting assessments. In addition, food distribution has been underway in Bangkok, as has the distribution of food and non-food items in Ayutthaya and Chai Nat provinces for more than 1,200 households. Various small-scale feeding programs are also underway throughout the country.

Longer term, efforts are focused on providing immediate relief and recovery support to 22,400 flood-affected households in Chiang Mai, Chainat, Uthaithani, Phatumthani, and Ayutthaya provinces.

Specifically:

  • Distribution of cooked food will benefit 18,800 households in Chainat, Ayutthaya, and Phatumthani provinces.
  • Survival packs will benefit 2,500 households in Uthaithani, Chainat,Ayutthaya and Bangkok provinces. These include rice, instant noodles, canned fish, milk powder for babies, crackers, drinking water, body soap, body powder, toothpaste, tissue and essential medicines for headaches and minor injuries.
  • 500 households will benefit from shelter assistance, and livelihood assistance will benefit 600 households in Uthaithani and Chainat provinces. This part of the response will assist at least 500 fishermen who have lost their fishing equipment. The support will  enable them to resume fishing and fish raising again. About 150 housewives who had worked as daily food suppliers will also be supported in order to resume their cooking establishments.

To make a contribution to Week of Compassion to help support these and other efforts around the world, click here or send a check to WoC, PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206.

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance

Nicaragua, flood relief
Thailand (2), flood relief
Cambodia, flood relief
Gaza/West Bank, capacity building and training
Turkey, earthquake
Philippines, typhoon relief
DR Congo, conflict and displacement
Ghana, flood relief

Responding to the Earthquake in Turkey

Through our trusted ecumenical partners, Week of Compassion is responding to the major 7.2 earthquake that rocked eastern Turkey on Sunday, October 23. First estimates project over 200,000 people are affected. At this writing 366 have died and thousands have been left homeless.

Nearly 1,000 buildings have been destroyed in the disaster zone, with the town of Ercis the worst hit.

Many impacted families live in remote villages. Week of Compassion’s Turkish partner through the ACT Alliance, Support to Life, is concentrating its relief efforts on affected rural regions. 

A longtime partner of ACT Alliance member Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, Support to Life has extensive experience in emergency and reconstruction aid after severe earthquakes, as in Bam, Iran in 2003, and in Kashmir in Pakistan in 2005. In a first step, several thousand people are being provided with food and shelter materials. 

Week of Compassion will also respond to relief efforts undertaken by Global Ministries partners. 

Submissions Requested for 2012 Church World Service Forum on Domestic Disaster Ministry

A Note from the Church World Service Domestic Disaster Forum Planning Committee:

Do you have anything to say about responding to disasters?

You are invited to submit a Presentation Proposal for the 2012 Church World Service Forum on Domestic Disaster Ministry. The theme for 2012 is, “Sacred Hospitality: Compassion and Community in the Wake of Disaster." This theme grows out of the need for the faith-based community to adapt its work in the midst of economic and social change to meet humanitarian needs caused by disasters while maintaining CWS's traditional mission of serving the most vulnerable while practicing good stewardship. For more information, click here.

Flooding in Thailand

Cambodia is experiencing the worst flooding in more than a decade due to typhoons and greater-than-average rainfall. Floods are also seriously affecting neighboring Thailand. So far 315 people have died from floods and monsoon-related accidents in Thailand; more than 8.6 million persons living in 61 provinces have already been affected, CNN reports. Week of Compassion partner Church World Service staff in Thailand reports that more than 700,000 homes have been destroyed. It is very possible that the floods might cause losses of up to US $1 billion.

Efforts now focus on trying to protect the capital of Bangkok from rising flood waters, with millions of sandbags being placed in and around the city. WoC, along with CWS, is monitoring this situation and will respond accordingly. CWS is responding as a member of the ACT Alliance--specifically through ACT forum members in Thailand, which include CWS, Diakonia, Danish Church Aid, Norwegian Church Aid and the Church of Christ in Thailand, known as CCT. CWS-supported members of CCT’s team are conducting assessments, and food distribution is already beginning in Bangkok, as are the distribution of food and non-food items in Ayutthaya and Chai Nat Provinces for more than 1,200 households.

Horn of Africa Crisis

Currently, there are over 13 million people dying, starving, and being displaced in the Horn of Africa. This is a crisis like no other. It is the worst drought in 60 years and the worst famine in 20 years. Every six minutes a Somali child is dying. Every six minutes. 

In many ways this has been a neglected emergency. 

I would urge us, my Disciples, to not neglect this emergency. Too many people are in great need. We can do something about that need. Our sisters and brothers in Kenya have had no choice but to eat their own seed supplies; through CWS we are supplying them with drought-resistant seeds. We are also constructing sand dams and shallow wells in the Rift Valley and Eastern provinces of Kenya. To take a look at this work in action, I highly commend to you this beautiful video:  

                                  Click here to view video.

In Somalia and Ethiopia we are working through our ACT Alliance partners to provide significant food aid and hygiene supplies, as well as desperately needed nutritional supplements. We are also helping to supply aid to Somali refugees in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps and to those in the Ethiopian Dolo Ado camps. For a more detailed account of our ecumenical humanitarian work, visit here

There is enough for all.

Thank you for your Courageous Compassion, and for sharing your resources and literally saving lives. 

This Week's Responses

Sustainable Development and Long-Term Recovery
Botswana, capacity building
DR Congo, capacity building
Zimbabwe, pastoral leadership support
Syria, youth education and teacher training
Palestine, peace-building
Poland, education and human rights

2011 3rd Quarter Response Fund Report

The Compassion Response Fund is an allocation the Week of Compassion Advisory Committee makes each year to enable WoC to respond quickly to requests for emergencies, disasters and other urgent and unexpected needs that arise. For 2011 the WoC Committee has allocated $471,449 for the Response Fund; it is the single largest item in the WoC program budget. In addition to what is budgeted for the Response Fund, WoC receives designated gifts for the Fund and for specific disasters, countries and situations that further enhance our capacity to respond to emergency needs and appeals.

Below is a brief report of grants made from the Compassion Response Fund and other designated disaster response accounts through September 30, 2011. Contributions for the Response Fund are needed and welcomed and will be used 100% for emergency response to humanitarian needs in the world.

Africa: [104,000]
$5,000 – Angola, flood relief
$5,000 – Chad, refugee assistance
$15,000 – East Africa, drought relief
$10,000 – East Africa, assistance to returnees
$5,000 – Ethiopia, drought relief
$21,000 – Kenya, drought relief
$17,000 – Liberia/Ivory Coast, humanitarian aid
$5,000 – Madagascar, Cyclone Bingiza
$5,000 – Malawi, massive flooding
$5,000 – Somalia, drought relief
$5,000 – South Sudan, emergency preparedness
$6,000 – South Sudan, assistance to returnees

East Asia and the Pacific: [187,563]
$10,000 – Australia, flood relief
$150,063 – Japan, earthquake/tsunami
$22,500 – New Zealand, earthquake
$2,500 – Philippines, fire damage
$2,500 – South Korea, mudslides

Latin America and the Caribbean: [391,589]
$11,000 – Brazil, flood/landslide recovery
$10,000 – Colombia, flood relief
$5,000 – Dominican Republic/Haiti, Hurricane Irene damage
$150,000 – Haiti, earthquake
$50,000 – Haiti, agricultural revitalization
$60,905 – Haiti, children and youth House of Hope
$50,000 – Haiti, medical needs
$52,184 – Haiti, housing
$2,000 – Mexico, assistance to pastor’s family
$500 – Mexico/U.S., winter freeze

Middle East and Europe: [33,000]
$6,000 – Egypt, emergency assistance
$6,000 – Iraq, Iraqi refugee crisis in Lebanon
$21,000 – Libya, humanitarian aid

Southern Asia: [48,500]
$10,000 – India, Orissa floods
$5,000 – Indonesia, Mentawai Is./tsunami
$2,500 – Indonesia, assistance to displaced
$20,000 – Pakistan, flood emergency
$11,000 – Sri Lanka, flood/cyclone relief

General: [18,000]
$18,000 -- 2011 ACT Alliance Rapid Response Fund
    Cambodia/Thailand, aid to displaced
    Tanzania, bomb explosion
    Malawi, flood relief
    DRC, cholera outbreak
    Nepal, refugee camp fire
    Swaziland, drought relief
    Uganda, landslides and floods

Domestic: [265,730]
$1,000 – Alabama, storm damage
$11,250 – Alabama, tornado relief
$5,000 – Appalachia, emergency heating assistance
$295 – Arizona, resettled refugee assistance
$500 – Arkansas, flood relief
$750 – Arkansas, tornado relief
$1,750 – Florida, storm damage
$100 – Georgia, storm damage
$647 – Georgia, resettled refugee assistance
$1,000 – Georgia, church fire
$11,350 – Great River Region, pastoral care
$4,225 – Illinois, flood relief
$750 – Kansas, tornado relief
$3,450 – Kentucky, flood relief
$1,000 – Louisiana, storm damage
$1,500 – Michigan, mission station support
$200 – Mississippi, tornado relief
$1,500 – Missouri, flood relief
$42,625 – Missouri, tornado relief
$2,500 – Montana, flood relief
$750 – Nebraska, flood relief
$1,000 – New Hampshire, resettled refugee assistance
$5,000 – New Jersey, hurricane/flooding
$9,500 – North Carolina, tornado relief
$1,000 – North Carolina, church fire
$31,000 – North Carolina, hurricane relief
$2,500 – Oklahoma, fire damage
$7,750 – Oklahoma, tornado relief
$2,000 – Oklahoma, storm damage
$14,900 – Pennsylvania, flood relief
$1,700 – Tennessee, storm damage
$4,750 – Tennessee, flood relief
$750 – Texas, resettled refugee assistance
$12,750 – Texas, wildfires
$11,088 – U.S./Mexico, emergency needs
$26,000 – U.S., 2011 spring storms
$6,000 – U.S., 2011 Missouri River System Floods
$10,000 – U.S., Hurricane Irene
$1,000 – Virginia, fire damage
$8,000 – Virginia, tornado relief
$2,500 – Virginia, earthquake damage
$1,750 – Virginia, hurricane and earthquake
$1,150 – Virginia, storm damage
$5,000 – Washington, fire damage
$500 – Washington, D.C., hurricane
$5,000 – Washington, D.C., earthquake damage
$1,000 – West Virginia, storm damage

Famine Relief in East Africa

A woman stands amid tents in a refugee camp near Mogadishu, having walked for several weeks, sleeping at the homes of people on the way. ACT has provided food, water, shelter and sanitation to the new arrivals. Photo courtesy of ACT Alliance

The East African drought continues to deepen, and an estimated 13.2 million people are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. Two years of failed rains have produced the most severe drought in the region since 1950. The failure of harvests and the death of livestock have led to malnutrition rates in excess of 30 percent in most drought-stricken areas, according to the Humanitarian Aid department of the European Commission.

The availability of food continues to decline in Ethiopia and Somalia, with famine newly declared in several Somali districts. Conditions in parts of Kenya are expected to improve somewhat, if anticipated rains arrive in October. Even with rain, however, pastures in Kenya will not begin to recover until December, and crops will not be ready for harvest until January, February and March.

Because of famine and conflict in Somalia, about 25,000 refugees fled to camps around Dadaab, Kenya, in September alone. More than 444,000 Somali refugees now reside in the Dadaab camps.

Week of Compassion partner Church World Service (CWS) has expanded emergency food distributions through local partners in Kenya's Eastern Province. In Mwingi district, funds from CWS have enabled the Kitui Diocese of the Anglican Church of Kenya to distribute corn, beans, salt and cooking oil to 1,107 households so far. Many residents who are receiving food are carrying out projects to conserve topsoil and water, such as removing silt from sand dams that will store water during the next rainy season.

With support from WoC and CWS, the Kitui Diocese is also distributing drought-resistant seeds so residents can plant crops including corn, beans, cow peas and sorghum. A total of 1,400 households have received seeds so far. These distributions are necessary because families have eaten their own seed stocks out of hunger. In Kibwezi district, funds have enabled the local partner organization, Community Resource Management, to distribute food to about 100 households as of Sept. 23.

CWS continues its longstanding "Water for Life" program to develop water sources in drought-affected areas of Kenya's Rift Valley and Eastern provinces. Through this program, CWS helped construct 14 sand dams, 11 shallow wells, three borehole wells, one earthen dam and 12 rainwater tanks in 18 Kenyan communities last year. If you are a member of a congregation who has organized a “Wine into Water” fundraising event for Week of Compassion, your gifts have been directed to CWS’ “Water for Life” program—and they are already at work. 

Through our other major implementing agency in the Horn of Africa, the ACT Alliance, we are supporting organizations in providing food, water and other emergency aid in many areas of Ethiopia and Somalia, including Somali refugee camps in Kenya. ACT members active in Ethiopia include Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, Lutheran World Federation, International Orthodox Christian Charities and Christian Aid. ACT members active in Somalia include Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, Norwegian Church Aid and Lutheran World Federation.

This is a dire situation and will continue to be for the autumn and winter months. Please give generously to our sisters and brothers in need

WoC Responds to Immediate and Ongoing Relief Efforts across Asia

Radha and her husband, Poona, are among the displaced in Mirpurkhas District, Sindh. Photo: Donna Fernandes, CWS

Pakistan Flood Relief – Needs Are Urgent
Heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan are causing widespread damage, particularly in the southern province of Sindh. Some 5 million residents of Sindh have been impacted. In Sindh alone, approximately 700,000 homes have been damaged, and more than 1.7 million acres of crops are affected.

Tens of thousands of people are residing in 1,484 temporary camps. The majority of these people lack access to shelter, food, medicines and clean drinking water. This has worsened what were already serious and grave conditions of poverty. With the loss of farm fields and livestock, families have lost their sources of income to buy food. Inadequate access to health facilities is increasing concern for waterborne diseases and nutrition deficiencies. The current situation also worsens food and drinking water shortages already prevalent in rural areas.

Thus, as part of a coordinated response by members of the ACT Alliance and Church World Service, Week of Compassion is contributing to responding to the floods in Pakistan. Through CWS, we are providing food and non-food items (including food packages, kitchen sets, mosquito nets and sleeping mats), shelter kits, hygiene kits and health services.  

To donate to Pakistan relief, please visit here.

An Update: Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief
A devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck the northeastern coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, triggering a massive tsunami that washed away several coastal cities, destroyed critical infrastructure, crippled more than 7,000 businesses, and was primarily responsible for the death of a confirmed 15,776 people. In addition to the fatalities, as of Sept. 8, confirmed injured were 5,929 persons, and 4,225 are either still missing or are unaccounted for. Some 450,000 people were made homeless by the disaster. The World Bank has estimated the total economic cost of the disaster to be around $235 billion, or 4 percent of Japan’s GDP, the costliest natural disaster on record. Although Japan’s GDP is expected to rebound late in the year or early next year, some have said that Japan’s net wealth has been permanently reduced.

Infrastructure was particularly hard hit in this disaster -- 120,000 buildings-including houses, factories, offices, schools and community centers-were destroyed by the tsunami. Of these, 78,000 were washed away. A further 220,000 buildings were damaged. The hardest-hit towns along the coastal areas of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures are still struggling to recover.  Some towns saw more than half their population lost. Since moving into temporary housing from the evacuation centers, many survivors have become more susceptible to depression and alcoholism, since many of them now live alone, separated from the communities that provided them with moral and practical support. Post-traumatic stress syndrome is also a problem.

The earthquake and tsunami also destabilized the Daiichi nuclear power station in Fukushima, causing reactors to overheat and leak radiation. The nuclear crisis is still posing challenges, and the company in charge of the plant has indicated that it could take the rest of the year for them to get radiation leakage fully under control.

Through Church World Service, Week of Compassion continues to support a broad group of partners, including some of those under the umbrella grouping Japan Platform, or JPF, an international emergency humanitarian aid consortium of 32 Japanese non-governmental organizations, the business community and the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. CWS has also provided some support to the Japan Ecumenical Disaster Response Organization, known as JEDRO, which is an effort inclusive of the National Council of Churches of Japan. Through CWS, we have been able to contribute to our ecumenical efforts to provide food aid; pest control and sanitation; mud and debris clearance; psychosocial support; and support to women and children. 

Through Global Ministries East Asia and Pacific Office, Week of Compassion is also supporting efforts of the United Church of Christ Japan and the Tohoku Disaster Relief Center. The earthquake that devastated Japan and subsequently resulted in the tsunami which caused the nuclear reactor malfunctions is by far one of the most unique disaster situations to ever face the country. Thus, in addition to providing aid to the people in the Sendai area, where missionary Jeffrey Mensendiek is based, WoC is supporting Global Ministries’ efforts to purchase Geiger Counters to monitor the radiation levels in the air. The main concern is the radioactive contamination of the food in this area. To read more about this particular aspect of our response, please visit here

In addition to these relief efforts in different parts of Asia, Week of Compassion, of course, continues to respond in other places of dire need such as the Horn of Africa. We will be sending out a more thorough update, including a report from Executive Director Amy Gopp’s recent trip to East Africa, in the days to come. 

We thank you for your ongoing faith, trust, and commitment to courageous compassion. And for believing, deep down, that THERE TRULY IS ENOUGH for ALL. May it be so.

Children’s Disaster Services Training

Helping turn helplessness into hope

by Myrna Jones

Myrna Jones is the retired director of admissions, Phillips Theological Seminary, and member of Bethany Christian Church in Tulsa.

June 2, 2011. 9:00 a.m. Lisa, five years old, walked through the maze of cots in the Joplin Red Cross Shelter with her mother to the Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) child care center. Lisa’s family lost everything in the Joplin tornado, and had been living in the shelter more than a week.

As soon as her mom signed her in to our center, Lisa found me and we began our daily ritual. “It’s time for you to go to bed now," she told me as she gently led me to the corner of the child care center and directed me to lie down on blankets on the floor. She put a soft pillow under my head, covered me with soft blankets, and put a teddy bear between my arm and my chest. After getting several books from the reading center, she asked,"Which of your books would you like to hear tonight?” I chose a book, and Lisa sat beside me and “read” me the book while pausing to pat me each time she turned a page. I pretended to sleep, awaken, and then we went to play with the other children and caregivers in the centers.

We had fun with puppets, easel painting, playdough, dress-up clothes, puzzles, and many other creative opportunities that offered Lisa and the other young children in the center a therapeutic release and opportunity to play. After lunch, Lisa asked if we could “rock”. She snuggled on my lap in a rocking chair, and was immediately asleep – perhaps dreaming of the bed that she lost, and so convincingly recreated for me earlier in the day.

While Lisa, other children and their volunteer caregivers were playing in the CDS center, their parents were meeting with representatives of the American Red Cross, FEMA, Salvation Army, and other agencies who could help them with the process of rebuilding their lives out of the chaos left by the storm. When the tired parents retrieved their children from our center at the end of the day, they were a few steps closer to having a home other than the shelter that was now their refuge, and their children were full of stories about the fun they had experienced.

Lisa is just one of the thousands of children and families whose lives have been turned upside down by storms, floods, hurricanes, and other disasters. Children’s Disaster Services, a ministry of Church of the Brethren, is one of our Week of Compassion partner ministries. Working in shelters and service centers under the umbrella of Red Cross and FEMA, CDS has cared for tens of thousands of children, the ones most likely to be forgotten while adults address emergency needs after a disaster. Unfortunately, disasters continue to occur, families continue to be displaced from their homes, and children continue to need a safe and nurturing environment in which to play and learn while their parents cope with their new reality. To fill this need, more volunteer childcare givers will be needed.

I’ve been privileged to serve as a volunteer caregiver for CDS after floods in Georgia and the Joplin tornado. Few experiences in my life have given me the deep personal satisfaction and sense that I was meeting a tangible need as providing a calm, safe, and reassuring presence for these young children and their families. It has been a joy to be “on the ground” in a volunteer capacity with one of our Week of Compassion partners. If you have a warm heart, patience, team spirit, and a sense of adventure, I hope that you’ll consider attending one of the Children’s Disaster Services training sessions listed below that are scheduled in different parts of the United States this fall. The workshops train volunteers to understand and respond to children who have experienced a disaster. Following the workshop, participants will have the option of pursuing accreditation as a CDS volunteer. Accreditation involves background checks and references.

You can learn more about Children’s Disaster Services by visiting their website at www.brethren.org/cds. The video on the home page has more information about serving in a CDS center. If you’d like to visit with me about details of the training or serving as a CDS volunteer, I’d love to hear from you.

- Myrna Jones

Fall Training Information

October 7-8, 2011
5:00 p.m. Friday - 7:30 p.m. Saturday Central United Methodist Church 1013 Polte Road Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284 Contact: Local Coordinator, Sharon McDaniel - 360.724.3246, or Children’s Disaster Services office 410.635.8735 or 1.800.451.4407, option 5.

October 14 & 15, 2011
5:00 p.m. Friday - 7:30 p.m. Saturday Ben Hill United Methodist Church 2099 Fairburn Road Atlanta, Georgia Contact: Local Coordinators: Carrie Yoder, cyoder@haygoodumc.org, 770.634.3627, Mike Yoder, yoderjm@yahoo.com or the Children’s Disaster Services office 410.635.8735 or 1.800.451.4407, option 5. This workshop is in conjunction with the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. To register, please go to http://www.ngumc.org/Events/Detail/5406 or print out the registration form at the bottom of this page and send it along with the registration fee to the CDS office.

October 21 & 22, 2011
5:00 p.m. Friday - 7:30 p.m. Saturday First United Methodist Church 106 East Main Street Victor, NY 14564-1304 Contact: Local Coordinator: Dot Norsen, 585.924.7516, or the Children’s Disaster Services office 410.635.8735 or 1.800.451.4407, option 5.

November 4 & 5, 2011
5:00 p.m. Friday - 7:30 p.m. Saturday Bethany Christian Church 6730 S. Sheridan Road Tulsa, OK 74133 Contact: Local Coordinator: Myrna Jones, myrnajj@att.net, 918.749.6612, cell- 918.688.0240 or the Children’s Disaster Services office 410.635.8735 or 1.800.451.4407, option 5.

November 11-12, 2011
5:00 p.m. Friday - 7:30 p.m. Saturday Somerset Church of the Brethren 606 Berlin Plank Road Somerset, PA 15501 Contact: Local Coordinator: Paul Liepelt, 814.445.8853 or the Children’s Disaster Services office 410.635.8735 or 1.800.451.4407, option 5.

Clean-up Buckets are Needed

The United States has been greatly impacted by a vast number of domestic disasters this year. In responding, our partners at Church World Service have exhausted their supply of clean-up buckets. These kits are incredibly helpful for communities making their first steps toward normalcy. If you would like to put together one of these important tools for response, or if perhaps your youth, women's, or men's groups, would like to do so, please follow this link.

Praise be to God for your ongoing courageous compassion for all those in need.

We are so blessed to serve alongside you!

(And a special thanks to our dear friend Myrna Jones for her story in today’s update!)

Responding to Texas Wildfires

As wildfires continue to rage across Texas, Week of Compassion has been in touch with the Christian Church in the Southwest and is continuing to monitor how the wildfires are impacting communities in its path. 
We have communicated with the Southwest Regional Office, the Northeast and Bluebonnet Area Offices, and with our ecumenical partners at Church World Service, and can report the following:
  1. We stand ready to respond to any needs emerging from our congregations, whether those needs are evacuations, damage or destruction to houses, or other emerging issues affecting our congregations and their members.  Please be in touch with your Regional or Area Office to report needs, as Week of Compassion is coordinating our response through those offices.
  2. Our partners at Church World Service are currently on the ground assessing the impact of the wildfires in order to determine how best to coordinate a larger scale ecumenical response.  As soon as details emerge, Week of Compassion will work with Church World Service to respond.
  3. If you would like to reach out to those affected by the wildfires, you may do so online by partnering with Week of Compassion.  
Please keep all of those affected, in harm’s way, and all of those first responders on the front lines, in your prayers.
 
Thank you for care and concern as you respond with us.  We are beyond grateful for your Courageous Compassion.  
Thanks be to God for you all.

One Yard at a Time: Responding to Hurricane Irene

 

Rev. Hollie Woodruff serves as Chaplain to the College at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina, and advises Barton's "Campus Compassion" Student Organization. She offers this reflection on helping with local cleanup efforts.
 
Before the winds and the rains from Hurricane Irene pounded North Carolina's coast, the "Campus Compassion" student organization at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina, already had plans in place to help neighbors clean up after the storm.
 
Created through Barton College's relationship with Week of Compassion, Campus Compassion seeks to empower young adults to alleviate the suffering of others by paying attention and responding to a world in need. Its purpose is to motivate students to educate themselves about the community and world in which we live and bring about positive change. This happens through topic studies, volunteer work in the community and responding with courageous compassion to the community at large when a crisis occurs.
 
The day after the storm, I met Campus Compassion students on Barton's center campus with rakes, gloves, and water in hand as we ventured out to see how we could reach out to our neighbors and bring order back into their lives following the chaos created by Hurricane Irene.  
 
For hours we worked our way around the perimeter of campus, moving large branches to the street and raking leaves. Our work didn't seem extraordinary to us, but for those who did not have the means to do it themselves because of illness, age, or immobility, the impact of our students' help was immeasurable. It was strenuous, repetitive work on a hot, humid day, but I never heard one person complain; this is the kind of work our students of Campus Compassion look forward to.
  
When I asked our students why they chose to spend the afternoon helping, new student Crystal Weideman, shared, "I know what it's like not having a support system, and, when your home and community are affected, it's not only a lot of work and costly, but it really jolts your sense of security. That is why I am helping."  
 
And help they did. With every neighbor we met, we were given names of others needing help, and students volunteered their time not only on Sunday but also for the days that followed.  
 
During our service in the neighborhood, we saw glimpses of God's Beloved Community as we became acquainted with neighbors and each other. We met Ms. Boomer, a feisty, older woman who, although unable to work in her own yard, gave back to us by refilling our water bottles. Her gratitude was visible in her radiant smile and her excitement to just have "some young people around" as she put it. We also met Ms. Deborah, a middle aged woman who was already out cleaning her yard. She was grateful for the help and told us we "just saved her a lot of time."   
 
There are many ways to respond to natural and human disasters, but for young people who don't always have the means to contribute financially, this was a tangible way to for them to respond. "It's fun" said freshman Lisa Williams. "It's not always physically comfortable, but I have enjoyed this. I have laughed and made new friends!"    
 
Today's world requires us to be a people of response - people who come together to offer assistance in a multitude of forms to those affected by tragedies of natural and human catastrophes. Campus Compassion is inspired by the legacy of Week of Compassion, a legacy defined by its ability to immediately respond to those affected by disasters is possible because of the generosity of others. Through Campus Compassion, we hope our work and service will emulate that of Week of Compassion while encouraging and inspiring that same sense of generosity.
 
Through Barton's Campus Compassion program, we are living out not only the mission of Barton College, but also of Week of Compassion and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
 

 

Hope Rising in Joplin

There’s a lot going on in Joplin, Missouri.

That’s the first thing you notice when you drive through town. Everywhere, you see hand-painted or custom-printed signs that read “Rebuild Joplin.” A local coffee shop sports a gigantic map of the city with pushpins marking the May 22nd tornado’s path. 

There is as much work going on as there was when I first visited Joplin a few months ago, but the nature of the work is definitely shifting from immediate relief and clean-up to longer-term recovery.

First Christian Church is winding down its ministry as a distribution center for those affected by the tornado, and South Joplin Christian Church is still a construction zone, filled with a crew repairing damage throughout the building. The church's leadership is looking beyond the repairs and has started to make plans for the future. A long-term recovery committee has emerged and begun its work, and Week of Compassion partner Church World Service has helped provide support and training for the committee.

Picture taken in the days following the tornado in Joplin, MO.Geographically, Joplin sits on the Southwest edge of Missouri, a short drive from many communities in Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas with active, mission-minded Disciples churches who have provided courageous, compassionate leadership in offering relief and clean-up to tornado damage in Joplin.

Last Wednesday, I gathered with Disciples pastors from Joplin and the neighboring tri-state community, committed lay leaders and ecumenical partners, and Ozark Lakes Area Minister Dr. G. Michael Weinman to flesh out a long-term recovery plan among Week of Compassion, Disciples Volunteering, the Ozark Lakes Area, and supportive congregations. We had a great meeting, and I am happy to announce that things are in motion. 

As is almost universally the case with initiating a long-term recovery process, there are many pieces in play, including city zoning ordinances, recruiting and training disaster response case managers, and streamlining a volunteer coordination system for recovery, but, thus far, the plans are as follows:

  • Disciples Volunteering and South Joplin Christian Church will launch a mission station in Joplin sometime between November 2011 and February 2012. Neighboring churches in Neosho, MO, Pittsburg, KS, and Columbus, KS, will complement this initiative by offering additional and overflow housing for volunteers. Once the mission station opens, registration for week-long Disciples work groups will be managed by Disciples Volunteering.   
  • First Christian Church, Bentonville, Arkansas, will continue to provide housing for short term (1-3 days) volunteer work groups. Easily accessible for churches traveling from the south, FCC-Bentonville can be contacted for more details by following this link.
  • We are continuing to explore a partnership with the United Church of Christ in supporting the work of the South Joplin Christian Church Mission Station. As longstanding ecumenical partners, we’re all excited about the possibilities, and we’re working hard to make sure our policies and procedures are complementary.

As Joplin rebuilds, we are, through our partnership with Disciples Volunteering, ready to make things happen, and ready to be part of long-term, sustainable solutions. Thank you for the prayers, gifts, and hopes that you have all brought to the table, as we have prepared for this recovery. We’re looking forward to what our partnership brings forth.

For more information about Disciples Volunteering’s Disaster Response Programs in Joplin, MO, and in Tuscaloosa, AL, please visit their website

Hurricane Irene Update

Hurricane Irene has left extensive flood and wind damage from Puerto Rico to Maine, as well as causing at least 40 deaths; more than 4 million homes are still without power and more than 10,000 people are housed in FEMA shelters.

Our partners at Church World Service report that more requests are coming in for relief supplies. Most recently, the Salvation Army of North Carolina, based in Greenville, requested Baby Kits, School Kits, Health Kits and Emergency Clean-up Buckets.

The response to Hurricane Irene will rapidly deplete supplies of these emergency resources, especially Clean-Up Buckets. All efforts to replenish our supplies for future emergencies are greatly appreciated. Information on Clean-up Buckets is available at the Church World Service website.

As long-term recovery groups begin to form, CWS can provide small start-up grants to help them get started. CWS emergency response specialists are also receiving requests for assistance and providing advice on disaster recovery efforts. Specialists can be reached via the contact info at this website.

Responses Made 8/22-8/26

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Florida, storm damage
Virginia, earthquake

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
North Carolina (2), hurricane relief
Virginia (2), earthquake relief
Virginia, hurricane relief
New Jersey, flood relief
Washington, D.C., hurricane relief
Dominican Republic/Haiti, hurricane relief

After Hurricane Irene

Over the weekend, Hurricane Irene made its way across the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. As you might have gathered from media reports, while the actual damage caused by the hurricane never reached the level many feared or predicted, many folks sustained serious damage in North Carolina, and areas across the Northeast are experiencing significant flooding. Millions are without power, and the entire East Coast is tentatively making its way back to a "new normal."
 
Week of Compassion is currently working with Regional Ministries to assess needs in affected areas. We have already responded to nearly 20 families in North Carolina and Virginia, as well as provided support to help with cleanup and recovery for North Carolina's beloved Camp Caroline. We will continue to respond as we receive information.
 
Week of Compassion partner Church World Service has provided affected areas with blankets, as well as hygiene and cleanup kits. Their staff is currently on the ground, assessing damage and strategizing further ways to respond.
 
It is through your generosity that we are able to respond quickly and efficiently. If you would like to help those affected by Irene-related damage, or help us prepare for future disasters, you can contribute here
 
As always, we are so grateful for your hope, your faith, and your willingness to respond. Today, as the skies clear, we pray with you for recovery in affected areas, and give thanks that life--even in the midst of loss and tragedy--goes on.

East Coast Prepares for Hurricane Irene

Chris Herlinger of Church World Service sends the following update concerning Hurricane Irene:
 
The U.S. Eastern Seaboard braced for Hurricane Irene today, with rains generated by the storm starting to fall in North and South Carolina. The storm could affect a large swath of the East Coast, from the Carolinas up to New England. While authorities and citizens were making preparations for Irene, the National Hurricane Center downgraded the storm today from a Category 3 to a Category 2 hurricane. Authorities warn that the storm continues to be a major and dangerous threat.
 
Church World Service emergency and domestic disaster response staff will be in contact with FEMA, state Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster and existing long-term recovery groups. Likewise, in preparation for use by evacuees in shelters, CWS is providing affected areas with blankets and kits. Today, for example, CWS is sending 600 woolen blankets, 600 hygiene kits and 600 cleanup buckets to the Chesapeake (Maryland) American Red Cross, and will make more available as needs arise.
 
Contributions to disaster response efforts can be made here.

Week of Compassion Responds in the Caribbean

While Hurricane Irene is now making its way up the east coast of the United States, its effects have already been felt in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
 
According to Felix Ortiz, Global Ministries' Area Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Dominican Evangelical Church is currently responding in the towns of Cambita and San Cristobal, areas where several families have been affected. In two regions of Haiti, flooding has affected at least 435 people, displacing people, destroying crops and animals. Coordinating teams of CONASPEH, the Spiritual Council of Churches in Haiti, are assessing the situation and preparing to respond. Week of Compassion is grateful for the opportunity to partner with both CONASPEH and the DEC, offering support through Global Ministries to both responses.
 
While we all remain concerned about what may happen as Irene makes landfall, we continue to pray and prepare. We are counting on your Courageous Compassion and partnership should needs arise. Thank you for being part of this ministry, and for making your compassion a real, tangible force in the midst of fear and uncertainty.

Surviving the Drought: Preparing for the Next One

Women carry stones to build a sand dam in Kibauni, Kenya. Church World Service and its partners are helping drought-stricken communities build sand dams, which hold water in the sandy beds of seasonal streams. Photo by George Arende.

Tim Shenk is a communications officer with Church World Service, one of Week of Compassion's trusted implementing partners. He is currently on assignment in Kenya, reporting on the drought that is ravaging East Africa. He sends back this report.
 
As you drive east from Nairobi, the Kenyan countryside becomes progressively drier. Long grass becomes yellow and eventually disappears. Bare, reddish soil is all you can see in the barren fields.

This is the East African drought, a vast disaster stretching across Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and beyond. Two years with scarcely any rain has withered fields and pastures, putting more than 12 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

In Kaikungu, a rural community of about 6,500 people in the Mwingi district, Eastern province, spiky green sisal plants are about the only crop that survives. In normal years, farmers grow plenty of peas, corn, beans and sorghum, but the drought has forced the community to seek food aid.

evertheless, local farmers are working hard to become self-sufficient. Since 2007, humanitarian workers from Week of Compassion partner Church World Service and the Anglican Church of Kenya have been helping the community build structures to capture and store water.

These include a borehole well, two concrete tanks filled from a hilltop water catchment and six "sand dams," which hold water in seasonal streambeds under a thick layer of sand.

If not for these water points, life in the community would be far more difficult. Local people walk anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to fetch water, instead of the grueling, daylong treks people make in other drought-affected communities.

Water has made it possible for some families to grow vegetable gardens and to keep a few livestock long into the drought. Jessica Mutinda, 28, told me that without local water points, her family's four cattle, 10 goats, four sheep and two donkeys would already be dead.

Because of water points, relief workers can report that severe malnutrition is still rare in Kaikungu, but the same cannot be said for the rest of Mwingi district.

 Women in Kibauni, Kenya, wait for a food distribution to begin. Photo by George Arende.

On August 15, 250 local people gathered in Kaikungu to dig silt out of the community's sand dams, restoring their capacity to hold water. To support their work and meet immediate needs, Church World Service and the Anglican Church of Kenya provided packages of corn, beans, salt and cooking oil to each participant. The food will last their families about a week, and weekly distributions are planned for the next five months.

Click here to view video.

The next rains should come in October, with another six months until crops can be harvested. These seasonal rains cannot come too early for the millions of people in this region who depend on rainwater for subsistence. In Kaikungu, at least, it might not be too late.

Want to help respond to the famine in East Africa? Join our movement of Courageous Compassion by following this link.

Responses Week of 8/15-19

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Oklahoma, storm damage relief
Haiti, earthquake relief and recovery
Japan, earthquake/tsunami
Kenya/Horn of Africa, drought and famine