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Church offers opportunities to help children affected by tsunami

 


Church offers opportunities to help children affected by tsunami

Feb. 1, 2005

A UMNS Report
By Barbara Dunlap-Berg and Kathy Noble*

Countless thousands of children were left homeless, orphaned or traumatized after the Dec. 26 tsunami slammed into 12 countries around the Indian Ocean.

As the children struggle to survive, they become even more vulnerable.

Deciding how to respond to a tragedy of such proportions can be daunting. The United Methodist Committee on Relief has raised more than $6 million as of Jan. 25 for tsunami relief, and since a large percentage of the survivors are children, those funds will provide immediate and long-term help to many of them. Beyond that, the church offers other programs that more specifically minister to children.

"United Methodists believe each child of God is special," says the Rev. William T. Carter, director of the Advance for Christ and His Church, a denominational giving program that supports missions and ministries around the globe. "Our denomination is in ministry with children worldwide, and some of our most compelling work is in Asia and Africa."

As soon as they saw the heart-wrenching photographs, people around the world began considering whether or not they might be able to adopt one or more of the children.

"The first reality is that none of the children are ready for adoption," said Debbie Robinson, executive director of Miriam’s Promise, an adoption agency in Nashville, Tenn. Her agency is related to the United Methodist Church’s Tennessee Annual (regional) Conference.

"The last thing they need is to be swept up by a wave of well-meaning people moving them from their country," she said.

The affected countries are also taking steps to protect the children. According to news reports, both Indonesia and Sri Lanka have banned the adoption of tsunami orphans for the time being. India requires the consent of orphaned children to be adopted.

Robinson urges prospective adoptive parents to allow time for legitimate, established agencies to provide the right process. The adoption community fears the emergence of "black market" agencies providing illegal adoptions and "under the table" adoptions that actually force children into prostitution or other kinds of human trafficking,

Moreover, while many children lost one or both parents in the disaster, they are now living with other relatives and family members.

What about sponsoring a child? "The United Methodist Church has a deliberate policy not to have such programs because they are expensive and often detrimental to children," Carter said. They cost money to advertise, to coordinate a process to help sponsors select a particular child, to send photos of that child and to hire translators to translate the child’s letters.

A missionary who volunteered at an orphanage recalled that when an "adopted" child received gifts from a sponsor, other children became jealous and sad because they weren’t "special enough" to have a sponsor.

"When persons give through the Advance to a children’s ministry," Carter continued, "they share their love with many children. Another plus is that 100 percent of every gift will go to the children’s ministry the giver selects."

"Partnership in Missions: Catalog of General Advance Specials 2005" lists more than 2,000 projects worldwide. Copies of the free resource are available by calling (888) 346-3862 and asking for product number 100082. The catalog includes dozens of ministries with children in more than 100 countries.

Some of them, listed with their Advance numbers, include:

  1. Childhood Immunization, Global (982400) — Programs combating communicable childhood disease in developing countries.
  2. Children, Poverty and Violence, Global (14680A) — Ministries addressing diverse issues affecting children and providing advocacy to ensure children’s full human rights.
  3. Children’s Ministries, Regional, Africa (101225) — Food, clothing, education and medical assistance.
  4. Children’s Ministries, Regional, Asia/Pacific (201225) — Food, clothing, medical assistance and school fees.

Contributions may be sent through a local United Methodist church or annual conference or by mailing a check to: Advance GCFA, P.O. Box 9068, GPO, New York, NY 10087-9068. Write the check payable to "Advance GCFA" and include the project name and code number on the memo line. Call (888) 252-6174 to give by credit card. More details are available online at gbgm-umc.org/advance.

"Through the Advance for Christ and His Church," Carter concluded, "every gift makes a difference — and no gift is too small."

In addition, donations to UMCOR’s "South Asia Emergency" relief efforts can be placed in local church offering plates or sent directly to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Designate checks for UMCOR Advance #274305 and "South Asia Emergency." Donations also can be made online at www.methodistrelief.org or by calling (800) 554-8583.

*Dunlap-Berg is an account executive for the Connectional Giving Team and Noble is editor of Interpreter magazine. Both are units of United Methodist Communications, the parent agency of United Methodist News Service.

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