Church offering will buy food, medicine for thousands of tsunami survivors



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Church offering will buy food, medicine for thousands of tsunami survivors

Jan. 19, 2005    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0231}

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

CAPE CORAL — Emotion like a tidal wave washed over the Rev. Jorge Acevedo when he learned of his parishioners’ generosity following a special offering for tsunami victims.

The offering, collected Jan. 2, totaled $35,000.
 
“I was just absolutely blown away,” Acevedo said. “I wept.”

Acevedo is pastor of Grace United Methodist Church here. He initiated the special offering one week after one of the worst natural disasters in modern history struck southeastern Asia. Before the earthquake and tsunami hit the region Dec. 26, Acevedo’s church had already partnered with a ministry in India called Hope for Today, led by Peter Pereira. Pereira and his wife, Esther, are missionary partners with Grace United Methodist Church.
 
For the past four years, Grace church members have sent monthly support money to Hope for Today, as well as helped fund the building of five churches in Hyderabad, India, according to Acevedo. The Hope for Today ministry serves as many spiritual and physical needs as possible, such as maintaining an orphanage and providing food. Additionally, three mission teams from Grace church have traveled to India in the last three years. The most recent team returned Dec. 14 from a two-week trip led by Acevedo.
 
Acevedo learned about the tsunami during a break in worship services Dec. 26. After worship ended that morning, he returned home to watch television reports.
 
“I was just blown away by the devastation,” Acevedo said.
 
By the next morning, Acevedo connected with Pereira by telephone. He asked Pereira about his needs, and Pereira spelled them out in a letter.

“We need your help,” Pereira’s letter read. “ … Since you were not too long ago in India, you may understand the need much better.”

In short, Pereira responded with the hope that members of Grace church would supply five days of basic food and medicine for 5,000 needy Indian families. He estimated the cost would be about $29,000 in U.S. dollars.

Acevedo took action immediately by sending out an “e-card” to his regular mailing list — about 2,000 church members and friends. He pleaded for their assistance.

“I invited people to give and just give generously,” Acevedo said.

He included some of the text of Pereira’s letter in his e-card, as well as his own plea for help.

“I am asking you to step up to the plate,” Acevedo wrote. “Let’s pray for those devastated by this tragedy, and let’s also help them.”

Acevedo requested church members raise the full $29,000 needed. To put that number into a different perspective, Acevedo noted a typical Sunday offering generates about $25,000.

By the time the special offering was counted, church staff told Acevedo $35,000 was collected for Hope for Today.

“When they told me that that mission offering was $35,000, I was just tremendously grateful to be part of a kingdom-minded church doing kingdom-minded stuff,” Acevedo said.

Soon after the initial offering, the local newspaper and several local television stations picked up the story about the offering without any effort on the part of Grace church members or staff. The publicity led other churches to inquire about giving, and an additional $25,000 was collected.
 
The generous giving came from adults and children alike. The church received more than $100 from the children’s church offering alone, Acevedo said. A typical weekly offering from the children is $5 to $10.

One third-grader, who was reluctant to give her $1 soda-machine money, went home from church and prayed all week about what she should give, Acevedo said. By the following week, she had her answer.
 
“She felt like she should give her piggy bank,” he said. “She gave $31.”
 
The sacrificial giving Acevedo witnessed prompted him to write another letter to church friends and family thanking them for their generosity and urging them to pray for the survivors.
 
“Each dollar given translates into food, medicine, clothing and other relief offered in the name of Jesus,” Acevedo wrote. “No act of kindness done in His name returns without some result.”
 
All of the money collected is being wired to Hope for Today, Acevedo said. It will be used mostly for food, medicine and clothing.

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Cash gifts will help United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) continue to support local relief efforts in the South Asia disaster area, as well as other regions. Checks can be mailed to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. One hundred percent of every donation to any appeal, including “South Asia Emergency,” UMCOR Advance #274305, goes to support recovery efforts in the disaster-stricken regions.

Donors using a credit card may call toll free 800-554-8583 or give online at MethodistRelief.org. The Internal Revenue Service will allow donors to decide whether to apply tsunami relief contributions to the 2004 or 2005 tax years, as long as the gift designated for 2004 is made by Jan. 31.

This article relates to Disaster Relief.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Viera, Fla.




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