United Methodists can help during food crisis

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

United Methodists can help during food crisis

July 22, 2008   News media contact: Tita Parham*
tparham@flumc.org  Orlando {0887}

NOTE: See related story, “Medical mission trip to Haiti offers needed help during crisis,” at: http://www.flumc2.org/FCNN/articles/000049/004975.htm

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

Escalating food prices and shortages sparked violent protests in Haiti in early April, just days after a Florida Conference-based team returned from a medical mission trip through the Haiti/Florida Covenant.

School children in Ibo Beach, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, eat food provided by Stop Hunger Now and funded by the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Founded in 1998 by the Rev. Ray Buchanan, a United Methodist minister from Virginia, the organization has provided more than $44 million in direct aid to more than 60 countries, including more than 5 million meals for the poor. A UMNS photo courtesy of Stop Hunger Now. Photo #08-0941.

It’s just one more struggle for the country, which has suffered years of political unrest and upheaval.

There is a way for Florida Conference congregations to help during this current crisis, however, said Icel Rodriguez, associate director of the Florida Conference’s mission and justice ministries. 

Rodriguez points to two ministries under the Advance for Christ and His Church identified by Raphael Dessieu, president of the Haiti District of The Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas.

One is the “School Hot Lunch Program” (Advance #418790), which is supported by the United Methodist Committee on Relief. It provides one nutritious meal per day for school children. The Methodist Church of Haiti considers this its greatest need, Rodriguez said.

The second Advance is called “La Gonave Development Fund” (Advance #418625). It helps develop self-sustaining food production by local farmers. The Methodist Church of Haiti uses a variety of developmental and educational programs to reach out to people on the island, helping them improve their standard of living.

In an e-mail to Rodriguez before the medical mission trip in March, Dessieu described some of the educational, health, agricultural and school lunch ministries of The Methodist Church in Haiti.
“We strongly believe that with some level of education an individual can chose to stay where he/she is or to transform his/her life,” Dessieu said. “As such, a lot of emphasis and input is being placed into scholarship assistance to many of our children. This is done with the hope that one day they will become better citizens and join with others in the battle of transforming the lives of their own families and the communities from which they come.”
Closely connected to the educational programs is the school lunch program.

“Through (school lunch) program … many of our children in the Methodist schools throughout Haiti benefit from a hot meal while attending school, but those who are not a part of our school system do not benefit.” Dessieu said by e-mail. “Every day we see the evidence of hunger around us, but with our limited resources we cannot help as much as we would like to.

“In our view, the distribution of food is a mid-term arrangement and very often can become dangerous, dangerous in the sense that when you cannot satisfy all those who are in need, it results in anger and frustrations.”

Desseui says the economic situation and high rates of unemployment and illiteracy contribute to the hunger problem. He suggests that any help from outside groups strive to eliminate hunger, rather than reduce it.

“That is why we recommend that you support the ongoing education program,” he said. “So that in the future we can surely eliminate poverty not only in Haiti, but around the world by educating our children.”

Florida United Methodists can also help through the Haiti/Florida Covenant, signed at the 2006 Florida Annual Conference. Rodriguez says the covenant relies heavily on “United Methodist volunteers and missions going there and offering their services, whether that is medical or construction.”

The Rev. Montreuil Milord, chairman of the covenant task force and pastor of South Dade Haitian Mission in Homestead, said United Methodists were pledging their support for Haiti, even before he left on the medical mission trip.

“People (are) calling me from all over the country — Virginia, Washington — saying, ‘What can we do in Haiti,’ and I am very happy to be part of that,” Milord said.

Rodriguez said future mission opportunities through the covenant will be developed and coordinated at the local church level. Individuals interested in mission opportunities may contact Milord at mfmpastor@cs.com or Rodriguez at 800-282-8011, extension 182, or irodriguez@flumc.org.

Contributions to the Advances may be made by sending a check made payable to Florida Conference Treasurer, with the advance number indicated in the memo line, to Florida Conference Treasurer, P.O. Box 3767, Lakeland, FL 33802.


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

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