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Conference continues commitment to Haiti

Conference continues commitment to Haiti

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference continues commitment to Haiti

By Jenna De Marco | May 11, 2010 {1171}

The Rev. Beth Fogle-Miller has done something thousands of others have wanted to do since the earthquake in Haiti Jan. 12: visit the devastated country and see what can be done to help its people rebuild and recover.

A crucifix stands amid the rubble of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. Photo #10-1437. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery.

Fogle-Miller is director of Florida Conference Connectional Ministries. The goal of the early May trip, she said prior to leaving, was to strengthen the bond between the Florida Conference and Methodist Church of Haiti, which is led by President Gesner Paul. The two groups have been bound together since 2006, when the Haiti/Florida Covenant was established.

“My mission agenda … is to work on building that relationship,” Fogle-Miller said. “The leadership has changed (since the covenant began), and we need the opportunity to spend some time together.”

Fogle-Miller also planned to connect with leaders from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM). Top officials of UMCOR and UMVIM have been stationed in Haiti since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake occurred.

“Our desire in responding to this disaster is to … truly coordinate all the different players to a much greater degree than we have ever before,” Fogle-Miller said.

Other Florida United Methodists accompanied Fogle-Miller, including the Rev. Phil Roughton, lay leaders from Christ Church United Methodist in Ft. Lauderdale and the Rev. Montreuil Milord, chairman of the Haiti/Florida Covenant and pastor at South Dade Haitian Mission in Leisure City.

The team planned to explore a long-term venture between Christ Church and an international nonprofit organization.
“(This partnership) has the possibility of being a win-win, but it’s not a done deal yet,” Fogle-Miller said.

Conference considers covenant, names partnership

While January’s earthquake altered the lives of thousands of Haitians, it also created countless service possibilities. The time is ripe to revisit the ministry occurring through the covenant relationship, Fogle-Miller said.

The goal is to respond well to the disaster and, at the same time, build a “working partnership” that strengthens both the Florida Conference and Methodist Church of Haiti, Fogle-Miller said. This goal potentially includes honoring ministries that some churches previously had established, though these projects may be unrelated to the covenant.

While visiting Carrenage, Haiti, in October 2008, team members from First United Methodist Church in Homosassa Springs were able to spend time getting to know area schoolchildren. File photo courtesy of Patience Nave. Photo #09-1082. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #0961, 1/12/09. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery.

“Our work (in Haiti) will include the covenant as a sort of a centerpiece, but it will not be limited to that because there are so many places that have an existing relationship. And we trust that in God’s providence, there will be enough (resources) to go around,” Fogle-Miller said.

The Florida/Haiti Redevelopment Partnership is the working title for this perspective, according to the Rev. Dionne Hammond, pastor at East Lake United Methodist Church in Tampa. The group encompasses members from the Haiti/Florida Covenant team, the Haitian Committee on Ministry, Florida Conference Disaster Recovery Ministry, and the conference UMVIM coordinator, Hammond said.

By forming the partnership, “we’re trying to write a new chapter,” she said, between the conference and the Methodist Church of Haiti that includes more communication and inclusion of UMCOR and UMVIM efforts.

The partnership members already identified about seven places in Haiti where the conference has been “working diligently,” Hammond said. The group is evaluating how to balance the progress in those areas, as well as build bridges with the other United Methodist organizations.

Recent leadership meetings in the conference reflected “a spirit of wanting to make all the efforts count” by effectively organizing the aid, Fogle-Miller said.

Leaders offer ways to help

People who want to continue to help Haiti can choose from a variety of methods, including activities inside and outside The United Methodist Church. For maximum effectiveness, Fogle-Miller emphasized service “within the existing system, in so far as we can.”

Signs requesting help were a common sight in damaged areas of Port-au-Prince after the earthquake. A UMNS photo by Mike Dubose. Photo #10-1392. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #1135, 02/03/10. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery.

Making a financial contribution to UMCOR is an ideal way to help, according to Pam Garrison, manager of the conference disaster recovery ministry.

“If what they want to do is provide resources, the very best resource they can provide is money,” Garrison said. “Money can help with whatever resources (the people) need, instead of limiting the resources.”

Donations can be sent to the Florida Conference and designated Florida Conference Advance Special #100190 or to UMCOR (details available at

As of April 16, donations to UMCOR for Haiti were nearly $20 million, according to the organization’s website. Meanwhile, donations to the Methodist Church of Haiti through the Florida Conference totaled $125,850, said Craig Smelser, conference controller.

Another option for churches is to make layette sets and health kits, sending them to Sager Brown, the UMCOR depot in Louisiana. Guidelines are available at

“We’re still hearing stories about women giving birth in tent cities, so … layette kits are definitely needed,” Garrison said.

Other volunteers are eager to serve on the ground in Haiti and registering their desire at Garrison estimates about 3,000 people have already submitted their names.

Sue Macchiarella, Florida Conference chairwoman for UMVIM, urged interested parties to follow the UMVIM process for sending teams, rather than going solo. Top reasons include UMVIM’s protocol for safe travel and not overloading an already busy disaster situation. Food, water and lodging resources are still limited, she said.

“We need to be an asset and not a detriment,” she said.

New guidelines also are in place to help ensure teams have effective and safe trips, according to Macchiarella and Garrison. They are available at

A Haitian congregant of St. Martin Methodist Church in Port-au-Prince prays during an outdoor worship service. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. Photo #10-1394. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #1135, 02/03/10. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery.

“We just really want them to be informed and trained going down there,” Macchiarella said.

That includes receiving team leader training — a requirement through UMVIM. More information about training is available by contacting Machiarella at

Containers send scarce goods

A desire to do something tangible prompted others to help by sending goods through large containers, according to the Rev. Timothe Jacques, chairman of the Haitian Committee on Ministry. Both non-Haitian and Haitian congregations contributed to container efforts in Tampa, Miami-Dade and Ft. Pierce communities.

“The Haitians (here) understand the Haitian culture well, and so they believe that (by) providing some of the items — like food especially — they can be very helpful,” Jacques said.

The 40-foot containers include such staples as beans and rice, water, medical supplies, clothing, tents, solar lamps and candles. A few conference clergy have traveled to Haiti, or will travel there soon, to assist with distribution.

At least one container was delivered to Petit Goâve to provide assistance to an area near Port-au-Prince, Jacques said. Financial contributions covered the cost of sending the containers, Jacques said.

“Now, it’s not easy. It’s quite expensive, but it’s worth doing because it helps a lot,” Jacques said.

At New Life United Methodist Church in Ft. Lauderdale, where Jacques serves as pastor, a new collection drive has begun. More information is available by contacting Jacques at

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News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

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