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Ukraine a top priority for Global Ministries (UM News)

October 21, 2022

The United Methodist Committee on Relief has processed more than $17 million so far to help the people of Ukraine cope with the invasion by Russia, said its top executive during the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries’ fall board meeting.

At the meeting, held virtually Oct. 18-21, the agency announced plans for additional assistance for partners working in Ukraine and a $3.9 million increase in funding for U.S. conference disaster ministry programs in 2023. The last day’s agenda was devoted to reports to the board from various committees.  

A name change for National Justice for Our Neighbors also was revealed and participants heard passionate speeches touting the global mission of The United Methodist Church. 

“The response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine (including) funding from the UMC and other donors has been phenomenal,” said Roland Fernandes, top executive of Global Ministries and the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Through the end of August, he said, $23.2 million had been received.

More than $640,000 in additional aid was approved during the meeting for expenses including providing legal representation to refugees from the war who are now in Poland, construction of “tiny homes” for people living in shelters in western Ukraine and providing food, hygiene, winterization kits and evacuation assistance. 

About 1.4 million people have asked for temporary protection in Poland, where many of the 7.1 million refugees from the Ukraine war have fled. More than $192,000 in grant money will go to the European Lawyers in Lesvos organization.

“The purpose of the project is to provide high-quality legal information and assistance to refugees arriving from Ukraine in order to help them obtain temporary protection, answer their legal queries and navigate the legal procedures in Poland,” according to the grant request.

Other grants approved during the meeting include:

  • $2.5 million for U.S. conference disaster ministry programs in the North Georgia, Pacific-Northwest, Texas, North Texas and California-Nevada conferences.
  • Nearly $1.1 million for the Bishop John K. Yambasu Agriculture Initiative that is working to launch self-sustaining food production in African countries including Nigeria, Mozambique, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
  • More than $2.8 million to support multiethnic ministries, including a grant to Philander Smith College;
  • $99,975 to provide food, hygiene items and other supplies to people affected by displacement in Kananga, central Congo;
  • More than $64,000 to promote global mission relationships in Venezuela, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Congo, Bolivia, Côte d’Ivoire, Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Angola; and
  • More than $45,000 for support of Korean United Methodist churches.

Sparked largely by the war in Ukraine, Global Ministries and UMCOR had donations and receipts of $59.1 million in the first eight months of 2022. That’s up from $30.2 million in the same period last year. Donations to the Advance fund, which allows givers to designate their money to go to a specific cause, jumped to $47.2 million in gifts as of August 2022. This is $29.5 million more than gifts received in August 2021.  

“For the UMCOR Advance project, granting has increased to $15.2 million through August compared to the prior year,” said Mike Gurick, chief financial officer of Global Ministries and UMCOR. 

In addition to the Ukraine war, Gurick said recovery from the Haiti earthquake, tornadoes in Tennessee and Kentucky and other disasters affecting conferences in New Jersey, Michigan and western states have all sparked donations to UMCOR.

“The abundance of disasters and their severity has called us to increase the volume of emergency solidarity grants, while at the same time increasing the magnitude of both relief and recovery grants,” it was reported in the UMCOR Program Board Report. “This expanded granting activity, throughout all program areas, has forced us to look carefully at embracing new systems to enhance both the effectiveness and efficiency of our grant-making processes.”