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United Methodists pass plate for Ukraine (UM News)

April 5, 2022

From baking pound cakes to pounding drums in benefit concerts, United Methodists have been raising funds to help Ukrainians whose lives have been upended by the Russian invasion of their country.

There have been big individual gifts, too — notably $100,000 from a Korean American United Methodist.

In the six weeks since the Russian invasion began, the United Methodist Committee on Relief already has received more than $5 million for aid to displaced persons in Ukraine and refugees arriving in neighboring counties.

UMCOR has so far distributed $2 million, helping to provide food, water, medicine, shelter, transportation and other services for those on the run.

The agency is preparing for a long-haul effort, given that some 4 million Ukrainians have fled the country and a prolonged siege would certainly swell that number.

“Humanitarian response for people displaced by war or natural disasters requires careful action to alleviate immediate suffering and also to lay the groundwork for the building of communities,” said Roland Fernandes, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and UMCOR. “UMCOR has an excellent track record in pulling together resources to cover extended needs.”

Fernandes personally accepted a $100,000 donation from an anonymous woman from the Korean Church of Atlanta, which is in the Atlanta suburb of Duluth. Bishop Young Jin Cho, interim pastor of the church, delivered the check on March 30.

The woman wrote Fernandes a letter noting that the plight of Ukraine reminded her of the Korean War, in which her father fled North Korea as a boy and received a helping hand in South Korea from a Methodist pastor.  

“It is my family’s hope and prayer that this gift can extend the church’s reach for providing aid — just a little bit more,” she said of the donation.

Apart from her gift, the Korean Church of Atlanta has collected more than $37,000 for Ukrainian relief.

Meanwhile, examples of United Methodists raising funds for that cause are mounting, and surely the youngest is 9-year-old Smith Wilson.

His mother, Emily Wilson, said the boy paid close attention as their pastor, the Rev. Ashley Jenkins of Senoia United Methodist Church in Senoia, Georgia, spoke in a worship service about the plight of Ukrainians and about UMCOR as a vehicle for response.

“He said, ‘Mom, I want to do something. I want to help,’” Emily Wilson said.

Smith would go on to make a presentation in church, inviting people to sample pound cakes that he would sell for $18, to raise money for UMCOR’s Ukraine response.

Pound cakes are a Wilson family specialty, and the whole family — including Smith’s three older brothers and especially their grandparents — has been involved in the baking, selling and delivery of pound cakes and icebox cookies.

“We’ve made and sold over 190 pound cakes,” Emily Wilson said. “One day I sifted 48 pounds of flour.”

The donation tally for the Smith-led effort stands at about $3,700. 

At St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas, the shocking reports of bombed-out cities in Ukraine, as well as the resulting flood of refugees, made an impression that led to quick action.

The church’s traditional worship director, Taylor Davis, decided a benefit concert could be pulled together quickly. He drew on the church’s chancel choir, but also on instrumentalists from the area, including players from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Fort Worth Symphony.

The evening concert drew about 500 people from the church and the broader community, despite a tornado warning that night. Between ticket sales and donations, the concert raised more than $57,000.

Donations are still coming in, but Jones said the money would be delivered to UMCOR soon.