Church members pray for Haiti, lost friends at vigil

By Derek Maul | Jan. 17, 2010 {1123}

TAMPA — The Hartle family slipped into the sanctuary at Wellspring United Methodist Church and sat at the back. The two boys were restless, but settled down when the first words were spoken and the congregation rose to sing an opening song.

Tim and Angela Hartle and their two boys, Mason (left) and Max, were among the members and guests gathered to pray for Haiti earthquake victims and survivors. Photo by Derek Maul. Photo #10-1365.

The evening had been feeling rushed, Tim and Angela Hartle said, with errands and games and homework and certainly no time for church. So they thought about it and decided such frenetic conditions made it exactly the right time to be there.

“My wife said it would be a great idea to remember those who lost their families and all their possessions,” Tim said.

“We were busy, and the kids were tired, and Max was having a fit because he wanted to play with his friends,” Angela said. “So we came tonight to think about people with way worse things to worry about.”

After a song, Tyler Hettich, Wellspring’s director of student ministries, invited the congregation to a time of open prayer. “Just speak the names of people you know out loud,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do other than pray.”

“I’ve been to Haiti twice,” Hettich said after the vigil. “I have friends there. My heart goes out. I feel helpless. Prayer is what I can do now.”

About 25 to 30 people gathered in Wellspring’s candle-lit sanctuary Jan. 14 simply to pray for the people of Haiti, take an offering and share some of the world’s great pain.

The Rev. Craig Hammond, senior pastor at Wellspring, and his wife, the Rev. Dionne Hammond, associate pastor at East Lake United Methodist Church in Palm Harbor, led the vigil. The two congregations have an active partnership with Zamar Ministries in Haiti and sent a combined team to the country in November 2009.

“We were primarily in Croix de Bouquets (six miles east of Port-au-Prince), working with a member from Faith Haitian Mission UMC in Tampa,” Dionne Hammond said. “Because we were just there, and Croix de Bouquets was so devastated, we all are feeling very overwhelmed about the situation. … I heard today that many people at the church where we preached have died and their bodies are in the street. That thought is just horrible.”

During the vigil, Craig read from Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. …”

Members and guests lit candles for victims and survivors. Photo by Derek Maul. Photo #10-1366.

Rebecca Preston and Naomi Williams attend a local Baptist congregation. “We’ve both been to Haiti,” Preston said. “We care about the people.”

“It’s devastating; there are so many people we’ve come to love,” Williams added. “That country needs Jesus so bad. I pray that God will move in a powerful way. Haiti has been (on) my heart for a long time.”

At the end of the vigil, a PowerPoint display of Haiti, it’s people and the devastation was shown during communion. Afterward, each participant lingered at the table to light a small candle.

“The images left me feeling: ‘What can I do? I’m just one person. …’ ” Craig said. “But we are to literally become the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. In Matthew 25 Jesus said, ‘That was me; you did it to me.’ ”

Wellspring member Cindy Ash said she attended the prayer vigil to connect in some way with the greater community of faith. “I wanted to see what ways I could help,” she said, “any way I could help.”

Give, prepare, plan

Churches and individuals can help by raising funds for relief efforts and giving to either the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) or the Methodist Church of Haiti. General humanitarian aid is being provided by UMCOR through its Gifts to Advance Special #418325. Every dollar UMCOR receives for this Advance goes directly to help the people of Haiti. Checks, with #418325 in the memo line, can be mailed to UMCOR at P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087, or dropped in church offering plates. Donations can also be made online at http://new.gbgm-umc.org/.

The Rev. Craig Hammond lights a candle for victims and survivors. Photo by Derek Maul. Photo #10-1367.

Monetary donations may also be sent to the Methodist Church in Haiti. Every dollar collected will go directly to the Methodist Church in Haiti to help rebuild lives and buildings. Checks may be made payable to “FAC Treasurer,” with “2010 Methodist Church in Haiti Relief, #100190” in the memo line. Individuals may send checks directly to the Florida Conference at 1140 McDonald Street, Lakeland, FL 33801. Florida Conference United Methodist churches may send these checks through their normal apportionment giving channels, utilizing lock-box #207.
 
Churches can also consider preparing and sending health kits for short- and long-term recovery efforts to Sager-Brown, the UMCOR depot in Louisiana. Information on making kits is available at
http://www.umcor.org.

It is unsafe for mission teams to enter Haiti now, but churches can begin planning now to sponsor or send a United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) team later in the year to assist in disaster recovery and humanitarian aid. Churches may visit the UMVIM Web site at http://www.umvim.org for updates or to register a team to go to Haiti. The Southeastern Jurisdiction UMVIM ministry is also collecting contact information at http://www.umvim.org/haiti for individuals interested in traveling to Haiti. Contacts listed there will be activated as soon as UMVIM has news about the possibility of scheduling trips to Haiti.

The General Board of Discipleship is offering prayers, hymns and liturgies for use during worship services at http://www.gbod.org/worship/.
 
More information about the United Methodist response is available at http://www.umc.org, http://
www.umcor.org, http://www.umvim.org and http://www.flumc.org.

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News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011, tparham@flumc.org, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Maul is an author and freelance writer based in Valrico, Fla.


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