Bridge of Love Offering to aid displaced people near and far

May 23, 2016
Photo by Paul Jeffrey for United Methodist News Service
When he landed on the Greek island of Lesbos on Oct. 30, 2015, Nabil Minas, a refugee from Syria, carried his children through the water and left them on the shore, then fell on his face and kissed the ground. A Christian, he crossed himself and covered his face with his hands, weeping with joy. Full story: http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/seeking-refuge-across-the-sea
Submitted by Betsy Keyack
Rocky Mountain Conference Board of Global Ministries


Each year, the Rocky Mountain Conference Board of Global Ministries sponsors the Bridge of Love Offering at the Annual Conference Session. This is a free-will offering available to all churches in the conference. This year, the offering will benefit displaced people internationally and in our region.
 
Half of the offering will go to United Methodist Committee on Relief’s Global Refugee/Migration program (ADVANCE #3022144).

United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is entering its sixth year of helping Syrian refugees who were forced to flee their war-torn homes. UMCOR, through its international partners, is assisting those displaced within Syria and those who have fled to other countries, such as Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Armenia, Turkey and Greece.

So far, UMCOR has provided more than $3.5 million in emergency assistance to confront the crises in both Syria and Iraq since 2011. It has provided emergency food supplies, health care, shelter, psychosocial support, education support and mine removal. This aid includes nearly $900,000 in relief supply kits, including hygiene, school, layette and birthing kits.
 
In a district north of Damascus, UMCOR is working with a trusted regional partner, International Blue Crescent, to supply about 1000 displaced families with urgently needed food packages. One of these beneficiaries is Aise, who is 7 years old. In Lebanon, UMCOR is working through the Middle East Council of Churches to provide refugees with food and hygiene kits. UMCOR is working similarly in other countries.

Since the civil war broke out in 2011, more than 250,000 people have been killed; 4.5 million people have fled the country; and 7.6 million people have been displaced within Syria. In just the first two months of 2016, more than 120,000 refugees and migrants already had crossed the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Greece — a popular escape route for Syrians — according to the International Organization for Migration. Of them, 321 died in the crossing, including 77 children.

The work of UMCOR and its partners continues on, making a difference to children like Aise in their families’ struggle for life. With your help, we are all carrying out the compassion, mercy and justice that Jesus modeled for us.

The remainder of the Bridge of Love offering will go to three ministries in our region that are helping displaced people, such as people who have recently been released from prison; those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless; refugees; and Native Americans.

Denver Urban Matters (DenUM)
 
Denver Urban Matters (DenUM) is committed to connecting folks to a variety of resources that increase their self-sufficiency. For those who access DenUM's Employment Services Center, the challenges to finding long-term employment are daunting. Many are recently released from prison or jail and have felony convictions on their record. In addition to finding employment, they are also trying to rebuild their lives—find housing, reconnect with family and friends, access resources — all while meeting the terms of their probation or parole.

In employment services, DenUM helps decrease the worry, anxiety and stress many feel as they work to get back on their feet. In addition to being a dependable ear and reliable resource, their staff offers resume and computer help, mock interviews, hygiene kits, access to technology, and referrals to other organizations.
 
In 2014 DenUM began participation in the Breakthrough Career Pathways Collaboration (BCPC) in an effort to connect people with felonies to entry-level, career-oriented employment. In addition to the resources they provide through employment services, BCPC participants can access industry recognized career trainings (such as construction certificate programs, intensive computer trainings, asbestos certifications, and many others), transportation assistance, work clothing, shoes and necessary tools. DenUM is confident that this program is making a significant difference in the lives of those they serve.
 
Your donations are used wisely – 90 percent of DenUM’s income is used for direct services and helps meet the varied needs of displaced persons in the community. In addition to employment services, DenUM provides basic human services, such as a food pantry and emergency rental assistance, and urban education programs.

Crossroads Urban Center, Salt Lake City, Utah

The mission of Crossroads Urban Center is to fight poverty and building community through a variety of programs such as a food pantry, thrift store and community Anti-Hunger Action Committee. One of the special contributions of Crossroads is their active participation in the Coalition of Religious Communities (CORC), which brings together people from 15 different faith communities to address issues that impact low-income Utahans. Homelessness is an ongoing form of displacement. Three of CORC’s priority issues for 2016 are:
  • Convincing the state of Utah to set the formal goal of reducing the number of children who become homeless;
  • Working with state and local government to produce more low income housing so that less families with children become homeless;
  • Expanding Medicaid to cover parents, and others, under the poverty level, so that medical emergencies do not lead to families becoming homeless.
CORC’s May meeting featured a conversation with representatives from Utah’s Department of Workforce Services and Rep. Rebecca Edwards about how Utah can best set a formal goal of preventing children from becoming homeless.
 
According to the most recent count, there are 898 homeless children in Utah. Homelessness creates short-term and long-term costs for children, including health problems, stress, depression, anxiety and disruption of their education.

Wyoming Association of Churches
 
United Methodists are actively involved in this organization, whose mission is to foster and to promote spiritual growth, stewardship of the land and social justice. The Association leads advocacy and community engagement work for churches to promote justice, including for displaced persons.
 
In March, the Wyoming Association of Churches held a program and discussion entitled, “One in 50 Wyoming and the Global Refugee Crisis.” The program centered on the human experience of being a refugee, the legal process for refugees and refugees in Wyoming’s historical past. They are currently are working to get a Refugee Resettlement Plan in Wyoming, the only state without one.
 
The Association of Churches also participates in ministry with Native Americans, including the Wind River Native American Advocacy Center. This year there has been a program on Embracing Cultural Diversity and a Native American Health Equity Conference.

Offering during Annual Conference

The Bridge of Love offering will be collected on Saturday morning as people enter the ballroom for the 8:30 a.m. plenary. Checks can also be sent to the Rocky Mountain Conference UMC, 6110 Greenwood Plaza Blvd., Greenwood Village, CO 80111 and designated "Bridge of Love". Thank you for your generosity and support of displaced persons in our communities and around the world!