And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A gale arose on the lake, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’

Matthew 8:23-27

In the wake of hurricane Dorian and in the midst of hurricane season, stormy seas provide a vivid image and a metaphor for life.  Throughout our world, throughout our country, throughout our church, and in our individual lives, storms are raging.  Some are physical.  Some are actual natural disasters. Some are emotional, some relational, some institutional, and some spiritual.  In tempest tossed times it is well to remember we worship a Savior “that even the winds and the sea obey him.”

As physical flood waters recede, I am amazed and impressed by the compassion and generosity of people.  Throughout our denomination, people set aside differences and disagreements to rally together in mercy and relief efforts.  And not only in the immediate response time.  I lift up and celebrate the ongoing and faithful work of ministries such as that at the Winding Rivers UMC under Deborah Burkhalter’s fine leadership, partnering with community, conference Volunteers in Mission, and regional relief organizations to help rebuild and restore community life following fall and spring flooding.  Natural disasters have long-term effects, and it is easy to think the need passes as quickly as the event.

As president of the General Board of Global Ministries, and my time in leadership with UMCOR, I am privileged to see our efforts at a global level.  I can hardly express the appreciation and gratitude I feel for United Methodists all around the world.  Where needs are great, The United Methodist Church responds – in every place, at every time, facing every challenge.  Be proud of the mission and disaster response of our church.

In our own Wisconsin Conference, we owe a large debt of gratitude to Bud Budzinski and Lynnette Jordan for their exceptional leadership in disaster response.  To our VIM and IVIM (Volunteers/International Volunteers in Mission) we owe our thanks.  In every church and every district, we have relief efforts and response teams offering faithful Christian service in the face of disaster.  This is our church at its very best!

Some may say that we would respond regardless of whether we were Christians or not.  On an individual basis, that might be true from time to time, but it is a source of pride and commitment in Wisconsin to serve those in greatest need.  I am inspired by the level of dedication to being Christ’s hands and feet, heart and voice to our communities.

There are two significant ways that we all can support the ongoing efforts of our United Methodist Church as it continues to engage in mercy and restoration work.  First, pray.  Do not discount the power and effectiveness of prayer.  Pray for victims and responders.  Pray for communities and governments.  Pray for relief efforts and resources.  Pray for healing and restoration.  And, please, don’t stop praying.  Many people need prayers six months after a disaster as much as, if not more than, they needed it immediately following tragedy.

Second, support UMCOR, our Advances and Advance specials, and our Special Sundays – particularly World Communion Sunday (which supports the education, training, and support of the leaders we will need to continue to be faithful into the future).  Our mission giving is a key element to our discipleship that transforms the world. 

We are a generous people in Wisconsin.  It is sometimes so easy to be distracted by the thunder and lightning crashing all around us, causing us to forget – Jesus is in the boat with us.  And as long as this is true, we truly have nothing to fear.

Grace and Peace, 

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung