FigTree Header 10.14



Review all 2022 Benefit videos

To advertise in print or online
Click here
Share this article
Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Disasters build ecumenical ties, streams of caring

While Lynn Magnuson sighs at how busy the regional Church World Service/CROP Walk office in Seattle is in the midst of the stream of disasters, she knows she is busy because people care and want to help.

Two men drive truck of relief supplies to Louisiana center

Dan Ko had written checks for charity and relief projects, but decided it was time for him to take time off from work and drive a rental truck full of relief supplies from Blaine Memorial United Methodist Church to Louisiana.

Brad Miyake and Dan Ko load truck in Spokane.

Brad Miyake, who works for the City of Bellevue utility department, joined him.

“A group from our church sharing the conditions they found on a Volunteer in Missions trip to Honduras made me realize how easy it is to help if we take time,” Dan said.

In the past, he wrote a check and let someone else do the legwork.

“God doesn’t want us just to write checks if we have the skills and ability to assist,” he added.

Brad and Dan left Blaine on Oct. 17 and stopped at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Spokane, where they picked up donations from area United Methodist churches—Audubon Park, Manito, Moran, Covenant, Highland Park, Bonners Ferry, Lewiston and Connell.

The shipment will assist relief efforts from the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, La.  The depot is the denomination’s storage and distribution center for domestic and international relief.

People in Eastern Washington and North Idaho donated 25 blankets, some work gloves, a chain saw, 390 health kits, 85 school kits, nine air mattresses, 20 packages of diapers.

The day before the truck came, Hida Yonago and Jeanne Yamada were at Highland Park putting together health kits.

For information, call 535-2687.



Relief efforts have created ecumenical opportunities.

Despite the succssive disasters, she is hopeful because denominations in the United States and partner agencies throughout the world are working together.

“European aid agencies have approached us because we have been present in Pakistan and Afghanistan for 45 years, and have been aiding Afghan refugees there for last 10 years. European partners are sending $3 million so our partner agencies in Pakistan and Afghanistan can respond to the earthquake survivors.

“Agencies throughout the world are working together because needs are so overwhelming that it takes everyone,” Lynn said. 

With the need for shelter, CWS purchased 45 tons of tents in Olso, Norway, and airlines shipped them free.  The Pakistani army is dropping CWS food and shelter packages in inaccessible areas.

Lynn likes the quote: “Every disaster is a local disaster for the people who live there.”

“When we as Christians talk about who are our neighbors, we need to realize everyone in the world is our neighbor—anyone who is hungry or homeless is experiencing a disaster,” she said.

In conjunction with World Vision, CWS had recently trained 2,000 teachers in disaster preparedness at Mansehra in northern Pakistan.  That training, according to CWS reports, saved lives.

One teacher, Mushtaq Ahmad,  applied his learnings during the earthquake when he was at school.  He quickly evacuated a majority of school children and other teachers, saving their lives.

When Hurricane Wilma hit Southern Florida on Oct. 23, Church World Service, similarly, was ready to help.  The area has been hit so many times that CWS helped form local groups, like the network that the Washington Association of Churches, CWS and Washington Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters are developing in the Northwest.

CWS, which has been in Mansehra 20 years, has more than 70 staff and volunteers there.

Doug Bean, a member of the Cathedral of St. John in Spokane and recently retired staff from CWS, worked half-time for seven years in Mansehra.

“My immediate concern was for the safety of staff and families.  While the 10 staff are fine, about 60 of their family members died and 30 were injured.”

About 90 percent of the homes were destroyed, so the staff are living in tents, he said.

Doug’s second concern was for people in rugged terrain, whose geographic setting does not permit aid to reach them quickly

“About 48,000 in that one area are known dead.  Government and nongovernmental organization (NGO) teams seek to reach people with aid before the cold weather of November cuts off helicopter access to remote villages and leads to more deaths from cold, exposure, starvation and disease,” he said. “I have heard reports that the deaths could go as high as 300,000.”

Lynn said CWS staff in Pakistan are talking of potential loss of life greater than the death toll of 175,000 to 275,000 in the Dec. 26 tsunami, because so many people are without shelter.”

She sees less response to the earthquake in Pakistan—as well as to hurricane damage in Guatemala and the Yucatan—than to the disasters in the U.S.

“I don’t think its because people’s capacity for compassion is lessened.  People care as much about one disaster as another.  It’s more a matter that media coverage has impact on Americans’ knowledge of events. 

“The tsunami was on front pages for weeks.  Affected areas were more accessible for media than the remote mountain areas in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kashmir.  Media also make choices of where to send reporters based on their limited resources.”

Lynn noted that during Katrina, reporters flew in to cover the story, but could not just fly back out.  Many of them rescued people in the helicopters they took and brought supplies.

While receiving fewer phone calls and donations for the earthquake, she has received some heartening notes:

• “Thank you for always being there.”

• “What a year of disasters.  I hope this extra will help.”

“Churches are still taking special offerings and putting together more health kits, school kits, baby kits, and now children’s kits that combine health and school kit items with something fun.  Children need to remember how to laugh,” Lynn said.

People rarely send cleanup buckets because of the expense of shipping, but some churches display a sample of items in them and invite people to donate cash to support purchase of those kits.

“It would be poor use of resources to ship them,” she said.

CWS buys shelter kits and food kits in bulk.  It does not accept donations of tents.  Food kits provide enough to feed a family for a month.  Medicine boxes contain supplies for 1,000 people for three months.

Lynn said donations are needed during disaster times and between disasters, so CWS will be prepared for the next one.

“The health, school, baby and kids kits give people a personal connection as they put them together and think of the person or family who will receive them,” Lynn said.  “That personal connection is important for everyone, but particularly children and youth. 

“When I was 10, I put together school kits at my church in Tacoma. It impressed me so much that here I am now, telling people about ways to respond to disasters. 

“Doing is an important part of learning what it means to be in mission,” she said.

For Lynn, the stable support of CROP Walks “tells me that people care about what happens in other countries as well as here.”

For information, call 888-297-2767.

By Mary Stamp, Fig Tree editor - Copyright © November 2005