Jesus and UMCOR calm the waters


On April 21 the Rev. Rick Blunt, pastor of Lowell First UMC, consults with Bishop Deb on the flood scene. For the latest news about response, please click here. Jeremy Wicks shares an update on how you can be among the helpers and among the helped.

LOWELL, Mich. (WMC) – Many people hear the phrase, “Bucket List,” and start to name the things they hope to do before they die. When a United Methodist hears the phrase, “Bucket List,” he or she heads to the store to buy cleaning supplies for UMCOR. 

For years congregations in West Michigan have been collecting, assembling and shipping kits for Haiti and dozens of destinations around the globe. Usually the end-location of the materials is unknown. And that’s OK. Because the world is our parish and everyone is our neighbor, lessons well learned from John Wesley and Jesus Christ.

On April 25, however, Michigan United Methodists were well aware of the place where 1,200 Cleaning Buckets sit. Right there in the youth building of Lowell United Methodist Church. They are available, free of charge, to any individual who needs to scrub and sanitize the effects of the record-breaking high water out of their lives. Contact information for Lowell UMC available here.

Help arrives 

Beginning on April 20 and continuing through today, one can trace a story on Facebook mindful of the gospel. There’s the fear of wild waters. A pastor, the Rev. Rick Blunt, a Disaster Coordinator, the Rev. Jeremy Wicks, and a District Superintendent, the Rev. Bill Haggard, assess the situation in one of the areas worst-hit … Lowell, Michigan. A leader arrives on the scene, Bishop Deborah Kiesey, who tells God’s people, “Be not afraid.” At the center of the response is the Michigan Area Disaster Response (a cooperative ministry of the West Michigan and Detroit annual conferences.

When it is learned that the United Methodist Committee on Relief will provide a grant and an immediate shipment of Cleaning Buckets, the true meaning of “Connection” becomes apparent. On April 20 Rick Blunt told his congregation, “UMCOR is ready to help with funds and materials. It’s the greater church in action.” Sample responses … “Wow!” (Elaine Gregersen) … “UMCOR is the best part of the United Methodist Church, something happens and BAM there is the UMCOR!” (Monique Carlos-Carpenter) … “UMCOR @ work! Awesome!” (Greg Buechner)  

Rick Blunt summed it up well, “UMCOR is responding big time. The 1,200 flood buckets have a value of about $60,000.In addition, UMCOR is making $10,000 available for flood relief across Michigan (i.e. not just us). This is our One Great Hour of Sharing offering and other UMCOR gifts coming back to us. Your generosity has helped make it possible.” 

Next steps

In communities across mid-Michigan pumps, shop vacs, mops and helping hands continue to organize and move door-to-door cleaning up as waters recede. Recovery efforts will be long-term. Please join pastors like Nancy Bitterling who are helping spread the word that Cleaning Buckets are available. “I’ll make some calls,” she says. “We have been flooded for a couple of weeks here in Nashville.”  

Assurance comes from Rick Blunt, “There will be a way for you to put faith in action and help out. Some of that action will be hands-on. For others it will be more indirect but nonetheless helpful. Jason Haybarker remarked on Facebook, “I really want to help, too, but I am 1,200 miles away. This sort of thing is what really makes me miss Lowell.”  

For the many folks like Jason who cannot be physically present, Jeremy Wicks suggests that a good way to contribute is by restocking the UMCOR Cleaning Bucket supply. Click here for instructions on what to collect and what to do with it. Rick Blunt expresses the gratitude of many. “Thanks to all who have given before so that the Cleaning Buckets were in stock ready to come to Michigan.”

UMCOR Network  

 A key part of the readiness equation is the Midwest Mission Distribution Center in Chatham, Illinois. A few miles south of Springfield, it’s supported by the Illinois Great Rivers Conference and the North Central Jurisdiction. It’s been in operation for many years and since January 2010 MMDC has been a cooperating depot for UMCOR.   

Their purpose statement reads: “The Mission of MMDC is to compassionately help God’s people in need locally, nationally and around the world and to offer a center to fulfill the call for service to our neighbors in Christ’s name.” The West Michigan Conference has watched that statement come alive in our midst over the past two weeks.

The MMDC website also notes: “By donating kit supplies or financial gifts to purchase the supplies, you make a direct, tangible difference in sustaining people’s lives.” Genesis United Methodist Church in Grand Rapids serves as an official in-state collection site for materials making their way to Chatham. Want to know more? Contact John Geiser, 616-974-0400 or email .

More information will be coming soon regarding a plan that is taking shape toward collection of UMCOR kits and kit supplies at Annual Conference May 29-June 1 at Calvin College. Instead of the usual Haiti Trailer, Midwest Mission Distribution Center will be on site to facilitate collection of relief materials. 

Prayer is a powerful gift Grandville, Comstock Park, Ionia, Saranac and other sodden places in the state. Rick Blunt says it well. “Thirteen days of rain in Michigan helps put 40 days and nights of rain into perspective. Thanks for the prayers!”  

Maryanne Smith is among those praying along online. “I will pray that things will get better and that God will help out in His way,” she says. Truly, God’s way involves the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

~Reported by Kay DeMoss, West Michigan Weekly News Senior Writer


1. Cathy Earl wrote on 5/9/2013 3:03:34 PM
You give new meaning to "bucket list"! It is wonderful to in connection together with you. May God bless those in this meaningful ministry in West Michigan Conference!
2. Lynn Jaeger wrote on 5/16/2013 9:42:42 AM
As both a past recipient of a flood bucket, and one who distributed buckets to victims of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, I know for a fact that those buckets contain not just cleaning supplies but also the most important item needed after a disaster - hope. Just keep 'em coming, folks!!!
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