Each Advent season, as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas, we go into overdrive deciding on who we need/want to get a gift. In my better moments, my energy to find gifts is driven by gratitude. As I reflect on the people who have especially blessed me, I find myself instinctively giving thanks. Recently, I received a special gift that gave me pause for special Advent gratitude. It came in the form of a letter from Bishop Hector Ortiz Vidal, bishop of Methodist Church in Puerto Rico.
Dear Bishop Lowry: Peace and Grace in Christ be upon you, your family and your Church. I wish to express our deepest gratitude for your offering. Your offering has helped us alleviate the pain of our people and support the Ministries and Mission of our Methodist Church of Puerto Rico. Hurricane María destroyed most of our Island, but she could not destroy our passion to serve and love the ones in need. Your help represents a gift from heaven that humbly and gratefully we receive. The Spaniard author Saint John of the Cross, in his work The Dark Night of the Soul. tells us about the adversities human beings and institutions face in our walk through life. Puerto Rico and The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico have lived “the dark night of the soul,” but on this dark moment, you have been light that enlightened our lives. In this Christmas Season, may the Star that lit the Manger and all that was accompany with peace hymns illuminate your life as you enlightened ours. With the appreciation and esteem always, Bishop Héctor F. Ortiz VidalWe who live in such abundance are called at this season to remember that the Christ child came to a poor family looking for shelter and hope. The faith of the Methodist people of Puerto Rico serves as a reminder to me (and to us) that we have so much for which to be thankful. I am thankful for you, the people and congregations of the Central Texas Conference (CTC). Your response is an overwhelming blessing to those in need. David Stinson, Comptroller and Treasurer of the CTC, reports the following Disaster Relief funds received as of Dec. 11, 2017.
$159,270.12 UMCOR USA Disaster Relief. $2,074.00 Hurricane Irma $3,983.55 Hurricane Maria $366,613.75 Hurricane HarveyAdd to the above, 2000+ cleaning buckets assembled in the CTC at an estimated value of $130,000; plus an additional 5,000 hygiene kits for Harvey impacted families at a value of approximately $60,000. When you add that all up, the Grand total given in hurricane relief (so far) comes out to about $721,941.42. This is truly an Advent of gratitude and an outreach of love in helping! God bless and keep you! By way of follow up, $70,000 of the Hurricane Harvey funds were sent on Nov.1 as an initial seed offering to help the churches of the Rio Texas Conference. Dawne Phillips, CTC Director of Missions, adds that “approximately 1000 [cleaning buckets] went to Harvey impacted areas with volunteers driving trailers to either Conroe or Kerrville depots, and the rest going with ERTs as they responded to the crisis. 2500 [hygiene kits] have gone to the gulf coast. We have sent cleaning and hygiene kits to UMCOR’s Sager Brown warehouse in Louisiana to help stock them for Hurricane Irma and Maria relief, and we have restocked our own depots so that we are ready for the next emergency.” Well done, thou good and faithful servants, well done indeed!