Numbers from Ingathering hint at missing pieces

An 18-wheeler delivered 24 forklift pallets of relief supplies from Arkansas to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, La., the morning of Dec. 2. PHOTO BY BYRON MANN

An 18-wheeler delivered 24 forklift pallets of relief supplies from Arkansas to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, La., the morning of Dec. 2.
PHOTO BY BYRON MANN

By Amy Forbus
Editor

A record number of approximately 160 United Methodists and their friends spent time Nov. 22 working at Ingathering, organizing donations to help feed, clothe and provide emergency relief for others.

In addition to mountains of rice and sweet potatoes that reached hungry persons in Arkansas with the help of Ingathering volunteers, 24 forklift pallets loaded with relief supplies went from Arkansas to Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, La., as a direct result of the event.

“I thank God for each person who worked to make Ingathering a success,” says Brenda Norwood, chair of the Conference Board of Global Ministries and coordinator of Ingathering. “Being a part of Ingathering reminded me of a verse from Psalm 116: ‘What shall I render to the Lord for all his blessings to me?’” she said. “The answer is, of course, share it!”

Decrease questioned

Ingathering is about more than a single day’s work. It’s also about celebrating what has taken place all year long.

The forms churches submit as part of Ingathering provide a chance to share all the work a congregation has done beyond itself in the previous year. Yet as of Dec. 16, three of the five districts had reported lower totals for 2014 than 2013.

“I’m pretty sure that’s not accurate,” says Melissa Sanders, statistician for the Arkansas Conference, of the drop in mission giving.

Sanders pointed to the dramatic response to the April 27 tornado that tore through Vilonia and Mayflower, as well as responses to other storms that came through Arkansas in 2014. She suspects that many donations of time, money and supplies given at that point and at other times earlier in the year went unreported in November.

Still time to report

Sanders says it’s never too late for a church to submit Ingathering forms.

“The reporting churches do through Ingathering gives us our best picture of Arkansas’ involvement in local and global missions,” she said. “That information helps us see how vital our churches really are.”

The one-page form includes lines for reporting in a variety of categories:

  • Various kinds and of disaster response kits
  • Estimated hours a church spent in mission and service activities (for example, the hours volunteers spent helping clear debris after a storm, as well as the time spent supporting those workers by preparing and serving meals; or the time spent stocking a food pantry or preparing and serving meals to individuals in need)
  • Gifts to local ministries such as food banks and clothes closets
  • Donations sent throughout the year to funds managed by the Arkansas Conference, including Special Sundays offerings and Conference-wide initiatives such as Imagine No Malaria and the new Child Hunger Initiative.

The Ingathering remittance form is still available for download at www.arumc.org/ingathering2014. Sanders and Norwood encourage churches to use the form as a way to celebrate the good work they do year-round in the name of Jesus Christ.