Our first day at UMCOR West began with an orientation given by director Brian Diggs, a tall, ordained Methodist minister. Diggs served as the pastor of Salt Lake City First United Methodist Church for ten years before he took the UMCOR position. The Reverend has an unusual hobby – pro-wrestling. Known as the “Deacon of Doom,” Diggs plays the bad guy in the ring, but uses the matches as an opportunity to share the message of God’s love.
When Diggs describes UMCOR’s mission, his strong faith and love of being part of the organization that calls itself the “hands and feet of Christ” quickly becomes apparent.
He explains that UMCOR is like a Methodist Red Cross – a non-proselytizing, non-profit, humanitarian aid agency. UMCOR responds to urgent disasters in the US and around the world – tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes. In addition, it helps people cope with long-term disasters such as poverty, hunger, and war.
UMCOR West’s mission is to assemble and ship 7 types of relief kits:
- Clean birthing kits
- Layette kits
- School bags
- Bedding kits
- Sewing kits
- Health kits
- Cleaning buckets
Hundreds of thousands of relief kits are shipped to US sites and around the world each year. Diggs said the depot shipped cleaning buckets to Colorado in June when the area around Colorado Springs was struck first by fire, and then by floods. Recent overseas shipments have gone to Haiti and to refugees fleeing the upheaval in Syria.
After Digg’s orientation, our five-person, First Church team spent the day removing cardboard packaging from toothpaste and counting band aids to go into health kits, and inventorying baby sweaters and diapers to go into layette kits. We were thrilled to see layette kits our congregation packed during a coffee hour in March. We were equally delighted to see that some of the items sent by FUMC this year had already been shipped!
For lunch we walked to a local landmark, Victor’s Tires and Custom Wheels. Apparently Victor’s wife wanted to open a Mexican restaurant, so he gave her a kitchen and half the counter in the tire shop. The restaurant was a hit, and now both businesses happily carry on together.