Linda and Jimmy Bence, members of Leesburg UMC, served at UMCOR's Sagar Brown depot
By Kara Witherow, Editor
Linda and Jimmy Bence have seen firsthand how the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) serves communities in times of need, alleviates human suffering, and advances hope and healing. The couple, members of Leesburg United Methodist Church, saw how the agency responded in the aftermath of the Flood of 1994.
“We like what they do,” Jimmy Bence said. “UMCOR has really meant a lot to us in Leesburg. In 1994 we had floods and UMCOR was first on the scene. If it hadn’t been for UMCOR we really wouldn’t have gotten anything done. It was awful.”
They like UMCOR’s mission so much that this summer they spent a month serving at the agency’s Sager Brown supply depot in Baldwin, La. The couple first got a taste of serving with UMCOR in May 2015 during a week-long mission trip to the depot with their church. They had the opportunity to become long-term missionaries, or LTVs, and quickly accepted.
From June 24 through July 21, the Bences served as Sager Brown’s host and hostess, welcoming mission teams and individuals to the depot and getting them settled in and ready for their week of service. They also repaired homes, built wheelchair ramps, distributed food, and helped fill a container bound for Serbia with UMCOR kits. Jimmy also helped build a Maypole for UMCOR’s 150th anniversary celebration, which will be held in October.
The container the Bences helped fill was with relief supply kits that help provide care for the most vulnerable people during times of crisis. Knowing that they were doing something to help people in need was rewarding and humbling, Linda Bence said.
“To lay your hands on those items and that container and know they’re going to someone on the other side of the world or somewhere in the United States … to know that you had a part, a very small part, to help somebody you don’t know is just a feeling you can’t explain,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see that container pull out from that dock and know it’s going far, far away to help lots of people.”
At Sager Brown, volunteers put their faith into action by participating in the many outreach programs provided, including assembling relief supply kits that reach at risk communities around the world.
Last year, 4,000 volunteers served at both UMCOR depot locations, UMCOR Sager Brown and UMCOR West Depot in Salt Lake City, Utah. Between the two locations, volunteers gave 40,500 hours of their time, completing 119 community projects. Volunteer service enables this outreach ministry to have a tremendous impact on the world. In 2016, Sager Brown distributed $6,023,591 in relief supplies domestically and abroad. In addition to the Bences and others from Leesburg UMC, volunteers from Jesup United Methodist Church and Striplin Terrace United Methodist Church in the South Georgia Conference have volunteered and served at Sager Brown.
There are closer-to-home opportunities to serve, too. In Decatur, Ala., UMCOR operates a disaster relief-supply warehouse where individuals and groups can prepare medical kits, health kits, and other relief items. Those who want to be involved with relief efforts on the ground – in South Georgia or elsewhere in the Southeast – can be trained to be part of an Early Response Team.
Serving others is meaningful and impactful, the Bences say, and every experience grows their faith. They already have plans to return to Sager Brown next August.
“It enriches your life in so many ways,” Linda Bence said.
Interested in serving with UMCOR? Volunteers help UMCOR respond whenever and wherever the need arises. Volunteers are always welcome to serve at an UMCOR relief-supply depot. Click here for more information about serving at an UMCOR relief-supply depot. Those who want to be involved with relief efforts on the ground can be trained to be part of an Early Response Team. Click here for more information about ERT trainings in South Georgia.