Churches give generously to hurricane response in 2017

Churches give generously to hurricane response in 2017

Luis Soto Lopez stands in what remains of his kitchen in the Villas del Sol neighborhood near San Juan, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria blew the roof off. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS, November 2017.


Donations to other benevolence funds show decreases

ALCOA, Tenn. (April 6, 2018) -- Earlier this year, the National Hurricane Center reported that three of the top five costliest hurricanes in the U.S. – Harvey, Irma and Maria -- happened in 2017.

Church members in Holston Conference apparently saw the need after the devastating hurricanes and responded accordingly. In its annual benevolent giving report, Holston’s finance office showed that church members gave a whopping $804,738 to UMCOR for disaster response in 2017.

The figure represents a 362 percent increase in Holston giving to the disaster-relief agency over 2016 giving, said Kathy Ratchford, senior accounting assistant. “Almost all of the 362 percent – actually 95 percent of it – is due to Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria donations,” she said.

The year before, in 2016, Holston churches gave a total $173,921 to UMCOR.

Holston givers also dug into their wallets to support the Ishe Anesu Project in Zimbabwe, the recipient for the 2017 Annual Conference missions offering. The total collected from churches to feed and educate Ishe Anesu schoolchildren, their families and neighbors in Sakubva, Mutare, Zimbabwe last year was $117,815.

The Ishe Anesu total was comparable to the amount collected for Annual Conference mission offerings in the recent past. In 2016 and 2015, churches gave $100,849 and $150,366, respectively, for local children in poverty. In 2014, $125,572 was raised for South Sudan missions.

In 2018, Bishop Dindy Taylor has designated the Annual Conference missions offering for South Sudan refugees living in Uganda. The offering will be collected during special offerings in spring and also at Annual Conference, to be held June 10-13 in Lake Junaluska, N.C.


Other benevolence giving in 2017 was down in these categories:

  • Donations to international mission funds decreased 12.7 percent between 2016 and 2017, from $112,067 to $97,825. International "Advance" causes include missionary Helen Roberts Evans in Liberia, Africa University scholarships, and the Baltic Mission Center in Estonia.

  • Donations to U.S. mission funds decreased 26.3 percent between 2016 and 2017, from $98,974 to $72,964. U.S. "Advance" causes include Appalachia Service Project, Alaska Missionary Conference, and Henderson Settlement.

  • Donations to “conference initiated” mission funds decreased 19.8 percent between 2016 and 2017. However, Ratchford points out that 2016 “conference initiated” funds were unusually high due to donations for the Sevier County wildfires. Without the wildfire donations, the percent variance between 2017 and 2016 is a 4.35 percent decrease, she said. Other Holston "Advance" causes include the Wesley Foundations, Camp in the Community, and Hispanic ministries.

  • Here are the 2017 totals for the denomination's “Special Sunday" offerings: One Great Hour of Sharing (now known as “UMCOR Sunday”), $25,543; World Communion, $5,434; Peace with Justice, $3,163; Human Relations, $2,969; Native American Ministries, $2,549; United Methodist Student, $1,990.

More information about Holston Conference finances will be provided in the "Book of Reports," published in May and to be posted at

Holston Conference includes 874 congregations in east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and north Georgia.


Contact Annette Spence at


See also:
Holston Conference "Advance" giving page
UMC "Special Sundays"

Holston finance leaders report budget surplus (The Call, 3/23/18)



Annette Spence

Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.