United Methodists jumped into action as soon as a massive earthquake reduced most of Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince to rubble Jan. 12.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief immediately pledged to send teams, material resources and funding to Haiti as soon as possible. Special online-giving options went up, and church leaders throughout the world encouraged congregations to take up special offerings for earthquake victims.

“The situation is so dire,” said the Rev. Franck Aguilh, coordinating pastor of the Haitian United Methodist Church in Irvington, N.J. “There is no way internally for them to deal with it. The infrastructure is totally broken. I cannot even reach my family there. They don’t have the physical and financial means to deal with this disaster.”

Donations are already coming in.

Support for relief efforts can be made to Haiti Emergency, UMCOR Advance # 418325. One hundred percent of gifts go to emergency efforts.

While rescuers continued to search for survivors, the American Red Cross estimated that the quake affected about 3 million people – one-third of Haiti’s population.

The United Methodist relief agency is ready to help.

“UMCOR has always had a strong presence in Haiti,” said Tom Hazelwood of UMCOR’s disaster-response staff. “With this tragedy, we’ll just be redoubling our efforts, and we’ll be calling on people across the country to help us.”

UMNS photo

Children at a school in Cite Soleil, near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, eat meals provided by Stop Hunger Now in this July 2009 photograph. United Methodists are responding to the massive earthquake that struck Haiti with aid, donations and prayers.