Most people have heard of UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) and how they lead the United Methodist Church and communities to prepare, respond and recover from natural or human disasters. But have you heard of Sager Brown?
Sager Brown is a primary hub of the UMCOR Relief Supply Network located in Baldwin, Louisiana near the shipping hubs on the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. Kits that are collected in local churches often make their way to Sager Brown, sometimes through regional hubs like our Eastbrook Mission Barn.
Sager Brown started out in the history of Methodist missions with a different focus. In the 1830s, it was an orphanage for African-American children. Later, it became a school as well, accepting students within walking distance in addition to those students that lived in the dormitories. Sager Brown was known for the high quality of education given to its students and the success rate of their graduates. The school continued to operate for over 100 hundred years - until sometime in the 1950s.
Unsure of what their future would be, the Sager Brown grounds sat empty and padlocked until Hurricane Andrew hit the coastal areas of the Gulf in the 1980s. Legend has it that there was such a need for a place to stage the United Methodist response that leaders broke the lock and claimed the spot for just that need. Its use grew as teams and supplies found a home there. It now hosts local outreach ministries related to hunger, training, and home repair in addition to the Relief Supply Network that ships UMCOR Kits globally.
In addition to knowing more about one chapter in our Methodist Missions history, the story of Sager Brown could be a parable for us in Western Pennsylvania. Maybe we should all be watching for ways that ministry is trying to break in with new ways to use the gifts we already have to meet the needs of God's people today.
Note: In 2016, Sager Brown will continue to its long legacy of preparing children and young people to be the best they can as they reserve calendar space specifically for youth and young adult teams and offer them a discounted rate. Registration for 2016 beginsJanuary 14, 2015 and space fills up quickly. Check it out!