Methodists hold concert for Haiti missions

Published 7:58 am Friday, February 25, 2011

Members at First United Methodist Church in Austin know how to be efficient.

Several of them are holding a concert at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 6, that will serve as more than just entertainment. Proceeds from the concert will provide funding for one of this year’s eight team members to volunteer in Haiti. Every year since the late 1990s, volunteer teams from First United Methodist have gone to Haiti, including The Reverend Patricia Toschak, who has gone more frequently. One of her members may be starting a tradition of her own.

Julene Flink, sister of Jillian Flink, planned the concert so Jillian could once again make the trip to Haiti. But the volunteers don’t just get to go to Haiti; they pay their own expenses to get there.

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Members of the congregation take care of their own, however.

“Everybody here at this congregation is involved in one way or another,” Toschak said. “Whether they go or not.”

Toschak said her congregation is very aware of what its members are doing and how it can work together to achieve goals.

The concert, which is open to the public, will take free will donations to help Jillian raise the $1,400 she needs for travel and accommodations. Yet a portion of that also goes directly toward relief in Haiti.

Going to Haiti is increasingly something more Methodists are doing. Members from First United Methodist have aided in a bigger scheme of efforts by the entire United Methodist organization. They work in conjunction with the Haiti Methodist Church to divide volunteer work where it is needed.

According to Toschak, volunteers don’t pick where they go; the Methodist organizations keep tabs on what is done in Haiti and where people are needed. Some of First United Methodist’s members have aided with many different tasks. They’ve built sanctuaries, added classrooms, taught English, cleared debris and gone anywhere they were needed. And they feel comfortable when they are there.

“My first trip won my heart as a place where I could really help God with his work there,” Toschak said.

The efforts of the Methodists have given them new insight about others’ situations, too. Toschak said many wonder why they don’t just send money, but apparently that wouldn’t fix the problem. There’s no heavy equipment to clear the debris or build new structures, so the volunteers have to do things hands-on. And although the fulfillment from volunteering and making a difference is nice, that’s not what keeps Methodists going back every year.

“It’s not so much about the work we do as it is the relationships we build,” Toschak said.

This year’s group of eight from First United Methodist will leave in April and participate in up to 45 different ongoing projects in Haiti.