Board chair signs off with a message of beauty, joy and love for the New Year
Outgoing Board Chair Neel Lane (Province VII) wraps up his eight-year term with a message for the New Year. The San Antonio-based attorney imparts final reflections on his journey with Episcopal Relief & Development, which took him from relief work in the US to a pilgrimage to Ghana. We thank him for his dedicated service to the organization and wish him all the best in his continuing work in 2019 and beyond.
Last night was one of the rare cool nights we have in South Texas, so I sat on the porch while I gave some thought to all that has happened at Episcopal Relief & Development since I first joined the board eight years ago.
Weathering the storms
In 2011, Hurricane Katrina and the devastating tsunamis in South Asia were still fresh in our memories, and we were deeply immersed in responding to the terrible earthquake in Haiti that cost hundreds of thousands of lives. In the years since, with your help, we have worked with local partners to deal with hurricanes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, and other disasters in the US and throughout the world.
We leveraged our experience to help most Episcopal dioceses prepare to respond to local disasters, and we could see the impact of this training when Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast of Texas. Episcopal churches and their congregations became leaders in providing assistance to our neighbors who were displaced and left without clean water or electricity.
Photo of the author taken in Ghana, West Africa
While we continue to serve 3 million people a year in over 30 countries, we have organized our efforts more clearly around three priorities: promoting early childhood development, so that children can lead more healthy and productive lives; fighting gender-based violence, so that women are treated with dignity, and their gifts allowed to flourish; and promoting climate resilience, so that people can sustain themselves where they live, rather than join the swelling population of refugees who have been displaced (directly or indirectly) by climate-influenced events.
In focusing our efforts, we play to our strengths, become more accountable to you and to our partners, and are better able to access resources available to pursue our priorities.
Episcopal Relief & Development even looks different than we did when I first started on the board, with a distinctive new logo and new means of bringing our stories to you in fresh and different ways – including social media platforms that (in some cases) had barely been created eight years ago. We want you to know how your faithful contributions have made an impact on the world, and want to give even more people the opportunity to join in the work we do.
Neel Lane on the far right during a pilgrimage led by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Episcopal Relief & Development to Ghana
Working together for lasting change
Through all these accomplishments and changes, I have learned that the most powerful message a neighbor in need can hear is that “we are in it together.” Isn’t that, after all, the message God sends us throughout the Scriptures? When God protects and guides the people of Israel with a steadfast love, surely Israel hears the message that “we are in it together” with God.
When we answer Jesus’ call in Matthew 25 to feed, clothe, welcome and simply be with the least among us, surely we are letting those we serve know that “we are in it together.” And when the Good Samaritan helps that poor victim lying in the street — saving his life, placing him in the innkeeper’s care, leaving funds for his recovery — surely he is showing us what it really means to say “we are in it together” with those who need our help most.
Neel became chair of Episcopal Relief & Development’s Board of Directors in November 2015; he has also chaired the board of Good Samaritan Community Services, an agency of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.
I have seen the power of this message in action. Last year, a group of us traveled to Ghana in a pilgrimage of reconciliation led by our Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Michael Curry. When we arrived in Bolgatanga, near the border with Burkina Faso, we met our local Anglican partners, including Bishop Jacob Ayeebo, and visited those communities that our programs serve.
The reception was especially joyous because, though we had come from far away and many of us had never been to Ghana before (much less Bolgatanga), Bishop Jacob and his staff knew and made us feel that we are in it together. We met the farmers in the fields (mostly women) who benefit from our programs, and we let them know that we are in it together to achieve lasting change.
Leftmost: Neel Lane; Rightmost: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
I want you to know that the “we” who are in it together includes “you.” Your faithful support is what allows Episcopal Relief & Development to make a sustainable difference in the lives of millions of people throughout the world. When you read the stories of those we help, you are in that story, because we are in it together – we are working together for lasting change.
My term as Board Chair comes to an end in a matter of hours. But be assured that with Episcopal Relief & Development, those we serve, and most especially you, we will remain and always be in it together.
May the New Year bring you much beauty, joy and love!
Mr. Daniel McNeel ‘Neel’ Lane (Province VII, Chair) is outgoing Board Chair at Episcopal Relief & Development