If you, like me, can’t get the thoughts and images of the recent devastation caused in our area by tornados out of your mind — and if your heart, like mine, is heavy for all who have experienced loss and warmed for all those who are working diligently to help these people get on the road to recovery and healing — I want to tell you that our church is at work, out there addressing the needs and making a difference in all the lives touched by the natural disaster and heartbreak that came so close on the heels of the holiday season.
It is at times like these that I am so thankful for the work of our Central Texas Conference (CTC) Disaster Response Ministry that helps all the United Methodist congregations in our conference to prepare for and respond to disaster. From the time a disaster happens and is made known, the CTC is in response mode. From monitoring these situations in our communities and across the state, to staying in contact with city, county, and state officials, to reaching out to and coordinating with United Methodist churches in the affected area, our CTC Disaster Response Coordinators are dedicated to discovering how we, as United Methodists, can be the hands and feet of Christ in these terrible situations.
Let’s face it. As compassionate Christians living in a 24-hour news cycle, it’s hard to know what to believe from media reports. In lifting up this ministry — and before we all head out to purchase pallets of bottled water — I also want to share my own sense of comfort that by the time we hear very much about a disaster, our CTC Disaster Response team is already working hard to:
● Compile accurate information to share when local officials are ready to release it;
● Activate our Early Response Teams (ERTs) and send those with specialized training to coordinate with the United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR) if a larger-scale response seems necessary;
● Determine what kind of help is actually needed or if the local community can and prefers to handle it locally;
● Patiently ensure that the disaster zone is safe from flood waters, debris, electrical, gas, and other issues; and
● Respect the boundaries of other conferences unless invited to come help.
So, what can we do to help immediately following a disaster? Here are the top five actions our CTC asks of us all immediately following disaster:
1. Pray and be patient to let the Disaster Response team find out the best answers to our “How can I help?” questions.
2. Know that this team is already working on it, whether the disaster is in our conference or beyond.
3. Understand what helps most — gift cards (what type will be shared when that info is available) and monetary donations are most often the greatest help for providing survivors with what they actually need (not what we may think they need).
4. Remember, 100 percent of what you give through UMCOR or the CTC Service Center goes to the recovery of that community; there are no overhead or administrative costs.
5. Never call the local United Methodist Church (UMC) in the disaster area in the days immediately following the disaster. That church is already overwhelmed and busy just trying to care for its own members. If you have questions, call CTC Disaster Response Coordinator, Laraine Waughtal (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 817/877-5222
For more information about our conference’s Disaster Relief Ministry — or to make a donation to help those whose lives were touched by the recent tornado devastation here in the metroplex, click here to support UMCOR’s U.S. Disaster Response (you can even designate these gifts for specific disaster relief efforts).
As always, I feel blessed to be in ministry with you as a congregation — and with our CTC in its commitment to helping others in times of urgent need.
Grace and Peace,