(From left) The Rev. Nick Camacho, who heads the Helping Puerto Rico Rise Again campaign; Robert Simcox, new Disaster Response Coordinator; the Rev. Russell Atkinson, new Volunteers in Mission Coordinator and Ben Botti, Disaster Response Team Advisor.

2 disaster response trainings set for July 14

The Eastern PA Conference’s new Disaster Response ministry team will sponsor two simultaneous training events for UM Volunteers in Ministry (UMVIM) July 14, from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, at West Lawn UMC, Reading.

One training will be for people wanting to be UMVIM Team Leaders. The other will be for people wanting to serve on Early Response Teams (ERT), whose mission is to provide skilled support to disaster survivors as soon as communities allow response teams into disaster-impacted areas.

Leading the two trainings will be:

  • The Rev. Tom Lank (Deacon), Northeastern Jurisdiction UMVIM Coordinator,
  • Ben Botti, retired Eastern PA Conference UMVIM Coordinator, and
  • The Rev. Russell Atkinson, new Eastern PA Conference UMVIM Coordinator
  • Robert Simcox, the conference’s new Disaster Response Coordinator, who will lead the ERT training.

Each training costs $45 per person and includes the book Mission Journey and a light breakfast and lunch. UMVIM trainees will receive the updated VIM Team Leader Resource Toolkit. ERT trainees will receive the UMCOR ERT training book.

Register through the conference website. For UMVIM training information contact: Russell J. Atkinson at ratkinson@epaumc.org or 610-675-7187. For ERT training information contact Bob Simcox at drc@epaumc.org or 610-427-0470.

‘Caring, listening, Christian presence’

Early Response Teams are “background-checked, badged, trained and motivated to be a caring, listening Christian presence,” said Simcox. “You will learn how early responders prevent further damage by tarping roofs, stabilizing structure, and clearing out debris and water-soaked materials. ERTs know how to prepare a structure for VIM recovery teams to do their work and how to provide hope to desperate survivors that God’s people do care about their lives and their homes.”

“Great passion and interest have been expressed throughout our conference for the continuing struggles of the people of Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Maria and Irma last year,” said Atkinson. “The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico has developed a sound disaster response plan, which our conference has been asked to support.”

Following ERT efforts, more UMVIM teams from Eastern PA are needed to help repair homes, churches, community centers and heavily damaged Puerto Rico Methodist Church Camp Fred P. Corson. The recreational camp in a mountainous area was created in 1961 when Methodists there were part of the Philadelphia Episcopal Area.

Teams are also needed to respond to other disasters in the Northeast region—including Maryland and West Virginia—as well as Texas and Louisiana after Hurricane Harvey, and elsewhere.

Eastern PA churches reported sending 55 UMVIM teams and 733 persons to serve across the U.S. and around the world in 2016, but the real numbers are likely higher, reports Atkinson, who is also pastor of Drexel Hill UMC. “Often, we don’t get to hear the stories of many UMVIM teams” he said. “So please, we need more teams and individuals to share their mission plans, experiences and insights with us.”