By the Rev. Greg Ellis
Eastern PA Conference Disaster Ministry Coordinator
We all want to be helping our beleaguered brothers and sisters in West Virginia…and Texas…and Oklahoma. And the list goes on…
Turn on the news and you see devastation from flooding. We could add several western states to the list if we were referring to fires that have made conditions ripe for flash flooding. How can we help?
First, PRAY! We are a faith community and our response should always be preceded by prayer. Pray for the survivors and those in harm’s way. Pray for the first responders who are risking their lives in ongoing search and rescue operations. Add prayers of thanksgiving for all those who are spared the devastation.
Second, and this may be counter to what you are thinking. DO NOT SEND ITEMS TO AFFECTED AREAS! West Virginia is still in the search and rescue phase. Any materials sent now will divert resources from this essential, lifesaving task. Also, many roads are impassible; so coordination and delivery of materials and personnel are critical. When an area is ready to receive materials, appeals will be sent out.
Third, DO NOT SELF-DEPLOY! You may feel an urge to go help; but first-responders need to do their work, including the ongoing search for survivors. When areas are ready for volunteer assistance, requests will go out. If you are inspired to physically help people affected by flooding, consider helping other areas that are no longer in the news.
Do you remember the Detroit floods? They occurred around the same time as the Detroit Bankruptcy. There is an ongoing effort to help Detroit.
The Northwest Detroit Flood Recovery Project: check it out on Facebook. Led by a church deacon from Detroit, it has ongoing support from UMCOR. There are also other efforts started in previous years. Check out the nationwide list maintained by the North Central Jurisdiction. http://umvimncj.org/project-listings/.
So what can we do now? We recently gathered supplies for health kits as a service project at our Annual Conference. We assembled 215 kits there from supplies generously donated by churches and individuals. Left-over supplies and donated cash brought the total to around 400 kits.
Now let’s see how quickly the Eastern PA Conference can assemble 400 flood buckets. (The official name is cleaning bucket, but “flood bucket” sounds cooler!). They can be dropped off at any Mission Central HUB in your area. We checked with Mission Central, and they would love to send us a 26-foot box truck to load up completed buckets if we overwhelm the HUBs. We will also identify other locations where you can drop off supplies.
Instructions for Cleaning Bucket assembly can be found at: http://www.umcor.org/UMCOR/Relief-Supplies/Relief-Supply-Kits/Cleaning
Monetary donations can also be sent to the Conference Office. Please make checks out to EPA UMC and designate “Relief Supplies” or “Disaster Response.”
Finally, review your own personal preparedness. Would you be ready if a disaster struck your home? Is your church prepared to continue or heighten its community outreach ministry in the face of disaster? It’s hard to help others when you’re the one who needs the help!
Oh, and don’t forget to pray.
Rev Greg Ellis is Disaster Ministry Coordinator & UM Volunteers in Mission Coordinator
for the Eastern PA Conference of The United Methodist Church
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (UMNS) — The West Virginia Conference has created a special relief fund and is gearing up for other efforts as West Virginia copes with flooding that claimed at least 23 lives and damaged hundreds of homes.
Photo: Preparing disaster relief buckets in Wanchese, N.C. Bill Norton photo, North Carolina Conference