WHAT YOU CAN DO - TORNADO RESPONSE INDIANA AND ILLINOIS
INDIANA -This afternoon (Mar 6), Indiana Bishop Mike Coyner, the Rev. Charlie Wilfong, South District Superintendent, and the Rev. Dave Powell, Indiana Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, will be touring areas of southern Indiana devastated by the recent storms. Hopefully, Tom Hazelwood, Associate General Secretary and Director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, will join the group.
In the meantime, The Indianapolis Star this morning had a picture of Pekin United Methodist Church volunteers sorting food, clothing and supplies for survivors of Friday's tornadoes, which carved a swath through New Pekin. During the weekend, there have been several more deaths, injuries, homes destroyed and damage. The Governor has signed a disaster declaration so aid is being recruited.
Tom Hazelwood with UMCOR has called to offer support and help. At this point we have more questions than direct answers, but we are preparing for when it is appropriate for us to respond. Any offerings received this past weekend for Indiana Disaster Response needs to be sent by church treasurers directly to INUMC, Dept. 6089, Carol Stream, IL 60122-6089and marked "Disaster Response."
Here are immediate needs:
Cash is the most helpful gift right now. Send donation to the Indiana Conference Disaster Response through your local church treasurer, or through the United Methodist Committee on Relief online at www.umcor.org.
For southern Indiana in-kind donations, take them to 700 Patrol Road, Jeffersonville, Indiana off HWY 62 Open 24/7 Office phone 812-287-0090; 812-287-0026.
Items needed include:
Tubs for supplies
Call the reception center before you leave home as volunteer needs are still being assessed. The Volunteer Reception Center is located at 723 Spring Street in Jeffersonville, Ind. It's open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 812-287-0519, 812-287-0522, 812-287-0523 or 812-287-0521.
Right now, the Volunteer Reception Center needs people with disaster response training. Next week, disaster response personnel will probably be ready for United Methodist Volunteer In Mission groups for clean-up and repair, and will need to go through Bonnie Albert, our Conference Volunteers in Mission Coordinator. Contact here at firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com, or call 219-464-1447.
The District Superintendents and District Disaster Response Coordinators are already in the areas and will be specific on the most helpful ways for us to respond. Prepare to help when appropriate. Powell told the Indiana Conference Center this morning that only trained (and badged) Emergency Response Teams (ERTs) from the Indiana conference are being accepted into the area.
If you are UMCOR-trained and would like to volunteer to help, contact Powell at firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com or call 317-339-0013 (cell).
Here are a couple of do's and don'ts on how to respond:
Don't just go to the scene to help! They are still in emergency phase and rescuing those in need. Untrained persons, no matter how caring, will only hinder rescue efforts.If you want to see what has happened, watch TV and/or look at the web. Traffic is already bad and cellular bandwidths are jammed.Don't send clothing until asked. Responders and survivors probably won't be able to sort it or use it at this time.
Pray for the people and areas affected and the First Responders on the scene.Donate to the Indiana Disaster Response offering for the Indiana Annual Conference or donate directly to UMCOR online at www.umcor.org.
Do plan to help when the area opens to responders.If you are trained as an Early Response Team (ERT) member, begin planning, forming your team and gathering gear.If you are good at hammer and nails, plan on responding in a week or so as needs are identified and prioritized.Volunteer opportunities will be announced on the conference web page under disaster response and VIM as information becomes available.Pray again.
PRAYER: O God, as always we turn to You in times of trouble, knowing that Your loving care covers our lives like a hovering dove. You are already weeping with those who weep, You are already comforting those who have lost loved ones or valuables, and You are the One who promises that nothing can separate us from Your love. So we turn to You, O Lord, praying for those who are victims of the storms and asking for safety for those who remain behind. May the strength of our human efforts to help them be surrounded by Your divine strength and compassion. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.Thank you for your generous response to this need.
Pastoral Letter on Harrisburg Tornado
Beloved in Christ Jesus: Like many of you, I was awakened yesterday morning with the news that our sisters and brothers in Southern Illinois are once again dealing with the aftermath of another weather-related disaster. Tornados cut across the southern Illinois region leaving a path of destruction to the community of Harrisburg. As we watch developments on television, our hearts ache, knowing that we are called to respond.
Although the news from Harrisburg and the surrounding area keeps unfolding, six have been confirmed dead, including an on-duty nurse at the Harrisburg Medical Center; 100 were treated for injuries; nearly 300 homes have been damaged or destroyed and 25 businesses have sustained damage or are completely destroyed in this community. The tornado has also touched the Harrisburg First UMC, as several have lost their homes.At my direction yesterday, Cache River District Superintendent Roger Russell, in coordination with the Conference Offices of Connectional Ministries and Communications, is directing our Conference's response. Our team is monitoring developments and communicating ways in which we can be of assistance in cleanup and recovery.
The Midwest Mission Distribution Center in Chatham has already responded with personal dignity,school kits and cleaning buckets to assist in the early stages of responding to this disaster. Rev. Russell has asked Rev. Pete Ryan, pastor of Joppa-Oak Grove UMC's and Rev. Ed Hoke, pastor of Herrin UMC, to serve as the Cache River District coordinators for this effort. I have already been in contact with the United Methodist Committee on Relief, which remains on standby to assist the conference. Harrisburg First UMC has taken the initiative to be a disaster response center and is providing a vibrant and healing presence to a community still dealing with the shock and trauma from a disaster of this magnitude. And the Office of Pastoral Care and Counseling is working with Harrisburg First UMC to put into place a support network for spiritual care for the community and the region.
While assessments are being done, there are several things for which United Methodists can do:
Pray for the people of Southern Illinois. Above every thing else, we can uphold our sisters and brothers, knowing that in these times where our faith is tested, God is the nearest.
Take up an offering for the Conference Disaster Relief Fund, Conference Advance Special 6800. These funds will be invaluable in the days and weeks ahead as we respond.Contribute to the One Great Hour of Sharing offering. This Special Sunday offering, which will be taken in IGRC churches on March 18, helps pay the administrative overhead that enables UMCOR to respond and allows for 100 percent of your giving to go to the designated area of need.
Collect supplies for the various kits provided by the Midwest Mission Distribution Center. These supplies will replenish the MMDC inventory so that it will be ready to respond to the next disaster. You can get the list of supplies from the hyperlinks above.Participate in Early Response Training.
If you feel God is calling you to this ministry of disaster response, consider getting trained. Ironically, a training event was already scheduled in Harrisburg on March 17 with a second training event slated for Kewanee on April 14.
Consider assembling a team to assist in the rebuilding. There will be need for persons who have construction, plumbing and electrical skills. But there will also be ways in which folks with other skills and talents can lend a hand. A team of eight from Marion that have undergone Early Response Training are already positioned to respond. We will need to be able to respond as soon as assessments are completed. Contact IGRC ERT Coordinator Steve Schoeffel or Christy Blickensderfer in the Conference Center at 217-529-2473, to see where you can connect. Steve will be staging the Early Response Teams and will be working with Rev. Pete Ryan and Rev. Ed Hoke to deploy those teams where they are needed.
It is in these times that the people called United Methodists are at their best, providing a ministry of presence and offering care and compassion for those in need. Let's do our part!
Your servant in Christ Jesus,Gregory Vaughn Palmer