Tornadoes, floods, hurricanes: all things that happen in virtually an instant yet often leave in their paths months or even years worth of recovery efforts. As we now face cleanup in the Central and Southern parts of our country after the tornados of the past week, this truth is fresh on our minds. Commitment to swift and appropriate disaster response by utilizing the United Methodist Church's connectional system is an important part of our mission as the General Church.
Disaster Academies are a collaborative effort between the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the 5 USA Jurisdictions. Through these academies, UMCOR is able to train annual conferences, districts and local churches on their respective roles in disaster response.
The Southeastern Jurisdiction Disaster Academy was held in February of this year. During this event, participants were given the option to follow 4 different tracks, each one focusing on disaster response on the volunteer, local church, district or conference level. No matter a person's role within their conference or their skill level, each participate left the Academy with specific knowledge of how they can engage during times of emergency.
The event brought together UMCOR staff, Conference UMVIM and Disaster Response Coordinators, clergy and lay members, allowing them to make connections and friendships while teaching and learning from each other. Mr. Greg Forrester, UMCOR Assistant General Secretary for United States Disaster Response, said it best, "We are here for training, to learn from each other, and more importantly how we are in relationship with one another when disaster strikes. It requires all of us working together to make the response happen and to show our connectional United Methodist Church at work."
Too often we turn on our televisions to the news of natural disasters, and it is our human nature to want to help in any way we can. Providing necessary humanitarian relief is a tangible way to show Christian love in action. UMVIM, SEJ works to facilitate the placement of volunteers to the locations and projects in which they are needed. We serve those who answer the call to respond by providing resources such health insurance, team registration and comprehensive training for team leaders to help them prepare their teams for the mission field.
Several participants at this year's Academy spoke with UMVIM, SEJ Executive Director Paulette West and shared specific opportunities of how teams can immediately become involved with disaster response. Read and pray over the opportunities below and see if perhaps the Lord is leading you to be involved. View the videos below to learn more about how you can get involved! You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter or visit our Team Openings page to stay up to date on the latest opportunities.
If you would like to learn more about how you can help with the response in the wake of the recent tornadoes, please contact your Conference UMVIM Coordinator. Information will be available later this year regarding the 2015 SEJ Disaster Academy, including how to sign up.
Randy Burbank–North Alabama Conference
April 27th Tornado Relief. Seeking teams with members of all skill sets to build and complete homes. Please contact Lori Feist a firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Vencuss–New York Conference
Superstorm Sandy Relief. Seeking teams to assist with addressing long-term needs for those who have been displaced. Please contact Tom Vencuss at email@example.com.
Amelia Fletcher–Alabama-West Florida Conference
2011 Mobile Christmas Tornado Relief. Seeking teams to assist in repairing the 35 homes still on their list, specifically with roofing and interior repairs. Please visit their website for volunteer forms and more information.
Cliff Harvell–North Carolina Conference
Hurricane Irene Relief. Efforts will continue throughout 2014 as the list of needs grow and as funding and volunteer support are coming in. Approximately 70 more cases are still open. Seeking teams with all skill levels, particularly in roofing and interior repair. For more information, please contact Cliff Harvell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kathy Kraiza–UMCOR Executive Director of Relief Supplies
Disaster Relief Kits. Kits are a means of providing hope and are tremendous way of connecting the church to missions across the United States and the world. Constructing Disaster Relief kits are an especially effective way for Children's Ministries and/or those who are unable to participate in manual labor to engage in disaster relief. Click here to learn more.