Over the past year - through Hurricane Matthew, the Albany tornadoes, and most recently Tropical Storm Irma - United Methodists across South Georgia have stepped up and shown what it means to be “Alive Together In Christ.”
Local churches and individuals have been involved in their communities, offering feeding ministries and sheltering programs to providing comfort and early response teams and much more. Stories continue to bubble up of creative ways neighbors are helping neighbors and examples of volunteers through the local churches sharing in the response.
When a disaster strikes, the local church provides the first response. The visible presence of the church is an essential and effective ministry that brings God’s hope and healing to people in times of crisis. Some types of disasters, such as a hurricane, allow for time to prepare, while others such as a tornado can leave a community devastated and in shock. Preparation both for members personally and as a congregation in the community is key to a timely, effective response.
“The local church is the most important asset in a Conference response to a disaster event because nobody knows the resources in their community better than they do. They also have the relationships to draw upon those resources,” said Allison Lindsey, associate director of Connectional Ministries who oversees disaster response in the South Georgia Conference, “It allows us to equip them in the response and walk alongside the response and recovery. Building capacity and training around this preparation piece can be significant to the impact we can have in a catastrophic event.”
A church prepared for disaster ministry takes steps to safeguard the people and property of the church and is prepared to be in outreach and ministry, both within their community and throughout the connection. The United Methodist Committee on Relief’s (UMCOR) Connecting Neighbors Leadership Training is a one-day, local church disaster readiness program designed to equip volunteers with the information and tools they need to guide a response and have a presence in their community leading up to and following a disaster.
Participants in the training learn how to identify types of disasters likely to impact the community. Participants also learn how to assess the immediate needs of their neighbors and then match that to the church’s resources to meet those needs through their members and facilities. The training also helps churches see how they can connect to outside resources and to the community’s emergency plans as well as how to develop a system of communication.
“I am looking forward to representing the South Georgia Annual Conference at the Southeastern Jurisdiction Disaster Academy as I teach the Connecting Neighbors curriculum,” Lindsey said. “Even more so, I look forward to then bringing this training to our local churches here in South Georgia. I cannot think of a better way to build capacity within our Conference than by helping local churches understand how disaster response works and how they can be a part of this unique ministry.”
As the Connecting Neighbor slogan logo says, “Ready Congregants, Ready Congregations, Ready Response.” UMCOR gives United Methodists the ability to respond to emergencies and help untold numbers of people get assistance when they do not know where to turn.
If your church would be interested in hosting a Connecting Neighbors training event, please contact Allison Lindsey at firstname.lastname@example.org.