Devastating storms ripped through South Georgia this weekend, leaving death and destruction in their wake.
The most affected areas of the South Georgia Conference were the South Central and Southwest Districts, where 15 people are confirmed dead and at least 43 injured.
Just three weeks ago, the same areas were slammed by straight-line winds and tornados. While many are still cleaning up from that storm, they have been faced with more rain, winds, and flooding.
“We grieve the loss of life, extensive physical damage, and with those who are suffering. We pray for victims and for early responders,” said Bishop R. Lawson Bryan, episcopal leader of the South Georgia Conference. “And we thank God that our area United Methodist congregations and clergy already are reaching out to their neighbors to provide help.”
Bishop Bryan was in the Southwest District, specifically the Albany area, over the weekend and saw firsthand the readiness of area congregations and clergy to respond as needed.
One area badly hit was the community surrounding Albany’s El Faro United Methodist Hispanic congregation. Many live in a nearby mobile home community and sought shelter at the church. When the church lost power, Albany First United Methodist Church opened its doors as a temporary shelter for nearly 100 El Faro Church members.
Cots and air mattresses were supplied by Albany First UMC and nearby Porterfield Memorial United Methodist Church. An outpouring of food, water, bedding, toiletries, and clothes arrived immediately after Albany First UMC put the word out of their needs.
“Thank you for open arms and protection for our families,” said Rev. David Diaz, pastor of El Faro United Methodist Hispanic congregation.
Conference staff members were in Albany Sunday and Monday to help with response efforts, and District Superintendents are moving throughout their districts today to connect with those in the areas most affected. The South Georgia Conference Cabinet will meet this afternoon to identify ways to support those in need.
Cathy Earl, director of US operations and partner relations for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), will visit the impacted area Tuesday and Wednesday in order to focus the resources of UMCOR where they are most needed.
The South Georgia Conference is still assisting the Albany community damaged from the previous storms and will expand the area of assistance as needed. Right now it is asked that teams not self-deploy during this search and rescue phase. Teams that are ready to assist are asked to contact Luis Morales, Conference Disaster Coordinator, at (478) 216-7729 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He will coordinate the conference's early response team efforts.
Special offerings to continue helping with storm recovery needs may be sent to the South Georgia Conference. Ways to give:
1 - Give through your local church. Your local church will then send the money to the Administrative Services Office.
2 - Mail a check to the Administrative Services Office. Please use Conference Advance Special #6796. (Address: PO Box 13145, Macon, GA 31208)
3 - Online donations: Click here to donate online to the South Georgia Conference Storm Recovery effort.
The disaster response team will continue to provide updates as assessments are made.
“Please join the prayer support team by praying daily for the response and recovery work that will be shared by cities, counties, churches, and emergency management personnel,” said Bishop Bryan. “As we bring help and hope to those who are hurting we remind ourselves that we are truly Alive Together in Christ.”
(Updated 1/23/2017 at 1:45 )