Disaster Response Update: January 27, 2017


Disaster Response Update: January 27, 2017

Nearly a week after devastating storms ripped through South Georgia, leaving death and destruction in their wake, United Methodists in the affected areas are working on plans for immediate relief and long-term recovery.

On Wednesday, conference officials, including Bishop Lawson Bryan, Dr. Nita Crump, and other Cabinet members, met with several Albany United Methodist pastors to tour the area and talk through next steps of our disaster response. UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response Coordinator Cathy Earl, along with Luis Morales and Allison Lindsey, South Georgia Conference Disaster Response Coordinators, were on site and have been heavily involved in relief efforts. 

L to R: Luis Morales, Allison Lindsey, Bishop Bryan, Heraldo Vicente, Cathy Earl

Albany First UMC continues to be in ministry with El Faro UMC, an Hispanic congregation in Albany. All members of the El Faro congregation have been impacted by the storms in some way, and four families lost everything, including their homes and vehicles. {See drone footage of Paradise Valley, one of the trailer parks that was devastated in the storm. Video provided by Brasil, one of the men who stayed at the shelter at Albany First.}

After housing members of El Faro for three nights in their church gym, on Wednesday morning Albany First members helped move the families back into their own church building after someone generously donated a generator to the church. Heraldo Vicente, lay pastor of El Faro, and volunteers from Albany First UMC have helped make the transition from one shelter to another as seamless as possible. Port-a-potties and storage units were delivered to El Faro on Thursday along with the conference’s shower trailer, which had been stationed in Baton Rouge, La. following the 2016 floods.

Porterfield UMC provided El Faro members with large tubs to transport their laundry to and from the Loads of Love laundry ministry. They were also used to transport their bedding and clothing from Albany First UMC back to El Faro. 

Porterfield UMC continues to provide laundry service through their Loads of Laundry ministry. District funds and donations have helped secure refrigerators and the gas needed to power the generator. Conference funds given through the Advance Special Storm Recovery account have also been released to aid in the area. These funds will be vital to sustain the long term recovery efforts across South Georgia. Conference staff are currently working with UMCOR for grant resources available during emergency and recovery phases to partner with us in the disaster response. 

The Albany area was not the only affected area of the conference. The sanctuary of Zoar UMC in Baxley had extensive damage, and the community of Adel was deeply impacted. After beginning initial assessments Monday in Albany, Allison Lindsey traveled to Adel to attend a community meeting Monday night. As area churches and organizations were discussing ways to partner in the relief and recovery, Adel UMC learned that several families who lived in a nearby mobile home community lost family members in the storm and needed help paying for their funeral expenses. The church set up a fund to receive donations to minister to these families. 

Though the heartbreak and loss is nearly insurmountable, there are also many ways that the church has been Alive Together in Christ this week. God is at work in mighty ways through God’s people. 

Prayers for all those affected and displaced from this storm continue.  

Vital Signs

While we know this is not an all-encompassing list, below are glimpses of ways we have seen the church and its people Alive Together in Christ amidst the storms. Please send other signs of vitality you have witnessed or heard about to kara@sgaumc.com

  • Using donated gift cards that have come in from church members all across the connection, Albany First volunteers have been able to purchase new school uniforms, shoes, and backpacks for the children at El Faro, to replace what was lost in the storm. The children are set to return to school on Monday.
  • 7 work teams with more than 100 volunteers will be spread out across work sites in Albany on Saturday.
  • In an interview with a Spanish television station out of Atlanta, Heraldo Vicente was asked what if felt like to be heralded as a hero after saving the lives of his church members by getting them safely to the church before the storm. His response? “Jesus is the hero.”  
  • Lyons UMC and Vidalia UMC worked together to clean debris from around Zoar UMC and assist with damage to the church sanctuary
  • 250 UMCOR buckets are en route to Albany and Adel from the UMCOR warehouse in Decatur, Ala.
  • Lay volunteer Luis Morales, member of Centerville UMC and Conference Disaster Coordinator, has been invaluable as he has worked with local officials in affected counties to coordinate our volunteer teams. 
  • Even amid their own displacement, El Faro will host a Community Outreach Day Saturday to meet needs in their community. They will give out clothing, food, cleaning buckets, health kits and Bibles.
  • Christ United Methodist Church held a candlelight prayer vigil on Wednesday evening
  • On Thursday evening, El Faro and several members of Albany First held a joint prayer service to gather and reflect on the past several days.
  • Porterfield UMC continues to prepare meals for first responders and work teams, and provide Loads of Love laundry services for those displaced by the storm.
  • Several South Georgia United Methodist pastors who also serve as Office of Homeland Security Chaplains were in Albany on Wednesday to help provide support to first responders. 
  • Health kits are being prepared by South Georgia United Methodists and are being dropped off at locations across the conference.

Laura Haygood talks to Daniel Medina and a volunteer outside El Faro Thursday.

How to Help

All churches throughout the South Georgia Conference are encouraged to join the recovery process.

Bulletin Insert
Bulletin insert for use in local churches. Let your church know of ways they can be of assistance.

Work Teams
Early response teams and interested individuals should contact Luis Morales, Conference Disaster Coordinator, at (478) 216-7729 or morhilll@gmail.com.

Special Offering
Special offerings to continue helping with storm recovery needs may be sent to the South Georgia Conference Storm Recovery efforts. Ways to give:

  1. Give through your local church to the Georgia Storm Recovery Fund - Advance Special #6796. 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 donation: Click here to donate online to the South Georgia Conference Storm Recovery effort

Health Kits
In the midst of the Disaster Response across the south, UMCOR health kits are in great need. This is an immediate and impactful way you and your church can help. This is a great project for Sunday school classes or small groups to assemble. Instructions for these kits can be found here. The following churches will be a drop off location for these kits: 

Bainbridge First UMC
Douglas First UMC
Gray UMC
Leesburg UMC
Office of Connectional Ministries, St. Simons Island
Pittman Park UMC, Statesboro
South Columbus UMC, Columbus 
Wesley UMC, Macon

Keeping You Updated

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. We will continue to keep you updated through our website and Facebook page as assessments are made. 

Luis Morales
South Georgia Conference Disaster Coordinator

Allison Lindsey
Associate Director, Office of Connectional Ministries
allison@sgaumc.com / (912) 393-5524

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