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Connected through disaster


Albany-area congregations show the love of Christ as they serve 

By Kara Witherow, Editor

After the devastating early January storms three weeks ago, members of El Faro, a Hispanic United Methodist congregation in Albany, helped members of Albany First United Methodist Church, Porterfield Memorial United Methodist Church, and other Dougherty County churches clean up and recover.

They worked tirelessly, washing, drying, and folding laundry and moving limbs and debris from yards and homes. They were the hands and feet of Christ to those in need.

Last night was Albany First UMC’s turn to respond, as 100 men, women, and children slept on donated cots and air mattresses in the church’s gym after weekend storms tore through South Georgia.

All members of the El Faro congregation have been impacted in some way, said pastor Rev. David Diaz. Three families have lost everything, including their homes and vehicles. The storm shattered the community.

“The tornado destroyed everything,” said Rev. Diaz, who serves both El Faro and the Bainbridge Hispanic Mission.

The families, many of whom live in a mobile home community near the church, initially sought shelter at El Faro UMC. When the church lost power, Albany First United Methodist Church opened its doors as a temporary shelter for nearly 100 El Faro members. El Faro is still without power, but hopes to have it restored tomorrow.

All members of El Faro are safe and accounted for, but others in the community were killed in the storm or are still unaccounted for.

“I am so sad. The families are suffering,” Rev. Diaz said, noting that the children, especially, will need counseling to heal and recover.

Area congregations are responding to the need and have donated food, bedding, and clothing to the 100 individuals who are currently staying at Albany First UMC. Wal-Mart gift cards are being collected so the 25 families can buy clothing and other necessities.

The long-term needs will be great, Rev. Diaz said, and will include counseling, economic support, housing, furniture, and more.

Rev. Diaz is thankful for the outpouring of support he’s seeing as the community rallies to help his congregation.

“They’ve had open arms and open hearts to help us,” he said of Albany and Bainbridge United Methodist congregations. “I want to express our gratitude for all Conference pastors and churches. We are connected.”

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