South Georgia has seen its share of natural disasters during the past two years: devastating tornadoes and straight-line winds and Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.
But even amid their own losses and damage, faithful and generous South Georgia United Methodists have dug deep, giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to others in need.
In 2017 alone, more than $500,000 has been given by South Georgia United Methodist congregations and individuals to the conference’s Hurricane Harvey Relief fund and the South Georgia Storm Recovery Advance Offering. This is in addition to gifts given directly to churches in the affected areas.
“The extravagant generosity of our churches is compelling evidence that we truly are Alive Together in Christ,” said South Georgia episcopal leader Bishop R. Lawson Bryan.
It’s notable that a conference made up of mostly small-membership churches – those with fewer than 50 people in worship on an average Sunday – gave this sizable sum, said Dr. Derek McAleer, Director of Administrative Services and Conference Treasurer.
Through Oct. 31, $302,098.01 from 179 different congregations was given for the South Georgia Storm Recovery Advance Offering. $212,974.85 was given in roughly eight weeks by 167 different congregations to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, and another $11,293.62 was contributed by individuals who gave online.
“When people’s hearts get touched, they give,” Dr. McAleer said, remarking that donations for Hurricane Harvey were being received even as people were evacuating from and being impacted by Hurricane Irma. “People did not feel like they had to make a choice between helping at home or helping away. They thought they could do both.”
All of the $212,974.85 given to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund has been dispersed. It has been given to the Rio Texas Annual Conference ($30,000); Texas Annual Conference ($30,000); Chapelwood United Methodist Church, where South Georgia elder Dr. John Stephens serves as senior pastor ($32,000); Puerto Rico Annual Conference ($30,000); and the United Methodist Committee on Relief ($90,974.85).
“This was a ton of money given in a short amount of time because there was a need and people wanted to help,” Dr. McAleer said.
Bishop Bryan presented Bishop Hector Ortiz, bishop of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico, with a check for $30,000 during the Council of Bishops meeting at Lake Junaluska. Click here to watch a video.