By Kara Witherow, Editor
Last month, nine South Georgia United Methodists traveled to Baldwin, La. to work in the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s (UMCOR) Sager Brown supply depot. There they got an up-close look at how the agency responds before and after disasters.
The trip, sponsored by the Conference Outreach team, was organized by Allison Lindsey, associate director of Connectional Ministries and led by Susan Hughes, a member of Central United Methodist Church in Fitzgerald. Hughes says she’s long wanted to serve at Sager Brown and immediately jumped at the chance to take this trip.
“I have a heart for missions and reaching out and serving. I love the Lord so much that it’s in me to do that,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to go to Sager Brown because of what they do. I’m glad I went; it was such a blessing.”
While at Sager Brown the team sewed, repaired, and packed 6,000 school bags that will be sent to children across the country. They also packed and verified 448 cleaning kits/flood buckets that will be used to clean after a flood or hurricane.
Dr. Richard Wright, pastor of Central UMC, was one of the team members who primarily worked to verify and repack cleaning kits. Serving at Sager Brown gave him a greater understanding of and sense of pride in UMCOR and helped him better know how churches across the connection can and do participate in the agency’s mission.
“Having not gone before and not understanding how it actually worked there was some mystique that surrounded it,” he said of UMCOR and the Sager Brown depot. “I think it was important for me to go to actually understand it and what the Sager Brown depot actually does.”
The time they spent serving at Sager Brown also helped Hughes, Dr. Wright, and the other team members – Warren Plowden, Kathryn Wooten, Agnes McKinney, Janine Cameron, Mary Ann Braswell, Patti Newman, and Carol Banks – realize the need for cleaning kits and the importance of packing them correctly, in accordance with UMCOR’s directives.
Thousands of cleaning kits – five-gallon buckets filled with supplies critical for mucking out homes after a flood or hurricane – were sitting in the Sager Brown warehouse awaiting verification so they could be shipped. Many of them, however, needed to be repacked for one reason or another, whether it was because 50 garbage bags instead of 24 were packed inside or because a note was included.
“The buckets are so very, very important,” Hughes said. “Natural disasters are always going to be around, and I’ve seen the extent of disasters and what they do to families. They hit people from all backgrounds. These buckets mean everything and are so helpful.”
While some might think the work boring, Dr. Wright knows that what they were doing at Sager Brown was important, critical work. The work being done in local churches – raising money for disaster response efforts, sending gifts to UMCOR, and making cleaning buckets – is just as vital, he says.
“Jesus says that we’re to love God and we’re to love our neighbors. And if we believe what John Wesley said, that the world is our parish, then our world extends beyond the walls of our church and far beyond the city limits of our towns,” he said. “So when we see somebody who is in need, these mundane tasks like putting the cleaning buckets together and sending money to UMCOR so they can purchase food and water in a local area is pretty important, it’s a way for us to have a practical demonstration of our love for God and for our neighbors.”
While they worked, Hughes said, those who will use the buckets and be served by the teams who use them were never far from their minds. In addition to North and South Carolina and other areas hit by Hurricane Florence, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and New York have all experienced heavy flooding in recent weeks and months.
“We are sending love through those buckets to people in need,” she said. “He calls us to love like He loves and I can always love with my actions. We are called to do this.”