Dear Friends & Colleagues,
Just a short three weeks ago Hurricane Matthew began a path of destruction and chaos through Haiti and the southeastern coast of the United States. In the wake of the storm over 800 lives were lost and countless others were left without home or shelter.
Less than two weeks ago, the aftermath of the storm created historic flooding in North Carolina leaving some towns completely under water.
Last week I had the privilege of being with Bishop Jonathan Holston of the South Carolina Annual Conference who informed me that there were still rivers that had not yet crested in his state creating a lingering uncertainty about what damage might be left behind just a year after another flood devastated that region.
There is no doubt that natural disasters have become much more prevalent in our world. Some would argue that they have become a normal part of our lives. What is not normal is what a family experiences when their lives are altered when a natural disaster strikes. And what must never become the norm is our neglect whenever someone in the human family is affected in devastating ways.
Hurricane Matthew has given us an opportunity to extend our hands and hearts to sisters and brothers who are in need. I am writing today to invite you to extend your love, as a church and as individuals, to those who have been victimized by this storm.
There are a variety of ways in which you can help:
1. Special Offerings
Our United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has established two Advance numbers to respond to this disaster:
International Disaster Response: #982450
US Disaster Response: #901670
I would invite you to consider taking up a special offering in your congregation to help with the relief efforts. Remember, every penny that is given goes directly to the areas of need.
2. Construct Relief Supply Kits
A practical way we all can help is to organize efforts to construct cleaning buckets and health kits. Once constructed, these kits are picked up and delivered to the places of need. These kits provide a hands-on opportunity for everyone in your church to make a practical difference in the relief efforts. Can you imagine what a response we could make if our 450 churches pulled together to make a difference in this way? It is a great way to bring awareness to the need and mobilize our people to respond. Go to www.umcor.org for specific directions on how to construct these kits.
3. Mobilization of People for Work Relief Efforts
While the areas affected are not yet ready for work teams to go into the affected areas, “Emergency Response Teams” are creating the first wave of response that will eventually lead to the need for volunteer work teams to do hands-on work. In the coming months we will inform you about opportunities to make domestic trips to the affected areas in the southeast and international trips to Haiti. These trips perform two important functions. First, they provide opportunity for relief work and relationship building with persons in the disaster areas. Second, these work experiences provide an experience for the participants that deepens our spiritual lives as well as our churches as we give ourselves away in service to others.
4. Engage our Disaster Recovery Ministries Directory
Tom Vencuss, the NYAC Disaster Response Coordinator, is a valuable resource who can provide training, insight, and motivation to your church in your mobilization efforts. Training in Early Response and Long-Term Recovery Teams, Disaster Emotional & Spiritual Care, and “Disaster 101” are important opportunities that the Disaster Recovery Ministry provides to create expertise and enthusiasm for volunteers who may sense a calling to get involved.
This is our opportunity to respond to those in need. I invite you to take advantage of one or more of the opportunities listed above. Get involved and lead your people in a response that will demonstrate the true spirit of love, grace, and care that exists in our New York Annual Conference.
For more information, don’t hesitate to contact Tom Vencuss at email@example.com. And as you prepare to respond, don’t forget to remember the people of Haiti, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina who have been affected by this storm.
Updates, training events, and volunteer team opportunities will be posted on the NYAC website.
Thank you for considering this special opportunity and God bless you in your ongoing work and ministry.
The Journey Continues,…
Thomas J. Bickerton