Not long after Hurricane Harvey left a path of destruction in southeast Texas and southwest Lousiana, my colleague Rev. Joanna Dietz, an ordained deacon in the Virginia Conference, organized an Early Response Team to travel to Texas to engage in the clean-up efforts in Texas. After following her post on Facebook, I invited Joanna to write a guest post. She and her son, Andrew, blog together at Mother, Son, and … Where’s the Holy Spirit?!
It started out like any other day, watching the news and moving through my work routine. But as Harvey hit and people began calling from around the Winchester District to see what we were doing in response, I felt that tug. You know, the one that says, “You need to do something radically different here and step out in faith.” Things quickly took shape and I found myself with four other people in two cars headed down to Texas with our ERT (Early Response Team) badges, which allow us into locations that have experienced disasters.
Our first impressions were of piles of possessions on the road, hay bales that had floated across roads, and business signs ripped from their posts and scattered across parking lots and sidewalks. Some areas had remained virtually untouched beyond the occasional blue tarp on the roof, but down by the river in the poorer section of town, flooding had done severe damage to many of the homes. This is where we spent our time in Victoria, TX.
It has been hard sitting at home and watching the images of what Hurricane Harvey is doing come across social media as well as the news and not be able to do something. We have friends and family who live in Houston, thankfully who are all safe and well. In addition, we have a lot of family in Louisana, which also being impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
Here are four ways you may be able to help.
As the pictures and stories keep unfolding from Texas, let us keep all of those in the storm’s continuous path in our prayers. Both in Texas and in Lousiana. Remember to hold in prayer the first responders, those connected to the church who are already responding, and those churches in Texas that have been serving as shelters.
Louisiana is like a second home to me. It is the place where my wife grew up, the place where I have family. It has been hard and difficult knowing that people are still holed up in their homes when their streets are rivers. Many are still being housed in shelters, with no idea when they will be able to return home. The damage unknown. One report calls this the worse destruction since Hurricane Sandy. The death toll is rising, and thousands of have been rescued.
It has been tough watching the news and updates on Facebook.
Kara is the Children’s Ministry Team leader at Peakland UMC, where we have been intentional about leading children to respond to the Gospel by serving others. One of the ways this is done is through Project Sundays every first Sunday during the Sunday school hour. Kara wrote for her blog about some of the projects that the children completed.
Here are Kara’s words:
On the first Sunday of each month, our preschoolers through second graders at church combine Sunday school classes to work on a mission project. I jokingly call it ‘Sweatshop Sunday’ because we usually form an assembly line to get a lot accomplished in a little time. The kids love that Sunday for various reasons…the creativity, the ACTIVE-ity, the charity, the variety. The notion was an off-shoot of our VBS program last summer, wherein we didn’t do as many cutesy crafts to take home, but we focused more on whole group crafts to benefit greater causes (local pediatric ward, animal shelter, soup kitchen). We wanted to carry the message of mission on past the week-long blast of VBS, so we started Project Sunday the first week of each month. After we share a lesson from the Bible that goes with our project, we explain who we are going to help and how. We say a prayer for the people receiving our gifts, and then, we get to work!
At the 2014 Virginia Annual Conference, the conference comprised of clergy and laity voted to support the United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria initiative. The Virginia Conference set a goal to raise enough funds to save 100,000 lives in a year. Those in attendance at Annual Conference may remember Bishop Young Jin Cho leading everyone in the “Happy” dance. If you missed it, you can watch the celebration here.
Each congregation has been encouraged to raise awareness and funds for Imagine No Malaria. This past Sunday at Peakland United Methodist, the Mission Kids (students who are in third-fifth grades) met and discussed what malaria is. Malaria seems like something that we shouldn’t worry about. Malaria was eliminated in the United States in the 1950s. However, in other parts of the world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, malaria is a top killer, killing a person every 60 seconds.