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.
My deacon’s heart, concerned with compassion and justice, has been longing to be on the ground. There is a part of me that wants to do something so bad. If you are like me, be reassured that as a United Methodists, you are on the ground.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is the disaster relief branch of the United Methodist Church. UMCOR is a first responder in these type of situations. Think Red Cross. UMCOR is the Red Cross of the United Methodist Church. At this point, there is not a whole lot that can be done, which is difficult to accept. Donations, no doubt, will be made by good-hearted, well-meaning people. These donations, however, may cause more damage than good.
One of the ways you can help is organize a cleaning (flood) bucket collection at your church or in your community. Click here for the full list and other instructions. The flood buckets that are assembled throughout the year are being sent out. However, those supplies run out quickly. The buckets you fill now may not be used right away in Louisiana, but it will replenish the warehouse.
One of the easiest and most effective ways is to make a financial donation. I know that this is not as glamorous as getting your hands dirty and doing something physical. An organization like UMCOR, however, functions off of donations from churches and individuals. Every penny of a donation goes directly to relief work. You can encourage your local church to send money to UMCOR. It would be considered missional giving for your church. Or you can go online and make an individual donation. Click here to learn more.
There is a plan for hands-on ministry.
Some will have to fight the urge to jump on a plane for Louisiana. I resonate with that, as I too want to be on the ground serving and helping. The true is, I would be getting in the way more than I would be helping.
Audrey Phelps is the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (VIM) and Disaster Response Coordinator of the Southcentral Jurisdiction (SCJ). She has indicated that at the moment, Louisiana is only accepting Emergency Response Teams (ERT), specially trained volunteers in responding to natural disasters. They are only accepting these ERTs from the SCJ currently. A message sent out recently indicated that they have had as much response as can be handled at the time.
Local churches are organizing teams to help their neighbors with home repairs, moving out, or just checking in on them. University United Methodist Church in Lake Charles, Louisiana is doing just that. They are organizing people to go to different areas to work with neighbors. They are not hopping in the church van and showing up.
Those who are interested in doing hands-on mission work in flood areas should be patient. Phelps and her team in the SCJ will notify other jurisdictions and conferences when they are ready to welcome ERTs and other mission teams.
Most of all, let us be the church as we continue to hold the people of Louisiana in your prayers and raise awareness.
But if anyone has the world’s good and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (1 John 3:17, ESV)