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.
by: Rev. Joanna Dietz
Rev. Joanna Dietz is an ordained deacon serving as the Minister of Music at St. George’s United Methodist. Here she shares about and reflects on a recent mission trip she took with church members to UMCOR’s Sager Brown.
We exited the plane, excited to be in mission. Our rental cars took us to a remote area of Louisiana, swallowed by swamps and bayous. The silence of this remote location after the cacophony sounds of our suburban life washed tranquility over our spirits – especially as we stepped out onto the gazebo over the Bayou Teche. We had safely made it to UMCOR’s (United Methodist Committee on Relief) Sager Brown Depot. This is a magical place. Here is where thousands of kits come to be checked and packed and sent out to foreign countries and places right down the street, giving hope to those whose hope has been buried in the rubble of war, poverty, natural disasters, and chaos.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), a missional branch of the United Methodist Church, has been on the ground since the Typhoon hit in the Philippines a few weeks ago.
The images we see break our hearts. And they move us to want to do something. In times of crisis like this, the last thing that relief workers need, however, is stuff. The best way to help is to send money. This way the relief workers will be able to purchase what they need when it is needed. Plus, they support the local economy. As the images scroll across your computer screen or televisions, know that 100% of the money donated to UMCOR is there in the Philippines at work.
Here is a short video that UMCOR put together and posted on YouTube. For more information about the work that UMCOR does, visit their web site, umcor.org.
Something I’m thankful for is our youth group.
Recently, the youth group at Peakland UMC went Trick-or-Treating-So-Others-Can-Eat. One Sunday they left bags with flyers explaining what was needed by Rivermont Food Pantry with about 85-90 homes near the church. The following week, they went back on a “hayless hayride” to collect any bags that were left out on front porches. Some family homeowners brought their bags to the church. All together a total of 45-50 bags were collected.
Rivermont Food Pantry was so impressed with the huge collection of Thanksgiving-esque food, that they sent an email out this week to other churches and individuals telling them what our youth did and encouraging other church groups to do something similar. The email went on to say that a Kroger order was placed, as it is every year by Rivermont, to fill the 48 Thanksgiving Bags they do each year, and thanks to the collection by Peakland Youth, their order was much smaller!
A few Saturdays ago, our youth went to Parkview Mission to help them with cleaning and other renovations. This is what Glenda Fort, the new Executive Director at Parkview had to say in an email that was sent out to Lynchburg District leaders and clergy:
What a pleasure it was to have . .. youth from Peakland. These young people sorted and bagged the coats collected and we will begin distributing them soon. Surplus school supplies were packed and sent to Bass Elementary and UMCOR. 250 pounds each of onions, sweet potatoes, and carrots were bagged and distributed. Donations were shelved, brush and branches were picked up and disposed of and cleaned up when they were finished. It may have been a “just one day” mission effort but I sincerel hope that these fine kids will bless Parkview again in the future.”
Just in the last few weeks, our youth have made a difference in our community that has left an impression on others in the community, some we have never met. I hope you join me in being thankful for these young people who so willingly gave of themselves.