It’s hard to believe it has been one month since the deadly tornadoes and storms of April 27th left us, leaving behind billions of dollars of damage, loss of loved ones and friends, the vast destruction of homes, which left us wondering “Where is God in all of this?” We have seen these past few weeks that God was in the hands and feet of each individual reaching out to help, in every meal shared among strangers, and in our churches and they opened their doors.
And yet, even after one month, the vast devastation remains—not just to our homes but to our hearts as well.
I am reminded, especially as we approach the end of the season of Easter, when Christ ascended and left the disciples and his followers with a vast task—building God’s church. I imagine the task at hand seemed so large for this small group of people who probably felt inadequate, frustrated at times, and not knowing where to start.
I’m sure many of us feel the same way. There is so much to clean up, much more to rebuild, and so many lives to be restored. Yet, God is calling us to do it, much like the disciples left to build God’s church. How will we answer?
In the coming weeks we will begin to transition in to the long-term recovery phase of this disaster. Rev. Nancy Cole will be coordinating this long-term recovery effort alongside Rev. John Hassell, Disaster Response Coordinator, and myself. This means several things: looking not only to clean-up but also rebuilding, mobilizing more volunteers through Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM), establishing long-term plans and goals in various areas for rebuilding, and remaining flexible in how we respond to this disaster. In the coming weeks, we will offer more solid details of this plan after consulting with those in the disaster areas. I hope you will offer your support to Nancy and all involved in the long-term recovery effort as it begins to take shape.
We are beginning to envision what this will look like: various concentrated work areas for volunteers to plug-in on a district level, churches or other facilities which will house volunteers for the longer-term, and the conference devoting personnel and material resources to this particular disaster. Continuous fundraising among our local churches, and other Annual Conferences, will be a tremendous part of this effort as well.
We also are paying attention to the emotional needs of all involved in this disaster area and recovery by offering several trainings for pastoral care teams by Rev. Sherri Ferguson. Calming After the Storm Workshop - Long Term Spiritual & Emotional Care Following Disaster will be offered on June 20, 2011 at Pleasant Hill UMC; on June 21, 2011 at Gadsden First UMC; and on June 22, 2011 at Central UMC in Decatur. Each of these workshopswill be from 9 a.m. to noon. These trainings are designed for clergy, along with their church leadership (strongly encouraged) and anyone who considers themselves a care-giver in any way during this recovery time.
The storms of April 27th were a huge hit for many in Alabama. Recovery is a very large task. As United Methodists, we can’t do everything; but what we do we will do well, in the spirit of Christ, looking to show God’s love to all we encounter.
Rev. Matt Lacey, Director of Mission and Advocacy, North Alabama Conference