The Second Week of Eastertide will long be remembered by us as the time of terribly deadly storms that ravaged Alabama. We have lost over a dozen of our churches, a number of parsonages, the homes of many of our people, and worst of all, the lives of many sisters and brothers. We are heartbroken.
In times like these God gives us the opportunity to rediscover the redemptive work of God in Jesus Christ. By God's grace, we believe we shall look back on the next few weeks as a time when -- even amid our tragedy -- we experienced the presence and power of the Risen Christ. Our loss is huge, but we may find that the gifts of God are greater even than our loss. Still, Light shines.
Over the past harrowing forty-eight hours, I've been proud of our churches and our pastors as they move into prayer and into action -- Matt Lacey's teams have shown the wisdom of hours of training and preparation for such a time as this. The North Alabama Conference has had all too much exposure to natural disaster. We have developed one of the most extensive and well prepared network of staging areas, disaster response teams, equipment facilities and trained people who are able to respond in force. Through UMCOR and our connectional giving, we have not waited until disaster struck. We are connected, organized, and in action in Christ's name. Over the last forty-eight hours, the Cabinet and I have been engaged with our churches and pastors who were hit. Methodists from all over the country have been sending messages of concern and will receive funds to help us. I've heard from pastors in North Carolina, Maryland., Indiana, and Washington who will be receiving offerings for us on Sunday. Even in the storm, our connection is testifying to our faith in God's ability to redeem even this. We are not alone!
We shall build back our devastated churches. We shall stick with our ravaged communities. We shall offer funds and hands-on-work for those in need. We gave over half a million dollars to help with Katrina relief and days and days of work. We shall do even more now that disaster has come our way.
And we shall claim all Wesleyan good work as visible proof.that, even in the storm, even amid the loss, "Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!"
I'll be in our hard hit Southwest District this weekend, and will preach at our Forrest Lake Church (even without electricity and badly damaged, Forrest Lake has taken in those who need shelter). We shall pray, shall receive a special offering for the victims, and we shall testify to our faith in a God who keeps coming back to bless us, to raise us up, and to be with us.