Rushing in after a disaster (and 2 ways YOU can help)


September 14, 2017
Photo by Malcom Thompson/UMPH

As I have listened to the news recently, Psalm 46 has come to mind: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult” (NRSV).

It has been a tough few weeks with one hurricane making landfall on the Gulf Coast and then another in Florida and the Caribbean, an earthquake in Mexico, and fires throughout the western United States. Add to it the mudslides in Sierra Leone and the flooding in Southeast Asia.

There are millions of people reaching out to God to be their refuge and strength right now. I believe God rushes in to be present with people at times like this. God has a special concern for those who are vulnerable and afraid, whether it be during another “storm of the century” or some other kind of disaster, natural or human-made. 

And I’m amazed by and thankful for all the people who rush in time after time—the Red Cross, first responders, emergency personnel, and others. This includes the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). These groups are trained and ready to immediately respond when a disaster strikes in their area, state, or country. This isn’t by accident. It’s very intentional. UMCOR’s supply of flood buckets, health kits, and other relief supplies is mobilized before a disaster hits. Money is sent right from the beginning. Soon after, early response team members assist survivors by cleaning out flood-damaged homes, removing debris, putting tarps on houses, and helping to prevent further damage. Then later, scores of United Methodist Volunteers in Mission arrive to help with long-term recovery and re-building efforts. Following God’s lead, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, they, too, are a “very present help” in times of trouble.

Unfortunately, the floods, earthquakes, and fires are not going to stop. The mountains are going to keep shaking, and the waters will continue to roar and foam. Neither will UMCOR stop. You can help by becoming trained to be an effective early responder and/or Volunteer in Mission.
Two opportunities to do that are on the horizon, both happening on Saturday, Sept. 30—and I hope you’ll consider attending one:

  1. United Methodist Mission Summit: 9 a.m.-3 p.m., First UMC, 230 E. Skyline Pkwy., Duluth. Our North Central Jurisdiction Disaster Response and Volunteers in Mission Coordinators will be there. Jason Frazier and Tammy Kuntz, respectively, will explain how you can become involved with relief and recovery in various concrete and meaningful ways. Myriad other topics will be covered as well—AND you can bring your assembled cleaning kits and hygiene kits to the event, where there will be a truck ready to transport them to an UMCOR depot. Learn more and register
  2. Early Response Training/Recertification: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Good Samaritan UMC, 5730 Grove St., Edina. The Minnesota Conference’s Disaster Response Team, led by Rev. Paula Colton, will hold a training course for those interested in volunteering for hurricane relief through UMCOR. Becoming an Emergency Response Team (ERT) member gives you the credentials to enter disaster-torn areas. ERTs from Minnesota are planning trips in late October and early November to assist with damage from the latest hurricanes. To go, you must have completed this training and have a successful background check on file with the conference. Learn more and register
Thanks for the being the hands and feet of Christ! 

Rev. Lyndy Zabel is director of community engagement for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.


Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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