As I watch the news about the impending invasion of Hurricane Matthew on the southeast United States, two memory tracks come to mind.
The earlier of the two was in August of 1995 when we were vacationing in North Carolina and Hurricane Felix was a threat. We were highly encouraged to evacuate and had every intention of doing so, once the huge traffic jams trying to leave the island waned. The good news is that Felix headed back out to sea and we were able to stay put, giving us the unusual experience of empty beaches and amazing surf.
The second was far different. In October of 2005 I led a team of about a dozen of us to Mississippi after Katrina. We worked well north of the coast, cleaning up downed trees and such. But we had the chance one day to go to Bay Saint Louis and nearby Waveland, where the eye came ashore. The destruction was amazing. But more amazing was to see UMCOR set up in the yard of Main Street UMC in Bay Saint Louis. The church was next to the massive county courthouse, which sheltered the church from the wind and largely protected it from damage.
The church was a refuge, a place where volunteers were housed and dispatched; food, water and flood buckets were distributed; prayers were offered and tears were shed. It was a powerful experience, one that I doubt I shall forget. You can read more about that experience in this post from a few years ago.
That church was a mission outpost because of the people in the pews across United Methodism. They donated flood buckets for the clean up. They donated money to buy food and water. They offered up prayers that came back down to that community.
Because of that generosity the United Methodist Church offered to hope to a hopeless situation.
It was church.
My prayer for Hurricane Matthew is that it takes a hard right, goes out to sea and leaves those communities on the Atlantic with a Hurricane Felix experience. Telling stories about evacuating for no good reason. My second choice is that what I saw in Bay Saint Louis is repeated again and again and again up and down that coastline, that with your support UMCOR is able to minister those facing this disaster.
Matthew, of course is a Biblical name. The Gospel of Matthew shows us how the early church was grown. Time after time Jesus reaches out to those in need, ministers to them, they go back and tell their friends and a crowd grows to hear Jesus preach. Sounds to me like Hurricane Matthew could be a great chance for some Gospel of Matthew experiences.
If you want to help, the good folks in East Ohio Communications make these suggestions:
You may support ongoing training, response, and relief by making a donation payable to your local church. Those donations will be passed from your church treasurer to the annual conference treasurer and then onto the fund of your choosing.
Please include on the memo line of your check the number of the fund below to which you wish to make your donation:
Fund EOC9046 – East Ohio United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM)
Fund 901375 – North Central Jurisdiction UMVIM
Fund 901670 – UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response
Fund 982450 – UMCOR International Disaster Response
We can’t make the hurricane head back out to sea, but we can make sure that the great folks at UMCOR have what they need to be the hands and feet of God. Please be part of that.