Bishop Calls for Prayer, Action to Aid Storm Response
As people in the Northeast begin the long process of recovery after "Superstorm Sandy," Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton called on United Methodists in Western Pennsylvania to pray for those affected, prepare flood buckets and donate to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) recovery efforts.
"While we have seen and felt Hurricane Sandy blowing around us, her wrath has affected us much less than it has our neighbors to the east and south," the Bishop said.
"They need our help. I am asking you to once again do what you do best here in Western Pennsylvania. This is yet another opportunity for us to act in response to our deep faith in God and genuine concern for God’s children. As these days unfold, the magnitude of the damage will be revealed," he added.
The Bishop specifically asked the people and churches of Western Pennsylvania to:
- Include the people affected by this storm in our daily thoughts and prayers. Pray for their courage, strength, and healing.
- Begin assembling cleaning buckets (formerly known as flood buckets) and health kits. Western Pennsylvania has a rich history of mobilizing our people to reach out in this practical and tangible way. Let’s rise up and do it again! Go to www.wpaumc.org/missionbarn to get specific instructions. (Use the links on the right side of the page.) Completed buckets can be dropped off at the Mission Barn, the Conference Center, or district offices.
- Consider mobilizing a work team to assist in the recovery once that phase gets underway. Our trained Early Response Team members have been on alert and ready to respond since before the storm arrived. UMCOR cautions against volunteers going to an affected area before they are asked by those in charge. I also would ask you to make sure that you work through our Volunteers in Mission Coordinator Diane Miller or Disaster Response Coordinators Rev. Rick Nelson and Calvin Cook so that we can coordinate a unified response that will increase the effectiveness of our outreach. Contact Diane at Diane.Miller@wpaumc.org.
- Encourage those in your church and community to join you in donating to UMCOR’s US Disaster Response, Hurricanes 2012, Advance #3021787 . Donations may be made online at www.umcor.org or by check payable to WPAUMC to the Conference Treasurer at the United Methodist Center, Box 5002, Cranberry Township, PA 16066-0002. You can also text the word RESPONSE to 80888 to give an immediate $10 donation.
Miller, Nelson, Cook and the Rev. Nelson Thayer, director of the Mission Barn at Eastbrook had been monitoring the situation since before Sandy arrived. In any disaster, the United Methodist Church’s response begins in the local church, with neighbors helping neighbors. In an email to mission volunteers and supporters, Miller reminded them that as the storms moved into an area, congregations should be encouraged to check on their neighbors and make sure they are OK.
As of Oct. 31, the Mission Barn in Eastbrook, an UMCOR hub, had about 1,500 cleaning buckets on hand Oct. 31. Volunteers from West Virginia had picked up 300 buckets for use in hard-hit areas there. Mission Barn volunters were going through other donated buckets to verify contents so they would be ready to distribute where needed. Thayer said latex gloves, leather-palmed work gloves and garbage bags were needed.
Nelson and Cook had alerted Western Pennsylvania's network of trained early responders—those who have completed the ERT course and have a badge from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) – as soon as they were needed. UMCOR reported Wednesday that trained volunteers in the affected areas were staffing shelters and, like in Western PA, trailers were being loaded with tools and supplies to help with the aftermath.
The Rev. Chris Heckert, a Western PA native serving as pastor of Morrow UM Church in New Jersey, described the important role churches are playing in a recent UMCOR report.
In a blog post before Sandy hit, the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, who leads UMCOR’s disaster response unit, noted the importance of trained volunteers.
“We are better prepared because we now have more than 10,000 United Methodist volunteers who have taken our Early Response training and have an UMCOR badge signifying they are ready to respond,” he said. Many local congregations have been through Connecting Neighbors local church preparedness training and UMCOR has continued to update its case management processes and many conferences have made disaster preparedness a priority.
“With all these advances in our preparedness, along with the knowledge we have gained from experience and the amazing support that continually flows from every church pew across the United States, we have the best resources to answer the call when nature hands us the worst of circumstances.,” Hazelwood added.
“As a faith-based organization specializing in disaster readiness and response, we at UMCOR know that all that we are and do is undergirded by our faith in Jesus Christ. Our ministry is an outflow of God’s work in creation and Christ’s work in us. While we work in response to our relationship with a holy God, we respect the dignity of all persons and never force our beliefs on others, nor is our help ever dependent upon the belief, ethnicity, income, or stance of the recipient. We truly live out the Wesleyan call: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as you ever can.”
Western Pennsylvania volunteers have a long history of aiding in storm recovery. Throughout this year, teams continued work to clean-up from last year’s flooding in Central Pennsylvania and New York, tornadoes in Joplin, MO and ongoing recovery efforts in Gulf Coast areas hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.