By Susanne Gill
Mississippi's new Bishop, James Swanson, started his Quadrennian as Hurricane Isaac was coming ashore. On Sunday September 2nd, his second day on the job, Swanson and a team of Conference, UMCOR and Seashore District Representatives began the process of surveying the Seashore District. The team; consisting of Bishop Swanson, Rev. Tim Thompson - Administrative Assistant to the Bishop, Rev. Steve Casteel - Conference Director of Communication and Connection, Rev. Tom Hazelwood - Assistant General Secretary of UMCOR, Rev Heather Hensarling - Seashore District Superintendent, Rev. Scott Wright - Pastor of Safe Harbor UMC and Seashore District Disaster Response Coordinator, Robert Sharp - Executive Director for Mississippi United Methodist Disaster Response, Beth Dean - Disaster Response Coordinator for the Mississippi Conference, and Keith Wells - Disaster Response Construction Coordinator for the Mississippi Conference.
The group surveyed all affected areas of the Seashore District which spans from one end of the Mississippi Coast to the other. In Hancock County there was damage due to flooding and hurricane force winds in areas still in the process of recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
While in Hancock County the group crossed paths with the FEMA assessment team and Bishop Swanson was able to have a brief conversation with Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant regarding the area and the Mississippi UM's plans to be a part of the recovery. The group then moved to Harrison County seeing the effects of the storm in the Biloxi area and visited the Seashore United Methodist Assembly Retreat Center which while affected was able to be prepared to welcome RIM Conference on Labor Day.
The Group ended its day in Jackson County, the most eastern portion of the Seashore District. This area received in excess of 20 inches of rain and experienced wide spread flooding as a result of a necessary opening of a Mobile Alabama Levee gate. As a result of the flooding Midway UMC in Moss Point became an island.
In addition to surveying damage the group also made visits to Camps Faith and Love which along with Camp Hope are key resources of the Mississippi Conference's recovery plan and relief process. These sites are prepared to receive and send out supplies as well as house volunteer groups. Just serving as reminders of how far God has brought us in the seven years since Katrina.
The District and Conference team members will continue the process of in-depth area assessment and identifying the specific community needs and ways that UMCOR, Conference and District teams as well as funds will be put into action to start the process of recovery and rebuilding.
Information about volunteer opportunities and other ways to be a part of the rebuilding process will be made available through District Disaster Coordinators and other Conference communication tools.