Church plays key role in response


By Rev. R. Randy Day
Guest Columnist

A year ago, Hurricane Katrina and other mighty storms swept across the Gulf Coast region, doing unprecedented damage to families, communities and congregations in five states and Central America. Massive recovery efforts continue and will do so for many years. This work involves government, business, civic and community groups, and churches and other religious institutions.  

The United Methodist Church has played a significant role in Katrina relief and rehabilitation since the first rescue teams were on the scene. Assistance is both direct and financial. Individual members, congregations, annual conferences and national and international agencies are represented in the ongoing ministries of restoration. 

The United Methodist Committee on Relief, a part of the Board of Global Ministries, is pivotal in our denominational responses. It serves as a partner with annual conferences in the five affected states in organizing the work and in serving as the repository and steward of funds contributed by United Methodists and our friends for Katrina aid.  

The more than $66 million donated from around the world is being spent primarily in collaboration with the disaster programs in the Alabama-West Florida, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas conferences. We are fortunate to have also received non-tax funds through the federal government for services to families who face special hardships in overcoming the destruction of the storms. Assistance has gone to Central American communities damaged by the storms of 2005 as well. 

The Board of Global Ministries deeply appreciates the financial contributions and the hands-on hurricane recovery work of so many people during the past year. Special thanks are expressed to Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster in Alabama-West Florida, Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker in Florida, Bishop William W. Hutchinson in Louisiana, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward in Mississippi and Bishop Janice Huie in Texas, and to the disaster teams in their areas.  

Thanks also to tens of thousands of Volunteers in Mission who have assisted with cleanup and rebuilding, congregations that have helped in their own communities, and to the staff and voluntary leadership of UMCOR. Bishop Edward W. Paup of Seattle, president of UMCOR, the Rev. Paul Dirdak, chief executive of the unit, the Rev. Kristen Sachen, another executive, and the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, domestic disaster coordinator, deserve special recognition. 

I want to thank all who contributed funds to UMCOR for post-Katrina ministries. Money came not only from the United States but also from Korea, Taiwan, Western Europe, Russia, Africa and Latin America. Humanitarian service is an international ministry in the name of Jesus Christ. 

Let me take the occasion of the Katrina anniversary to urge United Methodists to be generous in supporting the appeal of our Council of Bishops for the rebuilding and recovery of congregations in the Gulf region. All congregations are part of one Church, but it is on the local level that we learn to be disciples in mission, equipped by God’s grace and love to respond to the needs of others.  

Day is top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.