Storm challenges pastor with duties beyond training


Rev. David Cumbest

Hometown: Cumbest Bluff


Church: Pastor, Heritage UMC, D’Iberville


Favorite Bible Verse: Philipians 1: 3-6


Quote: “When the world we lived in was suddenly washed away, many cried out ‘Why me?’ Many who lived on the edge of the chaos and were spared, quietly asked, ‘Why not me?’ For the people of God, the answer to the ‘why not’ should be easy: We are blessed so that we may be a blessing. From the promise of Abraham to the practical application of James, God reminds us that we are blessed by God’s love, not just so we can feel loved, but so that we can share that love.” 


“I don’t have any special training for this. I’m just a United Methodist pastor.”


These words were spoken in a time of prayer and reflection by Cumbest as a group of 150 mission workers loaded trailers with supplies to go out to muck out homes following Katrina’s disaster. But he did have special training.


Cumbest was on call seven days a week, 24 hours a day meeting the needs of his community. Often he would go from the Sunday morning pulpit to a Bobcat, unloading 18-wheeler trucks of supplies for hurricane assistance.


He reorganized the Heritage church building, turning the fellowship hall into a warehouse for supplies, where more than 1,500 people were served daily. The sanctuary became a medical center by day and a dormitory by night. In a hurting community, Cumbest did what ever it took to minister to its needs — even the needs of the Catholic church whose building was damaged, bringing them in to hold Mass on Saturday and Sunday evenings for more than eight months. He delivers Sheetrock to the unchurched and supplies to the Buddhist temple.


His ability to organize the disaster response in the community lead the Indiana Area of the UMC to build a dormitory on the church grounds to house volunteers and the Raleigh/Durham District of the North Carolina Conference to build a warehouse for supplies. Sunday school rooms were equipped with bunk beds.


Heritage has hosted more than 3,500 volunteers, sometimes more than 200 in one week. The teams have helped more than 400 families return to their homes. Cumbest continues to be involved, directing crews for work and training volunteers to help. Because of his experience and special ability he is organizing a plan of action for future disaster response for Seashore District.


He is a carpenter, a plumber, a mechanic, a heavy equipment operator, a construction foreman and laborer; he is a gardener, cook, a social worker and medic; there is little that he cannot do. He does this while maintaining his full duties as “just a United Methodist pastor.”


During the recovery process, many ordinary people have accomplished extraordinary things. Help honor them by nominating a “recovery hero.” For information, e-mail or send information to Seashore District, 1509 24th Ave., Gulfport, MS 39501-2070.