Storm of assistance


Christ UMC responds to hard-hit neighbors


By Woody Woodrick
Advocate Editor


On a sunny, windy Saturday, members of Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson set up tents and grills and had a neighborhood cookout.


It was a far cry from the activities just one week earlier when members arrived at the church to begin helping neighbors recover from tornadoes that tore through Central Mississippi, hitting north Jackson hard.


The storms hit April 4 and despite having damage to its building and no electricity, Christ UMC sent out work crews to 24 sites on April 5. The work continued through the following week. The April 12 cookout was an extension of recovery efforts, said the Rev. Vicki Landrum, an associate at Christ who coordinated the efforts.


"We couldn't feed people last week because we didn't have power," she said. "We just wanted to offer folks a chance to sit and eat a hamburger."


The storm that roared through the area on April 4 was brief – it only lasted a few minutes – but left plenty of destruction. Mississippi Emergency Management Agency figures show 67 homes in Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties destroyed and 1,625 with major damage.


While the most dramatic situation, the storm isn't the only weather-related problem in the state. Storms in the upper Midwest and South have dumped heavy rains causing flooding up and down the Mississippi River. The Rev. C.J. Caufield of Kosciusko reports that as of 8:35 a.m. April 10, Mississippi had 9,000 homes that had been impacted by the storm or flooding. Rivers were expected to crest this week, but estimates are it could take a month for the waters to return to normal levels.


"There have been a lot of different churches which have jumped in and offered assistance," Caufield said. "We've had good response to (the call for) flood buckets, which we still need. Since last Friday, there has been a tremendous outpouring of donation and assistance teams."


Damage to churches has been relatively minor. Several churches in the West Jackson District sustained roof damage. Jackson Anderson UMC sustained roof damage, had windows blown out of some vehicles and lost some facing off the front of the building. In addition, several trees on the property were blown down.


Christ UMC had wind damage to six vehicles, roof damage and lost the drop ceiling of its portico. In addition, air conditioning units were damaged, as were computers, fences, signs and a number of trees.


Bishop Hope Morgan Ward and the Revs. Willis Britt, superintendent of the West Jackson District, and Giles Lindley, superintendent of the East Jackson District, live in the affected area. All reported no or minor damage.


Anderson used generators, some portable lights and sunlight coming through its stained-glass windows to hold services inside on April 5. Christ UMC held worship in its courtyard because the sanctuary has no exterior windows.


Christ UMC began working almost as soon as the storm passed.


"We first thing began calling Sunday school classes and small groups to assess needs," Landrum said. "We sent people out on Saturday. As we went out to minister to members, we discovered others next door.


"We've been sending out work teams throughout the week. We haven't been able to have all of our chainsaw gangs, but we've been taking care of what we could during week. We checked on older folks, particularly going back to some folks who weren't in immediate distress to check with them."


Landrum said the church has worked 70 cases since the storm hit.


Because of its location near some of the worst damage, Christ has offered its facilities to relief groups. Power companies have used the parking lot as a staging area and the American Red Cross has set up an office on the second floor of the church.


Both Jackson churches have members whose homes were destroyed. One Anderson member's home caught fire during the storm and was lost. Two Christ members' homes were destroyed by falling trees.


Landrum said the Red Cross will continue working out of the church for a while. She said work teams from St. Matthew's UMC in Madison joined the Christ UMC teams during the week.

Most parts of the metro-Jackson area had power by Monday afternoon, but Landrum said needs will continue for weeks. Once trees and debris are removed, case work will continue, she said.