Praying for United Methodists Hurt In Tornado


By Tamica Smith-Jeuitt, Sr. Communications Specialist


The Sunday following the tornado that touched down in Kemper County, Mississippi on April 11, Rev. Chris Gulley

Melinda Sciple
Melinda Sciple standing in what used to be her in-laws' television room.

led his congregation in prayer for Ralph and Dean Sciple 

who were injured in the storm. Gulley said that Mrs. Sciple's absence from church that morning was noticeable. "Just about every Sunday she sits in the middle section near the window," he said.  

Mrs. Sciple was left with nearly 30 stitches in her head after the ceiling of her home caved in on her.  Her husband Ralph has several cuts and bruises.  Their home of six years was destroyed but the situation could have been worse according to their daughter-in-law Melinda Sciple who explained that "things can be replaced; we are just thankful they are alive."


Rev. Gulley lives about a quarter of a mile from the Sciples. He said he was home when the tornado warning was issued but left to ride out the storm with his special needs neighbor. Once the threat was over, Gulley said he went to check on other neighbors and that was when he rolled up on the Sciples' house.


"I was scared for them...I didn't expect them to be living," said Gulley who was relieved to learn that good Samaritans lifted the rubble off of the couple and rushed them to a nearby hospital. They have been released and are now receiving help from family. The church is also assisting them with housing and transportation.


To view more photos of the Sciples' home, visit the Mississippi United Methodist Conference facebook page


District Superintendents Tracking the Storm


Hours before the tornado struck Kemper County, Rev. Billy Owen, the Meridian District Superintendent (DS) for the United

Billy Owen tracking storm
Meridian DS Billy Owen tracks the storm that spun a tornado in his area.
Methodist churches in that area, was tracking the storm from an app on his cell phone. He was wrapping up a meeting with the annual conference communications staff when another Mississippi district superintendent informed him through a group texting service that a twister touched down in Owen's district.   Owen responded immediately to the warning by texting his pastors, including Rev. Chris Gulley, who told Owen he had members of his church in the hospital being treated for injuries caused by the tornado.


Owen said modern technology "is especially helpful in times of emergencies."


Not long after that, a video message of Owen appeared on facebook asking for prayers for everyone affected.


The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency reported that there was one death and nearly one dozen injuries along with several homes and businesses that encountered minor to major damage within the seven counties impacted by the tornado.


The National Weather Service Survey Team from Jackson reported the tornado was at least an EF-3 with winds between 136-165 mph.


How United Methodist Helps Victims of Disasters   


The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) comes into play with flood buckets, tarps, health kits, spiritual care, etc. immediately following any disaster.  The bishop, the disaster response coordinator and the director of connectional ministries can request an emergency $10,000 grant that the conference can use as necessary to assist victims; however, funds are primarily given to those with no insurance on their homes.  It does not go to renters.  Residents affected by any storm need to contact their insurance company, apply for FEMA and then enter the Long Term Recovery group in their area that will address unmet needs of those who had no coverage, those whose insurance didn't cover everything and those who have no means to recover (no/low-income). 


Early Response Teams (ERT) come into any disaster area after initial assessments have been done and they have been invited by the district.  Volunteers respond once the need has been identified along with places for volunteers to stay.  All volunteers including ERT must come prepared to spend money on places to stay, food and any materials.


To donate to the United Methodist Committee on Relief follow this link: