Message from Mississippi United Methodist Disaster Relief



Tupelo, Mississippi is requesting UMVIM teams to assist in recovery from the April 28, 2014 tornado. Volunteers are needed for home repair and rebuilding. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator, David Brown at 662-432-1600.

Volunteers are still needed to assist with the Louisville tornado recovery. For more information contact Louisville UMC volunteer coordinator, Jeff Walton 662.617.1077 or To schedule Louisville teams, contact Rev. Larry Hagard at 662.803.5748 or


Disaster Response Updates 
UMCOR Contributions Helps Mississippi Tornado Victim
Submitted by Chris Adams, Hattiesburg District disaster coordinator
Photos above: The first photo, left, shows the job site when the Memphis team arrived. The middle photo was taken six days after the Memphis team left. The photo far right shows Mattie McDonald's completed home thanks to those contributing to United Methodist disaster recovery.
Life finally returned to normal for one resident of Hattiesburg, Mississippi who lost her home to the February 10, 2013 tornado. On Thursday, June 25, 2014 Mattie McDonald was handed the keys to her new home. United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) teams from the Memphis, Tennessee and Ohio annual conferences were instrumental in completing this home.  
A Loaves and Fishes Account After Disaster
Nearly four months following the tornado that ripped through the city of Louisville, Mississippi, Kathy Humphries of Louisville First United Methodist Church is recalling the early hours after the storm when she helped feed some of the victims. The twister touched down on April 28, 2014 leaving Humphries with what she calls a loaves and fishes story. Click here to listen to her account. 
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Bishop Swanson speaks to United Methodists following the deadly tornado on April 28 that severely damaged some United Methodist churches. Read Bishop’s Journal to find out why he says people should ask those who have been impacted what are their needs before assuming they know.

What Do You Want Me to Do for You?

Tragedy, suffering, loss and pain, are a part of the journey of life that we all experience. It is not an uncommon path. Yet each experience is different and unique to the persons living through those tragedies, sufferings, losses and enduring the pain that life often inflicts upon them. In the face of the tragic loss that we witness others going through, we often feel helpless and feel compelled to find ways to respond. We just want to do something. Jesus encountered a man one day and here is what happened.

"As Jesus came to Jericho, a certain blind man was sitting beside the road begging. When the man heard the crowd passing by, he asked what was happening. They told him, "Jesus the Nazarene is passing by." Those leading the procession scolded him, telling him to be quiet, but he shouted even louder, "Son of David, show me mercy." Jesus stopped and called for the man to be brought to him. When he was present Jesus asked, "What do you want me to do for you?" He said, "Lord, I want to see." Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight! Your faith has healed you." At once he was able to see, and he began to follow Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they praised God too." - Luke 18:35-37, 39-43 CEB

The importance of this encounter was that Jesus was moved by the blind man's appeal, but notice Jesus was not quick to assume that he knew what the blind man wanted or desired. He simply took the time to ask, "What do you want me to do for you?" In the aftermath of the recent tornadoes that moved through parts of our state we may be tempted to rush in and just begin doing what we believe should and ought to be done. I pray we would simply pause and compose ourselves and ask, "what do you want me to do for you?" If we simply rush in we could become more of a distraction and contribute to more injury, pain and further loss or in some very tragic ways even hurt ourselves.

If we stop and simply ask those we are seeking to help or those who are leading the effort to help, "what do you want me to do for you?" we might see a miracle and be a part of an opportunity to praise God.

So let's take a prayer break and ask the Comforter to comfort those that are not coping with loss of loved ones, property damage and displacement. Let us give God praise and thanksgiving for lives spared. Let us pray for the early response teams that are working feverishly to restore some sense of normalcy to those communities devastated by these tornadoes. Let us give of our money, our time, our resources and our love as soon as we know the places, people and institutions to which we can give. Let's just ask the question together "what do you want me to do for you?"

Bishop Swanson

Update #7

Heavy equipment is needed for debris removal in the Tupelo area. The Tupelo area was impacted by a large tornado April 28, 2014. Please contact Rev. Darrell Sanderson at 662-231-0075 to volunteer or ask questions.

Update #6

Those affected by Mississippi's recent tornadoes give thanks for the response of United Methodists in meeting their needs for prayer, supplies and presence. Your response helped to meet the immediate concerns for debris removal and protection from further damage through the securing of property.

The need for additional teams has lessened while property owners wait on damage assessments from insurance and FEMA personnel. As insurance and FEMA complete evaluations, the pace of recovery and need for additional teams will grow.

Update #5

“I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’”
     -Matthew 25:35, 40, Common English Bible

The people of the Tupelo District continue to feed and render aid to their community feeding, offering assistance and planning for a long recovery. They have served a daily average of 160 breakfast meals, 1,400 lunch meals and 150 dinner meals. At least 363 registered volunteers worked 2,277 hours serving meals, tarping roofs, removing debris and assessing damage for long-term recovery.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) describes three phases of a disaster:

1. Rescue begins at impact. It continues until all persons are found and in temporary shelter.
2. Relief is designed to temporarily patch things together for survivors, buying time until longer-term survivor recovery strategies can be set. The Tupelo and Louisville areas are projected to be in the relief stage for approximately 50 more days.
3. Recovery: The United Methodist Church is typically among the first to respond and the last to leave a disaster. Areas most affected by last week's tornadoes are projected to be in long-term recovery for 500 days.

Darrell Sanderson is the Tupelo area Disaster Response coordinator and he can be reached at 662.231.0075.

Rev. Mike Dowd is the coordinator for the Louisville and Winston County areas and he can be reach at 662.803.7952 or

Funds may be sent to the Mississippi Conference at 320-A Briarwood Drive, Jackson, MS 39206 with the notation "Spring Tornado Relief."

For more information contact Rev. David Cumbest, the Mississippi Conference Disaster Response coordinator at or call 228.990.4880. Rev. David Newton is the Mississippi Conference United Methodist Volunteers in Mission coordinator and he can be reached at or 228.216.6567.

Update #4

Disaster response coordinators and the Tupelo District of the Mississippi Conference are ready to receive day volunteers.To help, please contact Rev. Darrel Sanderson at 662.231.0075.

Update #3

Disasters happen. When they do God’s people respond in love and compassion to offer hope and help to their neighbors. United Methodist churches in areas affected by this week's tornadoes are reaching out to their community.

Tupelo's St. Luke United Methodist Church's building was severely damaged. Their congregation remains strong in its witness.

Tupelo: St. Luke UMC:

• Fed 100 people lunch and 140 dinners following the storm
• Tarped two roofs
• Sent teams into the neighborhood to assess damages and offer assistance
• Organizing for the reception of outside teams

Note: The residential neighborhoods in Tupelo are not ready to accept work teams at this time because teams would interfere with utility and infrastructure repair.


The Tupelo District Disaster Response team is:

• Offering training and assistance to St. Luke UMC and organizing other churches in the area
• Assessing damages in the Centerville Community of Itawamba County

Louisville: First UMC:

• Louisville First UMC used church and school buses to transport 120 nursing home residents to their church for shelter. Some of the bus drivers had just lost their own homes.
• Provided shelter for 50 community residents
• Fed 200 – 300 people four meals
• Distributed supplies to the community
• Arranged housing for two families
• Helped several survivors pack belongings for storage

Winston County United Methodist Ministry is:

• Working with other ministries to distribute supplies
• Preparing to receive and house volunteers

If you have a team that is prepared and has trained or experienced leaders you may contact Rev. Mike Dowd for further information. Louisville First has an immediate need for plastic storage boxes, and canned foods. Contact Rev. Mike Dowd for logistics of collection.  He can be reached at 662.803.7952 or

Funds may be sent to the Mississippi Conference at 320-A Briarwood Drive, Jackson, MS 39206 with the notation "Spring Tornado Relief."

For more information contact Rev. David Cumbest, the Mississippi Conference Disaster Response coordinator at or call 228.990.4880. Rev. David Newton is the Mississippi Conference United Methodist Volunteers in Mission coordinator and he can be reached at or 228.216.6567.


Update #2

Tupelo area Disaster Response coordinators are working with local United Methodist congregations and their community in a collaborative effort to render appropriate aid. No teams from outside the Tupelo area are needed until further notice.

Rev. David Cumbest, Mississippi Conference Disaster Response coordinator, is meeting with the Louisville area Disaster Response coordinator and others tomorrow to make arrangements for receiving Mississippi-based teams. Roads are currently being cleared of debris. Please stand by until the Louisville area is prepared to receive teams and make assignments.


Update #1

Prayers for our sisters and brothers impacted by Sunday's tornadoes in Arkansas continue as we remember those in need throughout Mississippi who suffered the impact of several storms April 28, 2014. Local congregations are responding to their community's disaster.

District disaster response coordinators will be assessing damage and gathering information as to when and where volunteer teams will be needed. Please do not send teams or supplies until arrangements are in place. Updates will be posted to the conference website and social media as new details emerge. Check back often for further information. 

In the meantime it is appropriate to organize teams and plan for response. Remember teams may be needed for several months or longer. Funds are necessary to provide support for emergency needs and long term recovery. If you would like to offer financial support, send donations to the Mississippi Conference at 320-A Briarwood Drive, Jackson, MS 39206 and identify that the donation goes to “spring tornado relief.”

For more information contact Rev. David Cumbest, the Mississippi Conference Disaster Response coordinator at or call 228.990.4880. Rev. David Newton is the Mississippi Conference UMVIM coordinator and he can be reached at or 228.216.6567.

This photo is courtesy of Pam Simmons Fretz' Facebook page after a possible tornado battered St. Luke United Methodist Church in Tupelo on April 28, 2014.