Mississippi Conference Helps Tornado Victims Recover


By: Matthew Johnson, Connectional Ministries and Communications Assistant

UMCOR worker help make repairs to a home in Rolling Fork.
In March, tornados rolled across parts of western Mississippi causing 3,500 square miles of catastrophic damage. Many homes, businesses and churches were damaged or destroyed leaving communities hurting. With help from the United Methodist Committee on Relief, UMCOR, and United Volunteers in Mission, UMVIM, the Mississippi Conference is stepping up in a huge way to reflect God’s love for victims of the storm.

Rolling Fork United Methodist Church was one of the churches in the eye of the storm. Rolling Fork’s pastor Rev. Mary Stewart describes the impact the storm had on the church and the community.

“There were 13 families in our congregation that were displaced,” said Stewart. “There was also some damage to the church, parsonage and family life center as well.”

Thankfully, Rolling Fork United Methodist Church was not totaled, and after initially worshipping on the front steps of the church in the days after the storm, the congregation was able to celebrate Easter inside their church building. Stewart is thankful for the contributions of so many that aided in the aftermath of the storm.
Rev. Mary Stewart leads worship on the steps of Rolling Fork UMC.

“UMCOR early response teams have come in to help at the church and in the community,” said Stewart. “I’m also thankful for Bishop Lewis and the district superintendent, Rev. Stephen Cook, for visiting and showing concern and offering prayers. God’s helping and we are seeing many signs of his blessing.”

Many compared the damage caused by the tornadoes to be comparable to Hurricane Katrina. In all, six counties were affected and declared federal disaster areas. There were also three United Methodist Churches damaged or destroyed by the storm. Soon to be conference associate director for UMCOR and UMVIM and current pastor of Anguilla United Methodist Church, Rev. Frank Newell describes the conference’s role in the recovery process.

“Right now, we’re still assessing damage and making plans with long term recovery groups,” said Newell. “We’ve had some work teams from across the United States come in and they have already started the restoration process.”
Rev. Frank Newell, right, and Rev. Dwayne Robinson, left, survey damage to a home in Amory. 

Newell acknowledged what a blessing it was to see so many people and organizations reach out to help the affected communities heal and get back on track.

“That’s what makes disaster response so worth it,” said Newell. “We are hearing stories of survival and prayers being answered from the community. It’s a blessing and we are witnessing God in action.”

Recovering from this disaster will take a long time. Many homes, businesses and churches were affected, but as the church has the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus for the victims of this disaster. If you, your church or your group or organization are interested in volunteering contact Chris Adams at cadams@mississippi-umc.org or Willie Morris at morris61@msn.com. Those interested in donating funds can click here.    

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