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International UMVIM Team Helps Rebuild in New Orleans

By Susan Hellums
Jan. 25, 2006

As each of us join in God's mission we are assured of an adventure and new insights into ourselves, others, and in God's vision for a world made whole. We receive many blessings as we work side by side. The members of the two partnering International Disaster Recovery Teams from First United Methodist Church of McAllen, Texas and the Methodist Church of Mexico returned from their mission trip to New Orleans, January 2006, with a renewed and inspired awareness of what it means to join God in mission. There were a total of 26 on both teams, 20 from FUMC McAllen and six from the Methodist Church of Mexico, coming from as far as Puebla, Mexico and as close as the border towns of Reynosa and Matamoros, Mexico to join the team. Among our team members were the Bishop from Puebla, Mexico, pastors, doctors and many other willing hearts and hands from both sides of the border.

Among the many blessings that our teams experienced was working together as a team, partnering with our brothers and sisters from Mexico. The joining of these teams on a mission to the USA is a milestone for both the UMC and for the Methodist Church of Mexico. For some time now, sending Volunteer in Mission Teams has been a vision of the Methodist Church of Mexico. It was a joyous occasion that was celebrated by all, including members of the Louisiana Conference of the UMC who send many teams to the border area each year. We were warmly greeted by Bishop Hutchinson, Rev. Lance Eden of First Street UMC in New Orleans, where we stayed, and many others of the UMC of Louisiana.

Our teams also rejoiced at the blessing that we were joined by Joshua, a homeless young man in New Orleans, who had been taken in by First Street UMC and was so eager to learn and serve with us. The teams were also joined by Erika and Terra, from Minnesota, so generous in their gifts of organization and service, all the while marveling at the friendliness and genuineness of us "Texans." The teams met up with still another team of college students, who came from Wisconsin, ready to offer their gifts of service.

Because many of our team members were bilingual, part of the team was asked to serve in the area of El Mesias UMC in Kenner, a suburb of New Orleans. Many of the members of this area were from different areas of Central and South America. Some of us served at the Distribution Center at First Street UMC and many of us did sheetrocking, repairs and gutting of homes. We were all moved by the stories shared by those we encountered.

First Street UMC, where we stayed, is the only Afro-American UMC operational in New Orleans after the storm. The oldest part of this church was built in 1833. The pastor Rev. Lance Eden, is a young, soft-spoken, energetic and spiritual man, fresh out of Seminary when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. He and the members of his church hosted our group with southern hospitality.

During our time in New Orleans our teams were able to experience a taste of the special culture of New Orleans and its people, while at the same time seeing first hand some of the absolute devastation that occurred as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The devastation that the city and its people have experienced is beyond words. Pictures cannot express what the people of the area are living through. The members of the teams shared and worked in a community of people whose lives will never be the same. I dare say that none of ours will be either. We will keep them in our prayers.

What a blessing it is to share ALL our gifts, as ONE, in mission with God!