Churches Continue Ministry, With and Without Buildings
By Susan J. Meister*
December 8, 2008—Two United Methodist churches impacted by Hurricane Ike have proven that they can continue ministry, both with and without buildings.
Wind damaged the roof of Moody Memorial UMC, Galveston, allowing rain to enter the sanctuary and other rooms. Because the church already had equipment in place for restoration and repairs, the building was secured quickly and dehumidification equipment was installed almost immediately. Walls, floors and pews were damaged, but other damage was contained. Moody announced on their web site that they were "still standing to serve."
25 miles away, at Seabrook UMC, church members were coming to terms with the complete loss of their church buildings. The storm surge from Galveston Bay inundated the church and the neighborhood around it. On Sunday, September 21, pastor Tony McCollum led worship services in the field where ground will be broken for new buildings in early 2009. A local Baptist church loaned Seabrook UMC a building for temporary office space, and they are worshipping in a local elementary school.
Churches Serve Local Communities
In spite of storm damage and loss, both Moody Memorial and Seabrook UMCs ramped up ministry efforts in their communities.
The Moody Memorial November newsletter reports that the church served nearly 30,000 meals from mid-September through the end of October. "We were serving to residents and contractors," explained Vivian Pinard. "Remember there were no fast food restaurants open on the Island."
The church's day school adjusted its space to accommodate a local elementary school, Odyssey Academy, whose building was damaged. The gym is hosting basketball practices for local schools and the Boys and Girls Club. First Presbyterian Church is worshipping in the building at 9 am Sundays. The Texas Conference long term recovery team plans to host case managers/family advocates from an office at the church.
At their temporary offices, Seabrook UMC staff is reaching out to homeowners who need help. Outreach chair Julie Laverell and a team of 25 volunteers are connecting with people who are sharing joys and burdens. "Folks leave here knowing someone loves them and has given them something," explained McCollum.
Volunteers give out vouchers for food, cleaning supplies and other items which they can redeem at the church's Senior Center, a temporary supply depot. Kris Brummerhop enthusiastically fills her new role until the Senior Center can be returned to its original use. She was touched to give a recently-donated prayer shawl to an emotional resident who had come in for food and diapers.
"We Really Need People to Know Our Story"
Moody Memorial pastor Bert Bagley said that a kind of numbness has set in two months after the storm. "Many feel almost paralyzed," he sighed. "There are so many who don't know what to do. They need help to put their homes and lives back together.
"The emotional need is so great," Bagley continued. "Our people need to know that somebody cares. We need people to come and be present with us, to show them they are not alone."
"The status of the long term recovery effort in response to Ike is still evolving," explained Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR domestic disaster response executive. "The needs in Texas and Louisiana are extensive and UMCOR needs to secure significant resources to address those needs adequately."
You can help with the recovery from the 2008 Hurricanes with a donation to Advance No. 3019695, online or by check to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. 100% of your gifts to this and other UMCOR Advance Specials will be used to help survivors of natural disasters. Those interested in volunteering to help with the rebuilding effort can contact their jurisdictional volunteers in mission coordinator or go to the Texas Conference web site to register.
*Meister is Domestic Disaster Response Correspondent for UMCOR.