Multiple Tornadoes Destroy Parts of Virginia
By Melissa Hinnen
NEW YORK, April 30, 2008--As many as eight tornadoes ripped up parts of central and southeastern Virginia on Monday, April 28. No deaths were reported as a direct result of the storms; however more than 200 people are estimated to have been injured in the twisters. More than 200 homes were damaged in the tornadoes. Suffolk, Va. suffered the most extensive damage.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is working with the Virginia Annual Conference to assess and respond to the destruction there. "It is so good to be part of a connectional church," says Frank Jennings the conference "Disaster Pastor." "We were able to respond immediately and efficiently, calling on our network of response teams."
While UMCOR early response teams are assessing the situation, volunteers are out feeding the workers and those who are affected by the storms. "Currently only authorized personnel are allowed in the devastated areas. Once the areas are deemed safe, our next step will be to identify and work with the most vulnerable and help them rebuild their homes and their lives," says Tom Hazelwood, executive for UMCOR's domestic disaster response.
UMCOR is in contact with Bishop Charlene Kammerer to offer financial and personnel support in response to this disaster. An emergency grant has already been directed to the Virginia Conference and the bishop is expected to make a specific appeal for additional assistance later today.
Pause for Prayer at General Conference
Bishop Kammerer and delegates from the Virginia Annual Conference are currently in Fort Worth, Tex. at General Conference, the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church. Martha Stokes, a Virginia Annual Conference staff member who is responsible for disaster ministries, spoke from the floor on Tuesday afternoon. "While we have been working today, many in the Virginia Conference have been working with UMCOR to make our presence known."
Stokes asked the participants to pray for Virginia in this time of recovery. The assembly stopped for a time of prayer, led by Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, who prayed for those affected by the tornadoes and others recovering from disasters of all kinds.
A prayer service was held in Suffolk, Va. on Tuesday evening at Beech Grove United Methodist Church. Bishop Kammerer sent a message to the church conveying, in part, "The entire Virginia delegation and the whole global body are holding you closely in our prayers."
How you can help
Those interested in volunteer can contact their jurisdictional Volunteer in Mission coordinator for more information. Interested persons who live within the Virginia Conference should contact their conference office directly.Financial gifts can be made to UMCOR Advance #901670, Domestic Disaster Response to support UMCOR's disaster response in Virginia and across the US.