UMCOR / Our Work / Disaster Response / Ongoing / Katrina & Rita / Bright Spots / Archives 2008 / 0821-Easterly Brings Spiritual Care

UMCOR Bright Spots

August 21, 2008

*Burke Longest-Serving Staff Member in Louisiana Disaster Recovery Ministry
*Easterly Brings Spiritual and Emotional Care to Survivors and Staff
*This Week's Quote
*Recovery Stats
*Celebrate the Return Home…(slide show)


By Susan J. Meister, Domestic Disaster Response Correspondent

Some years ago, Joe Burke participated in a life-changing bible study of Mark 10, which recounts the time when the apostles James and John asked Jesus for special treatment. “That day my faith changed,” he said. “I realized that I am to serve, not to be served.”

Joe Burke has served Louisiana Disaster Recovery Ministry for nearly three years.

Joe Burke has served Louisiana Disaster Recovery Ministry for nearly three years.
Photo by Susan J. Meister/UMCOR

Burke has carried this attitude through the last three years of his work with the Louisiana Conference disaster recovery ministry, where he has served in numerous capacities and is the longest serving employee. Darryl Tate, who heads up the ministry, brought Burke on board as the first staff member to be “his right and left hands.”

“He helped us get things started,” Tate explained. “With Joe’s help, we set up the six stations (from Lake Charles to Northshore/Slidell). He served as my representative to find equipment, set up leases, and more. He has moved from position to position as-needed. He has been very important in this ministry!”

Passion for Missions Began with Shoes

Burke was no stranger to missions work, having served most recently as the New Orleans District Volunteer in Mission (VIM) coordinator. “I got involved back in 1995,” he said. “Bishop Solomon came back from Africa with a passion to collect shoes for barefoot children, and that’s when I got started at Asbury UMC.”

Burke’s home in Gretna sustained only minor damage during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. He lost some shingles, which took only $100 to repair. “Not having more damage freed me for ministry,” he said.

St. Paul’s UMC

St. Paul’s UMC, Harahan, La, is one of 29 churches in greater New Orleans that houses volunteers and helps rebuild homes and lives.
Photo by Susan J. Meister/UMCOR

Burke brings extensive experience to the disaster response ministry from his 27 years in the US Navy, largely in managing commissaries. He enjoys a good relationship with Southeast Station Manager Dale Kimball, also a US Navy veteran. Burke is currently operations manager for the station, and helps survivors, staff and volunteers. With the station staff, he maintains contact with 29 churches in the greater New Orleans area that continue to host volunteers.

The Monday morning team volunteer orientations especially energize Burke. “I am so touched that people still care,” he said. “These groups give up the comforts of home and pay their own way to come—you have to have the love of Jesus!” He proudly shows off a recent video from Wood’s Chapel Church, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, which details ministry accomplished through Peoples Community Center (formerly the Uptown Station), in New Orleans.

Three Year Summary Celebrates Recovery

Over the past three years, the Louisiana Conference disaster recovery ministry has served more than 71,000 people with initial relief, case management and rebuilding. Construction includes 731 rebuilds and 4,686 repairs from Lake Charles to New Orleans to Northshore/Slidell. A recently-released Report to Donors, “Sustaining Survivors’ Long-Term Recovery,” documents the three-year United Methodist Response to the Hurricanes of 2005 by UMCOR partners all along the US Gulf Coast.

For more information or to volunteer, go the Louisiana Conference web site, and access Hurricane Recovery and Lousiana Hurricane Response.

To learn more or to volunteer, visit UMCOR partner web sites below.

UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief)
UM News Service
Mississippi Conference
Louisiana Conference
Texas Conference
Alabama-West Florida Conference