“Repairers of the Breach” Offer Opportunities for Renewal and Hope
by BARBARA WHEELER*
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.
Following the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes, United Methodist Women members across the United States rallied to support their sisters in affected conferences. They contributed close to $98,000 to the "Repairers of the Breach" offering. To date, $11,000 has been disbursed to support membership development in Louisiana and Mississippi Conferences.
"We asked conference presidents on the Gulf Coast: 'How can we help you?'" said Andréa Hatcher, treasurer of the Women's Division.
A priority in these conferences was to maintain their Pledges to Mission, Ms. Hatcher said. Facing the disruption of giving that had occurred following the hurricanes, some United Methodist Women units had not met because members were displaced or churches were lost in the storms. To keep pledges at the same level, the decision was made to assist conferences with the cost of programs related to administration, membership and organizational development, Ms. Hatcher said.
In Mississippi, Repairers of the Breach scholarships were given to women in the Seashore District on the Gulf Coast to attend the conference United Methodist Women's annual meeting. In Louisiana, scholarships were given for women to attend the conference school of Christian mission and for conference officers to attend regional school. These were opportunities for renewal and hope.
Repairers of the Breach: Mississippi
In their scholarship applications, Mississippi women shared stories of lost homes, missing roofs and high rebuilding costs. They also shared a desire to connect with United Methodist Women sisters and join in the celebration of the annual meeting.
"Someone called to apply the first night the announcement was in our newsletter," said Peggy Hubert, Seashore District president.
"The scholarships allowed some women to attend who had never attended before," said Sarah Sanders, Mississippi Conference president. "We wanted to offer women a chance to leave the coast for possibly the first time after the hurricanes."
These women needed to get away from the coast, Ms. Hubert said.
"They needed the inspiration to stir up their United Methodist Women circles again," she said. "Many units haven't had meetings because they were busy taking care of their lives after the hurricane."
Attending the annual meeting was an opportunity for women to reconnect and learn more about United Methodist Women. The theme for the annual meeting was "Resurrection Women: Building Peace, Piece by Piece." The resurrection provides an important image for the rebuilding of lives and homes in hurricane-affected areas.
"A lot of these women hadn't been to conference annual meetings. Everything about the meetings is inspiring," Ms. Hubert said. "Women came away with new dedication. I think that next year we will see the difference attending this meeting has had."
Repairers of the Breach: Louisiana
June Sanchez received a scholarship from the Louisiana Conference to attend the conference's 2006 summer school of Christian mission. Ms. Sanchez's home in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans was flooded during Hurricane Katrina. She and her family evacuated to Galveston, Texas, before the hurricane.
"It's a great joy to be able to go to school of Christian mission," Ms. Sanchez said. "I've been going for more than 10 years."
The Repairers of the Breach scholarship provided Ms. Sanchez and other recipients the continuity and support needed as they continue adjusting to life after the hurricanes.
"I was able to get spiritual growth from the worship services," Ms. Sanchez said. "Every year I look forward to going. I also enjoy the fellowship with others. I was happy that God enabled us to attend."
Ms. Sanchez said she was grateful that assistance was available because women are financially challenged with expenses related to the devastation and rebuilding of their homes.
She has moved to another neighborhood in New Orleans and plans to rebuild her home in the Lower Ninth Ward. She is a member of United Methodist Women at Hartzell United Methodist Church, also in the Lower Ninth Ward. The church was flooded. Trustees plan to rebuild the church, Ms. Sanchez said.
She is in touch with members of her United Methodist Women unit who have been living in other parts of the country, including Texas, Mississippi and Colorado.
"We in New Orleans keep others updated on what is happening at the church," Ms. Sanchez said. "With the help of the Lord, we will come back. As long as we have God, we are not alone."
Mission with women, children and youth
Dulac Community Center in Dulac, La., will also receive funds from the Repairers of the Breach offering. The center is a national mission agency supported by United Methodist Women's Mission Giving. The center is working to build a permanent structure to house volunteers. Funds will be used to remove temporary trailers that have been used for housing.
Remaining money from the Repairer of the Breach fund will be used in the future. Ms. Hatcher said the generous donations of United Methodist Women members prove the bond of sisterhood that exists among members across the country. The Repairers of the Breach offering delivered the love of sisterhood in a tangible way, she said.