As Hurricane Harvey was taking aim at Texas, Colin Monk from First United Methodist Church in Morris, Ill., (FUMC) was ready to jump into action. Monk helps lead the church’s Early Response Team (ERT) who are trained to respond in times of a disaster.
As soon as Monk received clearance from the Rio Texas Annual Conference, the seven-member team from FUMC headed out for the 15+ hour drive towards Houston on Sept. 1.
“They told us not to count on overnight accommodations and we would need to be self-sufficient,” said Monk which didn’t stop them from going to the area to help. “We packed up the truck with all our supplies, food and tents.”
Once in Texas, the ERT team headed to Corpus Christi and then Refugio, a small community 55 miles north where nearly every building was damaged from Harvey.
“We tarped a lot of damaged roofs, cut and removed fallen trees and cleaned up debris under extremely hot and humid conditions,” said Monk.
Monk and others from FUMC first became ERT certified following a 2013 tornado which hit nearby Diamond, Ill., so they could be prepared if a disaster hit home. Since then they’ve helped victims of tornadoes in Coal City, Rochelle, and Ottawa. Last year they traveled to West Virginia to help residents recover from disastrous flooding.
“The work is hard and rewarding,” said Monk who is also chair of the Grundy County Community Organizations Active in Disaster. “But even more rewarding is the relationships we build, meeting the homeowners, talking to them, and listening to their stories.”
The team helped one homeowner in Corpus Christi who rode out the hurricane hiding in her fireplace. “We helped her with some general cleanup and we did a lot of listening on her front porch,” said Monk. “The people are so happy to have someone to talk with and hopefully we are giving them a little hope.”
The team returned home on Sept. 10 tired but renewed in their faith turning their attention to Florida and where God is leading them next.
Cleaning Bucket Collection
The Rockford District started a cleaning bucket collection effort through the month of September. Several churches including Pecatonica, First UMC in Belvidere, Thomson, Evans in Machesney Park, Christ UMC in Rockford, and others have donated items totaling more than 50 buckets. Christ UMC served as a drop-off location and District Mission Coordinator John Stelter planned to deliver the buckets to the Midwest Mission Distribution Center in Chatham, Ill.
The DeKalb District Hub Cluster brought cleaning bucket supplies to their September meeting. Crete UMC also collected more than 50 buckets with local businesses, the Boy Scouts, and the Police and Fire Departments donating supplies.The local Lion’s club helped initiate the relief efforts by donating buckets with lids for this worthy cause. They also collected 20 hygiene kits. As a thank you, Crete is hosting a free Rock & Bluegrass Concert in their parking lot on Oct. 7 at 6 pm. They’re asking those who attend to bring their own chair so they can sit in comfort and enjoy the music.
Many other churches took special offerings for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Kingswood UMC in Buffalo Grove, Ill., collected nearly $10,000 dollars over three Sundays.
The Midwest Mission Distribution Center (MMDC) also encourages monetary donations or supplies bought through DollarDays as one of the best ways to donate since they are shipped directly to MMDC at the Center’s bulk prices. To find out more information visit midwestmissiondc.org. Monetary donations may also be sent to MMDC at PO Box 56 in Chatham, IL 62629.
The Texas Annual Conference is ready to receive volunteer teams to assist with Hurricane Harvey relief. The work consists mainly of cleaning out flooded homes and requires extensive physical labor. They prefer that at least one member of your team be ERT trained. Teams should bring their own protective gear and tools.
All members need proof of Safe Sanctuary training and clear background check from your local United Methodist Church. You will be housed at a host church in the conference. Team leaders can register their team at www.txcumc.org or visit the Rio Texas Conference website riotexas.org/harvey. If your church is interested in ERT training, contact NIC Disaster Response Coordinator Rev. Christian Vosteen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wood Dale Community UMC held a Tuesday evening Ecumenical prayer service on September 5 to pray for those who have suffered great loss following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as for the first responders and volunteers who have been helping to bring hope and restoration to the residents of Texas and Florida. Pastor Terry McDorman said when seeing images of the overwhelming devastation, rescues, and suffering it’s easy to feel helpless, but this is the time to ask ourselves what we can do to help.
“The first task is to pray,” said McDorman. “Then ask yourself what it is you can offer, maybe it’s a contribution to UMCOR, no matter how small, or maybe you can send food or maybe even go to the area yourself to help. We need to look at the disaster of these hurricanes as an opportunity to serve others.” The congregation also lit candles in memory of the at least 60 lives lost in Texas and asked for continued prayers for those in the path of Irma.
For the latest disaster relief information visit:
NIC Disaster Response Facebook page: www.facebook.com/nicdisaster.
If your church is interested in ERT training, contact NIC Disaster Response Coordinator Rev. Christian Vosteen at email@example.com.
Donate to UMCOR
- To make an offering to UMCOR to help those affected in the U.S. by natural disasters you can give to the U.S. Disaster Response & Advance #901670.
- To keep relief supplies in stock, give to Material Resources Advance #901440.
- To help those affected by disasters outside the U.S. such as the Caribbeans donate to Disaster Response, InternationalAdvance #982450.
- Go to www.umcor.org and click on “donate”.
- If you or your church are interested in making relief kits please download the list of items here: www.umcor.org/UMCOR/Relief-Supplies