Katrina and Harvey

I remember waiting anxiously for news of Hurricane Katrina. It was August 29, 2005. Hurricane Katrina was considered the first massive storm evidencing the possibility of climate change affects and weather. The real problem was it was advancing toward New Orleans, a city built below sea level and protected by a series of levees. We all know now that the levees failed. In the days and weeks after Katrina made landfall the world learned of its massive devastation. 1,833 deaths. A million people without power. 275,000 homes destroyed. Response services overwhelmed.

Like so many others around the country, I wanted to help. I talked with my church leaders and we decided to put out a call to our members to form a work team. We made contact with Trinity United Methodist Church in Gulfport, Mississippi who was doing their part to help with the recovery.

Gulfport is close to where the “eye” of the storm hit.

We put a team together and made arrangements to go to Gulfport and help out. Over the next two years we sent four work teams to the region. On our first trip we met, and learned about John Kelly.

John Kelly was a retired Army veteran and member of Trinity United Methodist Church in Gulfport. We learned that in the hours after the eye had passed through the area, John made his way to the church, along with several others, checking on families and friends. Many more people showed up wanting to get any kind of news. Several of the people shared they had food that was going to spoil without refrigeration, and didn’t know what to do.

John Kelly knew what to do. He knew the church had barbecues and charcoal. He organized the folks, got them to set up the barbecues and, for the next couple of weeks, provided hot food for the surrounding neighborhood. The church became a place where people could check up on one another, get news, and find support.

At one point a grocery chain semi truck pulled up at the church, asking if this was the place where food was being provided. John Kelly said it was. The driver of the truck said, “Well I’ve got a truck load of food, but no market to deliver it to.” The market had been destroyed by the hurricane.

One of my great memories of those work trips was the fact that those who took part came to me at some point during the trip and would say, “THIS is what church is all about!”

Indeed.

One other thing that hit home was the fact that the United Methodist Committee on Relief, or UMCOR has for decades been one of the first responders to tragedies all over the world. When the Red Cross left the Gulf region it was UMCOR that was tasked by FEMA with the long term recovery work. Tens of thousands of people were helped through the recovery of the Gulf region.

A week ago Hurricane Harvey made landfall at Rockport, Texas. We’ve all read or heard about the ongoing devastation, the deaths, the flooding, the displacement of thousands of people. We’ve also heard a lot of pleas for help. I’ve even gotten emails asking if I would turn in air miles or hotel miles to help out. Which I did.

But I also did something I believe will be even more effective in the long run. I made a monthly commitment to relief efforts through UMCOR. It was easy. I went to UMCOR.org and made my pledge.

The best part of this is 100% of what I give goes directly to relief efforts and NOT to administrative costs.

Every gift, and every prayer goes a long way to help those in need.