Prayers, Patience, Donations and Cleaning Kits Needed in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey With so many of you, Jolynn and I have watched the news of Hurricane Harvey (#HurricaneHarvey) with deep interest. For us, it is very personal. We lived in Corpus Christi, Texas for 13 years (while I was Sr. Pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church). We have friends up and down the coast. We have lived through a couple of hurricane evacuations and know the drill on boarding up the house. I have been in (and preached in) the communities of both Rockport and Aransas Pass. Our son went to Rice University, which has sustained a lot of damage and on the news we saw flooded streets in Houston near where he used to live. So, it is in a very personal way, we (both Jolynn and I) ask you to join with so many others in praying for the people of the Texas Gulf Coast and especially those hit hard by flooding from Harvey both in Texas and Louisiana. I also want to call you to pray earnestly and often for the health and safety of all dealing with this historic flooding – both those directly affected as well as all of the first responders who have come from all across Texas and several other states to assist in rescue efforts. As our prayers continue for all of those who have had their world swept away, as well as those who are still in danger from this unprecedented and still developing weather event, may we respond with concrete actions of love and service. In answer to our prayers, the Lord will give us guidance on how best to respond with support for relief and recovery efforts both in the short- and long-term. In time of disaster, it is well for us to remember the promise of the risen Christ. “I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” (Matthew 28:20) It is at times like this that the great commandment of Jesus moves us beyond mere sentiment into action. “This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.” (Matthew 22:38-39) Our Lord, who was renowned for his love and service to others, (all others, regardless of race, creed, orientation, political affiliation, nationality, etc.!) calls us to service in deeds of love for just such a time as this. (Esther 4:14) I’d also like to echo the calls for patience and financial support that have been posted on our conference website (ctcumc.org/HurricaneHarvey ) and delivered via our Mission Support and Disaster Relief communications. I know that the yearning to help is burning within each of us. However, right now, and most likely for several weeks to come, the best way we can respond is to pray and give to the UMCOR Hurricane Harvey Advance #901670 through your local church or online at umcor.org. For those who would called to support the relief and recovery efforts beyond financial donations, UMCOR has put out a call for Cleaning Buckets and Hygiene Kits. Many local congregations in the Central Texas Conference have such efforts underway. If you are so called, start by checking with your local church and your district office for such efforts. After you have completed your buckets and/or kits, please contact Sheryl Crumrine (firstname.lastname@example.org/ 817-877-5222) at the Central Texas Conference Service Center (CTCSC) for information on how to get them to where they are most needed. Another way our conference will assist in the immediate response efforts is to host those who have had to flee their homes due to flooding and wind damage. Authorities estimate as many as 30,000 people will need shelter and many of those have already come into our conference seeking refuge. We have learned that Killeen FUMC is currently hosting seven people and is prepared to help as many as 100 at a time. If your church is already providing shelter or has the ability to do so, please email Sheryl Crumrine at email@example.com so that the CTCSC Disaster Response team can best assist you in these efforts. Our conference ERT teams are ready and standing by to assist as soon as they are called upon. However, the tragic truth is that this storm is far from over and much more rain and flooding is still expected in the Greater Houston area and throughout southeast Texas. The areas most impacted are still in active rescue mode where preventing the loss of life being the primary focus right now. It is important to wait and pray until the storm is over, the immediate danger has passed, the damage can be assessed and the immediate needs identified. This is going to be a very long recovery process, most likely, several years. We have been engaged in the long haul for recovery and healing through our Conference office of Disaster Response headed by Rev. Ginger Watson. There will be much to do and plenty of opportunities to help in the months and years to come. As I write this, our Conference is not in active disaster mode as there is no flooding or other emergencies to report from within the Central Texas Conference. However, that could change as the rain continues, so we will continue to watch our South District counties closely. Our Disaster Response team remains in regular contact with UMCOR and state of Texas authorities. The Disaster Response team along with our Communications & IT department and others are in regular contact with our partners in Texas Conference and the Río Texas Conference. Both conferences are posting regular updates on their conference Facebook pages (Texas Conference Facebook, Rio Texas Conference Facebook) and watch ctcumc.org/HurricanHarvey for the latest updates from our Disaster Response team. We will have more information about the specific needs of people in the coastal region and how best to work with our partners in the Texas Conference and Rio Texas Conference as soon as those are available. Vance Morton and our communications team at the Conference Center will continue to share information out as soon as we have it. Meanwhile, please continue to monitor the situation through our Conference website ctcumc.org/HurricaneHarvey for updates. The Lord will guide our best and most prayer filled efforts to help our brothers and sisters suffering from Hurricane Harvey. For now, may we respond with prayer, cleaning buckets, hygiene kits and financial support to UMCOR Advance #901670 through our local churches or the Central Texas Conference directly.