The Sunday after the great winter storm of 2021, many members of the Cabinet and Conference staff leadership team dispersed across the Central Texas Conference to visit various churches and communities damaged by the cold, snow, bursting pipes and struggle for food and water. I went to one of our congregations suffering from burst pipes and flooding damage (which could describe many of our congregations!!) for worship on Sunday morning. My time with the good people at Aledo was joy! Clifton Howard went to Gustine UMC for an early service and First UMC Stephenville for the 11 a.m. service. He reported both congregations excited and committed to ministry in their mission field.
All across the Conference, reports came in of congregations stepping up to the challenge of missional outreach to their community, especially those thirsty, hungry and needing shelter.
Mike Ramsdell reports: “The New Church Start district had two churches that had burst pipes and flooded. This did not stop New Riverside – a Latino and Anglo New Church start – or Mission Esperanza (mission hope) – another Latino New Church start – from having a full worship experience at another location online. Freezing conditions and water damage did not keep these two young churches from reaching out to their church family and community. They also jumped up and immediately begin clearing and preparing for a full recovery. Thank you, Pastor Armando Alvarado, and Pastor Al Tayango.”
We also continue to receive narratives in which volunteers stepped in to help where damage was suffered in church buildings and neighboring homes. Just today, I received the following from the South-Central District Area Superintendent Dr. Leah Hidde-Gregory…“In the last week, [the South-Central District Area has] responded to the storm by distributing over a thousand flood buckets in the district area. With $75 worth of supplies in each flood bucket that is $75,000 in resources being poured into our communities through UMCOR and our local congregations. Churches across the district area have offered water, food, flood buckets, and clean up assistance to those in their community. I have been blessed to witness an ‘Act of God,’ as I see neighbors helping neighbors, churches helping churches, and the district area coming together to make sure no one is in need.”
The words of Galatians 6 are being lived out. “Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
Now is a Vital Time to Reconnect with Our Communities
I was struck by a phrase the pastor at Aledo used, “Crisis is when danger meets opportunity.” The crisis of the storm and its aftermath is when we can move from being preoccupied with COVID and engaged in missional outreach of love to our communities and mission field. This is a time for renewal and recommitment to our core mission, our WIG (Wildly Important Goal), of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Now, more than ever, it is time to reconnect with our communities. Recovery, renewal and recommitment are all linked. They go together!!!
Do you remember Joseph confronting his brothers who had sold him into slavery in Genesis 50? “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20). Much harm has been done by the storm and its aftermath, but a great opportunity for ministry is now offered. I thank God for the faithfulness of so many of our churches in their reaching out!
The CTC Disaster Response Team in cooperation with the District Superintendents continue to provide information and resources to assist the local churches of the Central Texas Conference as they continue to reach out to their communities and congregations and work to assist those in need in the wake of last week’s severe winter weather. We have published the information that may help in your or your churches response and recovery applicable to most, if not all those who suffered damage on and details on the Central Texas Conference website (ctcumc.org/winter-storm-response-2021). Some of the information you’ll find on that page includes a message from Rev. Mike Ramsdell, executive director, Smith Center for Evangelism, Mission & Church Growth, and Susan Luttrell, CTC Coordinator of Disaster Relief discussing our efforts to date and what more is to come as this situation unfolds. COVID Relief funds and disaster relief funds at the Conference level can be intermixed if need. Please contact your District Superintendent for more information.
When you visit ctcumc.org/winter-storm-response-2021, you will also find several links related to how to see if you are eligible and how to apply for FEMA assistance. More and more Texas counties are being added to the list of areas eligible for Individual Disaster Assistance. FEMA has made it easy for folks to see if they are eligible by going to disasterassistance.gov and typing in their Zip Code to see if their area is included. All 254 Texas counties are eligible for Public FEMA assistance, which includes “houses of worship.” For more on Public and Individual FEMA assistance eligibility, visit fema.gov/fact-sheet/understanding-fema-individual-assistance-and-public-assistance.
It is our intention that the information and resources on our website – and keeping checking back as more will be added as available – will assist you and your church continue to reach out in love, mercy and service to your members and your community during this time of crisis and, of course, at all times as we move Forward to a New Spring in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.