The Central Texas Conference Offering Disaster Relief ©

As I write this blog (Friday afternoon, Feb. 19), we are working as a Conference Team with District Superintendents (DS) and members of the District Discipleship Teams to provide assistance and disaster relief across the Central Texas Conference. DSs and Assistant District Superintendents are calling each church and/or pastor in their District Areas to access damage caused by last week’s brutally cold winter weather. As we thaw out, reports of people still without power, dealing with burst pipes and flooding, and struggling for warmth, housing and food are coming in from all corners of conference.
Rev. Mike Ramsdell, executive director, Smith Center for Evangelism, Mission and Church Growth, along with Susan Luttrell, Central Texas Conference Coordinator of Disaster Response, and Clara Downey, Disaster Response Support, are spearheading and coordinating our efforts.  District teams are also directly involved with the clergy, churches and communities in their district area.
Mike Ramsdell has written the following nine-point information sheet that I share with his permission.
  1. Susan Luttrell has been on a ZOOM call with officials from the State of Texas. As you already know, they are saying this disaster is the biggest in the history of the state, with every county having been declared a disaster area. As pipes continue to thaw the issues will be exponentially larger.
  2. We have partnered with UMCOR and will receive some limited emergency funding from them, which is helpful. Thanks to Bishop Lowry for his work here as only a Bishop can make this official request.
  3. The CTC Executive team is working on adding Disaster Relief to our COVID-19 Relief Fund so that this can be available for broader needs. We also have Disaster Relief funds we keep for emergencies. This is surely that disaster and there will be moneys available to help.  The difficult part will be who, when, where, how much and how to get it to those in need. Jeff Roper, conference benefits officer and Mike Ramsdell are leading the effort related to these resources.
  4. We expect the Districts Area Discipleship Teams to be the point people for identifying needs as they arise.
  5. Our Emergency Response teams (ERTs) are beginning to mobilize. This is often in connection with the home District. Many on these teams are dealing with issues in their own homes, churches, and communities. This will be an on-going roll out.
  6. The Conference Communications team will be a primary point of communication regarding these efforts with communications from District Area offices also being vital for issues specific to the churches in that area. Churches are advised to connect with their DS as quickly as possible following any damage.
  7. Our DSs and District Discipleship Teams will be in a conversation with each other to learn what others are doing/facing and sharing best practices.
  8. This will unfold more slowly than any of us want it to. Moral and spiritual support immediately available, but physical resources can only be provided as available, viable, and within our limits.
  9. Given our recent restructuring under the Forward to a New Spring plan, our conference staff and other resources is more limited than in the past. The good news is that with the District Discipleship Teams, churches have more direct access to that team than before. Still, our ability to help will be more defined by our resources than the scope of the disaster. This is going to take every resource available to us - government, communities, churches, and conference resources. 

Mike closes with the comment, “My personal opinion is we will learn quickly what our capabilities are and where we have the most leverage to help. If communities and church families in need see their own church with boots on the ground, this will make for a greater long-term footprint for the church in that area and our witness. Success in this disaster will be at the local church level, churches coming together around this mission, and the community taking note of the place where God was working for them. This is the good that can come in a season of COVID-19, division, and confusion for many our local churches. Uniting around this mission could help shape a new future.”
To Mike’s comment I can only add a strong, “Amen!”
As I have written in my previous blog, (The Church Being the Church, Feb. 19) we are seeing the church be the church to the glory of God and the love of all of God’s children all across the Central Texas Conference. Together we are living out the great commandment to love God and our neighbor. (Luke 10:25-37) 
I continue to give thanks to God for your faithfulness!