Conference News

Hurricane Sally Update, September 17

published 9/17/2020

Hurricane Sally has moved out of the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Below is the latest disaster response information. 

Assessment & Needs
Flooding and roof damage are significant issues in the southern parts of our conference. Cleaning buckets are still needed. Because of the need from Hurricane Laura, warehouses are low on inventory but requests are being made from multiple resources. The first delivery of 800 buckets was made to Orange Beach, AL, today. More will be delivered tomorrow to Pensacola FUMC. If your church has the capability to make more or has them on hand, please reach out to your district disaster response coordinator (ddrc). 

Roof repair items are also in need due to local inventory being low. Tarps, nails and furring strips are all needed. Please consider collecting these in your district or community. If you are collecting, please deploy these by noon on Monday so that they can be used immediately in the areas with damage. 

Gas and generators are also in high demand. If you have access to these items, please contact your ddrc

Click here for a list of collection locations around the Alabama-West Florida Conference. 

As with any storm, monetary donations are the quickest way you and your church can make a positive impact. Click here to donate

Please do not send any clothing items of any sort to any location. 

Response Teams
Teams are already scheduled from the Great Plains Conference, the Mississippi Conference, the North Georgia Conference and the South Georgia Conference. South Georgia is also sending a shower trailer. We are so grateful for our United Methodist Connection.

More teams are needed immediately to help mitigate potential mold from flooding and are invited to come into our conference. If you can arrange to send a team, only the team leader needs to be UMCOR trained and badged. Other volunteers may work under their leadership. Please contact disasterresponse@awfumc.org for more information on location and lodging.

COVID procedures will be in place at volunteer housing sites and multiple locations have been identified to space out volunteers. Site coordinators will be in place to direct teams to specific cleanup areas.

Please note that sections of I-10 and Highway 85 around Crestview, FL, are closed. Travel will be interrupted. Please consult mapping apps before making travel plans. Most areas have curfews to ensure safety of residents and volunteers. 

Survivor Information
If you have damage to your church or personal property, please keep receipts for expenses related to Hurricane Sally (hotels, food, supplies, services, etc). There is potential FEMA reimbursement available. You may take photos with your camera phone for records. The FEMA number for this disaster is 3546

AWF Connectional Response
Several churches in the AWF Conference are housing outside response groups. Thank you to the following churches who are opening their doors to meet needs:
Christ UMC: hosting Civil Air Patrol; responsible for aerial coverage of damage;
Gadsden Street UMC: hosting state troopers;
Rosinton UMC: hosting Team Rubicon.

As we have learned, information can quickly change after a disaster. Please do not self deploy or collect items that are not needed. We will continue to send updates as we have new information so that we can best respond to those in need. 

Your prayers are most appreciated and will sustain many in the coming days. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Christ, yet again. It is in times like these that we see the best of the United Methodist connection. 

Photo courtesy of Rev. Christina Shaver


Hurricane Sally Update, September 16

published 9/16/2020

As Hurricane Sally moves through our conference, we continue to assess the damage and communicate with our disaster recovery leadership team and clergy. 

-We give thanks that we have not heard of any injuries or deaths related to the storm in our AWF connection. 

-It appears many of our churches were spared significant damage. There are several cases of roof damage; water entry; and downed trees/fences on church property and at clergy homes. 

-We are compiling a comprehensive list of assessments as they are available. If your church or parsonage has damage, please be sure to report it to your district disaster response coordinator (ddrc). Those contacts may be found here

-We give thanks to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) for assisting our conference with a $10,000 solidarity grant. 

-Rev. Chris Ackerman, AWF disaster response director, has ordered a delivery of 800 cleaning buckets to be delivered to the Loxley area tomorrow. Another 800 buckets will be sent to Pensacola. 

-There will likely be several volunteer centers setup in our conference so that we can assist as many communities as possible. Those will be announced when logistics are arranged. 

-Emergency Response Teams (ERTs) will be needed in the coming days. Each team needs one UMCOR trained and badged leader. Other volunteers may work under the leadership of the trained leader. Orange Beach UMC is preparing to receive these teams soon. 

-Curfews will be in place in most communities with extensive damage. Please do not self deploy. We will announce when communities are ready to receive teams, which will be soon. 

-Monetary donations are always welcome and needed. All donations will stay within our conference and will be used to directly assist families in need. Click here to donate

-Please pray for the communities in our conference who are facing difficult days ahead. Our conference is home to resilient disciples who will lean on one another during these trying times. May God's peace fill our hearts and guide our actions in the days to come. 


Hurricane Sally Conference Response: September 15, 2020

published 9/15/2020

Hurricane Sally is slated to make landfall at some point tomorrow. It is a remarkably slow-moving storm and causes concern for historic flooding and storm surge. The Alabama-West Florida Conference is already staging relief support prior to the storm’s arrival in the following ways: 

-Our Director of Disaster Response, Rev. Chris Ackerman, continues his outstanding work and has gained a tremendous amount of experience from Hurricane Michael. He has worked with the Disaster Response Warehouse in Decatur, AL, to obtain 500-700 cleaning buckets. As soon as trucks are allowed to enter areas in need, they will be distributed. 

-Several conference disaster response trailers have been cleaned, inspected and are ready for immediate deployment. 

-The district disaster response coordinators have been working closely with our conference emergency response teams to be on alert for damage assessments. If needed, this team will stay in close contact with conference leadership. 

-If you are in the path of the storm, please remember communication can be limited. Please find a way to reach out to your district superintendent within 48 hours of the storm passing. After Hurricane Michael, many clergy families evacuated and we were unable to reach them for days. 

-It is impossible to have a comprehensive response plan until we know the damage but please be aware that the conference will respond in immediate ways. That usually means walking alongside city leaders and other response organizations. As traumatic as Hurricane Michael was, we have trained a lot of people and have a lot more expertise that will enable us to best respond.

-Finally, please do not deploy unless directed by conference leadership. Now is a great time to be in touch with team members to ensure you have updated contact information and badges. 

Further updates will be posted to this site as needed. 


Hurricane Sally Preparations

published 9/14/2020

Friends,

Yet again, we call on our conference for prayer in preparation for Hurricane Sally making landfall. At this time, most accurate models have it hitting from New Orleans to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. This puts parts of our conference on the east side of the storm where most flooding occurs. Storm surge and significant rain totals can be expected. 

As a reminder, please review this resource page on the conference Website so that your church is prepared should it receive damage. It includes the damage reporting protocol in addition to emergency plans. 

After Hurricane Laura, our UMCOR flood bucket inventory is depleted. We are encouraging our churches to make flood buckets or donate towards flood bucket materials. Please let your District Disaster Response Coordinator know if you have flood buckets already made or are planning to assemble more. We have some extra buckets available for filling. Contact Clark Ratcliff if you are interested in some of these buckets. Click here for the current list of items needed to assemble flood buckets.
 
If you would like to donate to the purchase of materials for buckets, you may send a check to:
Alabama-West Florida Conference
4719 Woodmere Boulevard
Montgomery, AL 36106
(memo line: Hurricane Sally)

You may also donate through this PayPal link.

Thank you for your tireless connectional efforts in an unprecedented year. Please join me in praying for those in the path of the storm. 

Bishop David Graves
Resident Bishop
Alabama-West Florida Conference 


Ackerman Offers Guidance After Hurricane Laura

published 9/1/2020
AWF Disaster Response Director, Rev. Chris Ackerman, has some very important words and advice for our conference after going through a traumatic hurricane just two years ago. Please carefully read his guidance.

(Rev. Chris Ackerman) - As a conference, we want to keep you updated on the aftermath of Hurricane Laura. As you can imagine, emergency crews are hard at work cleaning up debris and restoring utilities. The infrastructure of the impacted area took a severe hit, and it will be some time before basic utilities are functional. As a result, we have been asked by the Louisiana Conference, by UMCOR, and by federal, state and local agencies to NOT deploy into Louisiana at this time. Too many people showing up and trying to help is actually making it difficult for the emergency crews to do their job. In other words, an excess of people descending into the area is actually making the relief efforts worse and stopping people from restoring what is critical. State and local agencies are supplying basic needs of food, water and shelter. They are also not allowing entry or reentry in and out of the affected areas.

Soon they will allow for relief efforts to enter and assist. Until that time, we will respect the wishes of the conference and local authorities and patiently wait for an invitation to begin sending emergency response teams (ERT), in addition to relief items.

Speaking from personal experience after having gone through Hurricane Michael, I can assure you that pastors and staff who were affected by this hurricane are not in a clear state of mind. The stress and trauma of having experienced this situation, as well as the burden of wanting to be there for their entire congregation, is overwhelming beyond words. The simplest of decisions becomes incredibly difficult to make. That is why we are wanting to partner with affected churches in the area. Here is what that looks like. One of the things that brought our staff and me some peace was when we had other folks simply sit with us, pray with us, and be present with us. It becomes very easy to feel isolated and alone when experiencing the kind of stress levels that follow a disaster of this size. As a conference we will be working on making these connections for any church that is interested in partnering in this way. Please do not take it upon yourselves to try and make this connection on your own as it will make it more difficult for these churches. They will end up having multiple churches reaching out to them which puts them in a position of having to make more decisions. Additionally, partnering with these churches also has a financial component. Many of these churches are going to struggle to be able to put together worship services. Their congregation will also be struggling with their own needs as a result of the hurricane, which means giving will significantly decrease. Please consider partnering with these churches through the conference in a way that will allow them to continue their ministry without financial concerns.

I know the hearts of those in our conference and I know the deep desire we have to love on those affected by Hurricane Laura. Let’s be the absolute best we can be by first “doing no harm“ and second by doing “all the good we can.” I am thankful to be in ministry with all of you! I will continue to keep everyone updated as I know more. In the meantime, let’s cover our neighbors in prayer and position ourselves to join with these survivors in a long-term partnership.

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