The Alabama-West Florida Conference continues to serve those in need along the panhandle of Florida after Hurricane Michael.
Conference leaders and UMCOR consultants have assisted those who setup temporary shelter at Forest Park UMC in Panama City, FL, to find new housing arrangements. Our sincere appreciation is extended to the UMCOR team who was on the ground in the area assisting conference leaders to ensure care and dignity were shown to all temporary residents.
We also joyfully announce that the Alabama-West Florida Conference is the recipient of a $628,768 grant from UMCOR. We are grateful to UMCOR for recognizing the extensive need along the coast. This grant will allow for three volunteer coordinator sites to be established, support staff to manage these sites, construction costs for those we help and assessments for the next grant. UMCOR is sending another team to the panhandle in January to consult with the conference so that we manage the sites in an effective and efficient way.
Susan Hunt, AWF Director of Mission and Advocacy, has established a partnership program for churches to partner with Marianna-Panama City district churches. Click here to read suggestions on ways you can help provide support to those churches in need. Should you have questions, she can be reached at email@example.com. If your church wishes to participate, please contact Susan.
We continue to encourage all volunteers to register through the portal to ensure our volunteer coordinators appropriately match the skill level with the need.
Thank you for the many ways you continue to minister to those in the Port St. Joe, Marianna and Panama City areas.
Please save the date for a post 2019 general conference regional meeting in your area. Bishop David Graves and AWF conference leadership are inviting all clergy and laity to join them for an overview of the called session and a question and answer time. The dates and locations are below.
Thursday, March 7, 2019, at Montgomery FUMC
Saturday, March 9, 2019, at Covenant UMC in Dothan, AL
Sunday, March 10 2019, at Christ UMC in Mobile, AL
There will also be a clergy gathering on Monday, March 11, 2019, at Christ UMC in Mobile, AL, from 10am-2pm. Clergy should click here to register their attendance. Registration is not required for the above three meetings.
The Committee on Standing Rules has begun its work in preparation for the 2019 Annual Conference session, June 2-5, 2019, at Frazer Memorial UMC in Montgomery, AL. The committee will be reviewing the Conference Standing Rules and recommending revisions.
Please be aware of upcoming deadlines specified in our Standing Rules:
- Any proposed changes to the Standing Rules should be received in writing by the chairperson of the Committee on Standing Rules no later than February 1, 2019. You may submit proposed changes by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Shirley H. Woodie, 171 Meadowview Drive, Ozark, AL 36360.
- Resolutions shall be submitted to the Committee on Resolutions and Petitions by February 15, 2019, except in cases where it can be demonstrated by the author of a late petition that the situation which gave rise to making the petition was not apparent until after the deadline for petitions. The committee shall provide copies of all resolutions submitted by February 15 to all voting members present at the conference session. The maker of the late resolution shall supply these copies of his/her resolution if submitted after February 15. No resolution will be received on the last day of the session. The Chairperson of the Committee on Resolutions and Petitions is Rev. Christina Shaver. You may contact her at email@example.com.
- Materials and reports to be included in the Book of Reports shall be in the hands of the Journal editor NO LATER THAN February 25, 2019. Please email materials and reports to Rev. Jackie Slaughter, Journal Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have questions or need additional information, please contact me.
Shirley H. Woodie, Chairperson
AWFC Committee on Standing Rules
Hurricane Michael caused severe damage to Port St. Joe, Florida, a community with deep ties to the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 57% of structures, (homes and businesses with addresses in the town) were damaged and residents are facing extraordinary costs as they clean up properties and arrange temporary housing.
“This is clearly one of the worst disasters to befall one of the Fund’s core communities and the need is overwhelming,” said Katie Ensign, senior program officer for the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. “We’re going to stay alert for opportunities to provide short and long-term recovery support.”
The Fund supported the immediate disaster response through a $250,000 grant to the Salvation Army and a $100,000 grant to the American Red Cross. In addition, the Fund’s trustees approved disaster response grants including:
- Christian Community Development Fund, Port St. Joe, up to $100,000 to support the volunteer home repair program. Funds will support housing and feeding volunteers, purchasing supplies and materials for mold prevention, and providing supplies for home repairs.
- Gulf Coast CareerSource, Panama City, up to $50,000 to support the Community Resource Center in North Port St. Joe, allowing it to provide emergency financial assistance to low-income residents facing extraordinary costs for tree and debris removal and roof repairs.
- First United Methodist Church, Port St. Joe, $125,000 for community outreach relief efforts needed as a result of the storm.
The trustees also authorized a funding initiative to support Jessie Ball duPont Fund grantees in Gulf County, Florida, with distinct short-term relief needs.
The Jessie Ball duPont Fund works to expand access and create opportunity by investing in people, organizations and communities that were important to Jessie Ball duPont. The Fund has assets of $309 million and has awarded more than $376 million in grants since 1977.
(Kari Barlow for AWFUMC) - About two weeks after Hurricane Michael devastated Panama City and much of the surrounding area, Lynn Haven UMC Student Minister Neil McGee knew his youth group desperately needed a change of scenery.
“Some of them hadn’t left for the storm, and they were traumatized,” he said. “Everywhere you go it’s nothing but total destruction. It takes its toll.”
So McGee reached out to First UMC Opelika—where his wife Mimi grew up and he used to volunteer—about hosting the kids for a respite weekend. He envisioned a few low-key, relaxing days by the lake with no big plans. What he got was an overwhelming display of Christian love in action.
“They just loved on our kids like crazy,” he said. “It was so good for the students to see!”
After the clergy at First UMC Opelika agreed to host Lynn Haven, they set out to make it an unforgettable experience for the storm-weary youth. Teresa Vigueras, associate director of music ministries, and Rick Lane, associate pastor of youth ministries, contacted local businesses to secure donations of meals, event tickets and many other items.
“It is truly amazing to see what God can do when individuals faithfully respond to the nudging of the Holy Spirit,” Associate Pastor Patrick Hitchman-Craig said.
On Sunday Oct. 28, the Lynn Haven group—about 42 kids including a few chaperones—arrived toward the end of First UMC Opelika’s 11 a.m. service. Before the benediction, Senior Pastor Robin Wilson invited the group forward and offered prayers on their behalf. Afterward, they enjoyed pizza in the youth building and then attended an Auburn University volleyball game free of charge.
“After the game, they joined our youth for their annual youth cookout,” Hitchman-Craig said. “The two youth ministries played games together, enjoyed a great meal and quickly made friends.”
On Monday the kids toured downtown Auburn, relaxed and hung out and were treated to catered meals throughout the day. That night they attended the Auburn Ignite worship event, which featured Sadie Robertson—of “Duck Dynasty” fame—as the guest speaker.
As the group prepared to return home Tuesday morning, Wilson and Craig and other church staff spent time talking with and encouraging the kids and quietly presented McGee with a gift of $100 for each family represented.
“It was amazing. The kids were blown away,” McGee said. “It was quite an act of selflessness.”
That compassion was a powerful reminder of God’s goodness at a time when all of his youth were struggling.
“Their houses have tarps on them,” McGee said. “Some of them have lost their bedrooms. That’s hard to deal with when you’re a kid. It’s hard to deal with when you’re an adult!”
The visit also blessed members of First UMC Opelika, who have raised more than $18,000 toward Hurricane Michael relief and packed countless flood buckets and hygiene kits. They are also planning to send a response team to the Florida Panhandle in early December.
“I don’t know what the future holds for these youth, their families, or for Lynn Haven UMC,” Hitchman-Craig said. “But I know that they left Opelika encouraged and filled with hope. They know that the people called Methodist in Opelika are supporting them and praying for them. But best of all, they know that God is with them.”
That message is the one McGee is consistently sharing with his youth.
“We’re just kind of challenging them and saying, ‘This is the new normal. What are we going to do with it?’” he said. “I tell them I don’t know why this happened, but God can cause something good to come from it.”