Alabama-West Florida has received requests for ERTs (Early Response Teams) and mission teams from Annual Conferences affected by recent storms. Coastal communities in Texas, Florida, and South Georgia can all use our help, as can communities affected by Hurricane Matthew last year. Remember that when you are looking for an opportunity to volunteer as a mission team, each requesting Annual Conference controls the process and coordinates the United Methodist response.
Want to Serve in Florida?
We have received confirmation that Florida is ready for volunteers to respond to Hurricane Irma. Trained ERTs will be placed in Irma relief and those who are not trained will be serving with recovery for Hermine and Matthew.
For more information regarding needs in Florida, visit their Disaster Response information page at http://www.flumc.org/disaster
Want to Serve in South Georgia?
In the state of Georgia, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irma left its worst impact in Coastal Georgia. The South Georgia Conference is looking for badged, current ERT and trained chainsaw teams to help in Chatham and other coastal counties. Lodging can be arranged in local churches; however, teams may need to cook their own meals or use local restaurants.
Interested ERTs can contact Luis O. Morales, South Georgia Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to Serve in Texas?
Two Annual Conferences in Texas are calling for ERTs or mission teams.
The Texas Annual Conference is ready to receive volunteer teams to assist with Hurricane Harvey relief. The work consists mainly of cleaning out flooded homes and requires extensive physical labor. At least one member of a team must be ERT trained. Teams should bring their own protective gear and tools. All members need proof of Safe Sanctuary training and clear background check from your local United Methodist Church. Housing is available at a host church in the conference. Team leaders can register their team at http://www.txcumc.org/newsdeta
The Rio Texas Conference is asking for currently certified ERT members for help with debris removal of down trees and roof tarping. Many homes have water damage from damaged windows and roofs. Teams will be based out of Corpus Christi and should register at https://riotexas.org/ert-
Want to Serve in Louisiana?
Teams are currently working two different disasters in Louisiana. The state is in the early response phase (i.e. mucking out) in response to Hurricane Harvey in the southwest part of the state and in the recovery phase (i.e. rebuilding) in response to the 2016 floods in the Baton Rouge, Denham Springs, Gonzales and Hammond areas. Register your team at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/UMCVolunteerRegistration
Want to Serve in North Carolina?
We encourage anyone interested in volunteering, to join the work in Lumberton, NC, or any of the Hurricane Matthew devastated areas as the need is great and our best energy can be put to work right now! Click here to read more about needs in Lumberton and how to volunteer.
Want to Serve in Puerto Rico?
There is not yet a call for ERTs or other mission teams in Puerto Rico. Even though the situation in is significantly worse, the same process will be involved once Puerto Rico is ready to receive teams.
Feeling Called to Serve as an ERT?
The Alabama-West Florida Conference has several regional ERT training events already scheduled. Visit the conference calendar to learn more.
Want to Stay in the Loop with Disaster Response Communication?
Latest information and trainings, as well as invitations to serve, will be advertised on our conference website, www.awfumc.org, and e-newsletters.
UMVIM SEJ (United Methodist Volunteers in Mission) is also a key player and their weekly e-news is helpful for updates, networking, and a good overview of all the needs and contacts in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Find more at http://umvim.org/go/
But for the past four years, high school students active in the Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church youth group have led the fight for a safer alternative. Serving on a planning committee with other church members, they put together an alcohol-free night of fun, food and fellowship that has become one of the hottest tickets in town.
“Kids are going to go somewhere after the homecoming game,” says the Rev. Shawn York, executive pastor at Gulf Breeze UMC. “All we’ve done is make it cool to be sober.”
In 2016, roughly 330 students attended the Gulf Breeze High School homecoming dance, and at least 285 of those students attended the church-sponsored party.
This year’s homecoming after-party— recently rescheduled to Oct. 21 because of Hurricane Nate—will be held in the outdoor dining area at Flounder’s Chowder House on Pensacola Beach. The theme is “Glo Up!” and guests can expect all manner of glow-in-the-dark festivities.
“At the tiki hut, the bartenders will be serving mocktails,” York said. “And we’ve chartered the dolphin cruise boat … to take them on a cruise under the stars.”
The party, which runs from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., will also feature a DJ and a photo booth. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office provides off-duty security, and parents chaperone in shifts.
In response to the annual party’s growing popularity, this year Gulf Breeze UMC expanded the planning committee to include seniors from St. Ann’s Catholic Church, which is also located in Gulf Breeze.
“It has proven to us that the majority of our students want something better than the world is giving them,” York said. “They are definitely future leaders, and they’ve really taken ownership of this.”
To fund a party like “Glo Up!” takes money, but York says parents and church members always come through with donations. He estimates this year’s event will cost about $7,000, but maintains it’s well worth it to keep teenagers safe.
“I am hoping other churches will be able to look at what we are doing as a model,” York said.
For more information about the annual event, contact York at email@example.com. Photo courtesy of GBUMC and includes the high school leadership team that helped plan the event.
More than 500 people turned out for “Path to Peace: A Reconciliation Celebration” that united blacks, whites and Latinos from across Baldwin County.
“We used every chair that we owned, and there were still people standing up!” said Rev. Dr. Nolan Donald, pastor at Foley UMC. “I would describe it as holy ground.”
The two-hour service, which blended worship, prayer and sermons from all three communities, was organized as a demonstration of racial unity founded on the cause of Christ. There were white choirs, black choirs and a Latino worship team, and afterward officers from the Foley Police Department grilled hamburgers and all the fixings for the crowd.
“It was one of the most beautiful expressions of Christianity I have ever been a part of,” Donald said. “Several of the speakers said when they got on stage it was just a glimpse of heaven.”
The reconciliation service was the culmination of more than six months of planning by roughly 25 churches across the area. Meeting every two weeks, they prayed and shared ideas about how to combat the racial tensions currently plaguing much of the nation. The team, which included Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, Pentecostal and non-denominational churches, relied heavily on Facebook and other social media platforms as well as newspapers and radio publicize the event.
“There was definitely some buzz about it,” Donald said, adding that he’d been uncertain about how many folks would show up. The service—which ended with a rousing rendition of “Amazing Grace”—reinforced the idea that people who disagree about politics or social issues can still stand united in Christ. “Despite the way of the world, this myth that we can’t trust each other, there was hope that the world can look different,” he said. “It was a strong declaration of the Gospel—that the other way is Jesus.”
Organizers now hope to create “affinity group”—groups of people who intentionally gather to enjoy a meal or watch a football game. “I think it’s what we’re called to do,” Donald said. “What brings racial reconciliation is not going to big events. … Deep changes will only come with deep relationships.”
Kari C. Barlow is a journalist based in Pensacola, Fla.
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To our friends, neighbors, and churches in the Alabama-West Florida Conference:
Based on the most recent forecasts from the National Weather Service, it appears that Tropical Storm/Hurricane Nate will eventually have an impact within the Alabama-West Florida Conference. While the possibility of direct landfall is unknown, it is likely some of us will experience storms with heavy rain, winds, and perhaps tornados that often accompany hurricanes.
Rev. Rob Haynes, our AWF Disaster Response Team Coordinator, reminds us of things that we need to be doing nowto prepare for any such eventuality:
- Back up your church and home systems (computers, databases, etc.) onto devices that can be taken with you should you need to evacuate, or to a location that will not be affected by the storms.
- Protect your electronic devices, sensitive equipment, musical instruments, organs, pianos, etc. Covering them with a tarp or plastic sheeting will protect them from leaks that might occur. Any equipment that can be elevated at least four inches off the floor will help prevent damage if waters do get into the building. Many computer towers sit on the floor under desks….put them up on the desk if you can.
- Protect your records and historical documents (technical drawings, pictures, paper files). Placing them in sealable, waterproof plastic bags within a safe or file cabinet would help if you cannot relocate them to a safe place.
- Secure your building, bringing inside loose items that could be blown around. This is especially important for church playgrounds.
- Verify that there is a contact list for all facility personnel, neighbors, family, etc. Do not rely on cell phones; land lines may be disrupted as well.
- Check on your fragile/elderly folks: are they evacuating? Where will they be going? If they are not leaving, who will check on them following the storm?
- Be aware of where shelters are in your community.
There are many resources for church preparedness and disaster protocols found on our Conference website. Click here to see a video from Amelia Fletcher that is relevant to this forecasted storm.
Our conference is blessed with able leadership, resources, and a spirit of courage and love – together we will handle whatever forces nature sends our way.
Be safe and be blessed,
Bishop David W. Graves