(Bradni Belcher) - Fall Break at Martin Methodist means many things to many different folks but to some students, staff and faculty it means an opportunity to serve God and God’s creation. For seven students, a faculty member and staff member it meant traveling to Pennington, Alabama to assist with rebuilding homes destroyed by the 2012 tornados. Using the UM connectional system the Disaster Relief coordinator for Alabama-West Florida Conference made the local arrangements for the nine folks from Martin. Their task for three and half days was to mud, sand, and caulk a house that was being constructed for a gentleman by the name of Tyrone.
When the team arrived at Tyrone’s home, we couldn’t believe our eyes. On the left side of the property was a three bedroom house under construction. On the right side of the property stood a trailer with massive dents where it had been picked up by a tornado, bent in several places, and placed back on the ground. This trailer was condemned from the damage; however, it is still Tyrone’s home until all construction is completed on the new house.
For the next three days, the team laid spackle on the dry wall, let it dry, sanded it down, and the repeated the process until everything was even. By the third day, the work became very monotonous and we became a little discouraged as we realized that spackling and sanding the dry wall, as well as caulking the siding, would be all that our team would accomplish. We all thought that we were going to be making a huge difference on this house, but we soon realized that the spackling process took longer than expected. Nonetheless, Tyrone greatly appreciated the work because his new home was one step closer to being finished.
Unfortunately, we learned that Tyrone’s home may not get finished as cold weather approaches. Some of the teams from Mississippi that had been traveling to Pennington to offer their time and talents have been redirected because of Hurricane Isaac to initiate relief efforts in their home towns. We took this information to heart and have returned to campus brainstorming fundraising ideas to help get Tyrone’s house finished.
All in all, this was a very heart breaking, heartwarming, and heart fulfilling fall break trip. I learned so much about all that God can do just through a simple task of laying on dry wall mud and then taking it off. However, I urge everyone to please continue and pray for Tyrone and all people who may be affected by natural disasters.
(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - Bishop Paul Leeland and members of the Cabinet met in a regularly scheduled session recently in Montgomery, Alabama. We celebrate the work of our congregations and conference ministries in the efforts to seek disciples of Jesus Christ throughout our geographic area and beyond. Together, we see the collective ministry of the Annual Conference moving forward in many areas. As part of our work, we reflected on the various groups providing leadership in their particular context of the overall Ministry Action Plan for Alabama-West Florida. We noted that there is an increased effort to tell stories of vital ministry occurring in our churches. We see the development of the Academy for Congregational Excellence, efforts on New Church Development and Revitalization, a number of Incubator Groups focusing on areas such as discipleship, prayer, and intervention in distressed congregations all contributing to an emphasis on helping local congregations fulfill the mission of the church. We are grateful for the call of the church to be in mission through expressions such as Catapult. We are also focusing intently on particular regions of the Annual Conference in an effort to "turn around" congregations and increase our United Methodist presence in places like Geneva Co., AL., among others.
In order to create an environment conducive to allowing the work of ministry to flourish, the Cabinet reaffirmed its desire to operate with the greatest consistency, transparency, and communication possible. With Wesley's "Three Simple Rules" guiding our work, we desire to continue in the on-going "right-sizing" and reallocation of resources that have become necessary following the economic difficulties of recent years, striving for greater alignment and fruitfulness, taking steps to close churches where mission has been lost, starting new faith communities, and moving toward merger and / or revitalization where appropriate.
The Cabinet embraced the work of the Task Force on Inclusiveness, particularly for African-American congregations but for all racial / ethnic communities as a Cabinet policy that seeks for congregations to reflect the neighborhoods they serve.
We also spent time in conversation about the particularities of the geographic bounds of the conference noting cultural and social differences found in various regions of central and south Alabama, as well as northwest Florida and the implications these differences have on the ministry we seek to practice across the conference. Initial discussions were also held about ways we might be able to coordinate our work around congregational affinity, rather than strictly on geography, as technology and electronic communication have made significant changes in the ways we relate to one another.
Overall, we celebrate that the financial environment for our congregations and the annual conference continues to show improvement. We know this has been a tepid recovery fraught with challenges at every level of the church and we are grateful to the congregations across Alabama-West Florida that have kept faith with the covenant set by our brothers and sisters across the conference through the contributions toward missional giving. We also are encouraged by those congregations that continue to show improvement year-over-year toward full participation in the covenant. We know this effort has not been easy and we are so appreciative of your leadership.
In a season of Thanksgiving, we have so much to be thankful for as the people called Methodists of the Alabama-West Florida Conference! Our prayers are for you and your congregations as you prepare to enter the season of Advent. May it be a time of holy waiting and in our waiting, may God reveal to us the fullness of His glory in whom we find hope, joy, life, and salvation! Come, thou long expected Jesus!
Thank you for your continued prayers for the people affected by the storm Sandy, and now the "nor'easter" that hit much of the same area over the last day or so.
This is a reminder of how you and your church can respond:
- Give Now: A donation to UMCOR (the United Methodist Committee on Relief) is the best way to get help quickly to hurricane survivors. Their needs are changing quickly. Purchasing what they need locally helps boost economies that have been devastated by the storm. Click here to make a financial donation.
- Assemble Cleaning Buckets: Many buckets have already been distributed and UMCOR is requesting more. Click here for information on how to assemble buckets, and here for a list of conference collection sites. If your church can assist in transporting completed buckets to North Alabama's warehouse in Decatur, please contact Amelia Fletcher at 251-978-8384 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your continued prayers for the people who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy - including those all the way from the Carribean to the northeast.
After your prayers, the next best way you and your churches can respond is through your financial donations to UMCOR. You can donate online by clicking here. Or send your donations to the conference fiscal office, Advance #3021787. 100 Interstate Park Drive, Suite 106, Montgomery, AL 36106. We know that UMCOR will be a caring and Christian presence in the affected areas for years to come.
All response efforts in the northeast remain in the emergency and rescue stage so we are not yet deploying any ERT Teams. As that need arises, we will continue to communicate through email and the conference Facebook page. We are in contact with other conferences and UMCOR about their needs and how we can be of assistance, and will deploy teams when invited.
The Northeastern Jurisdiction is requesting cleaning buckets and school kits; your church may assemble those as another helpful way to respond at this time. Instructions can be found at www.umcor.org or by clicking here: Cleaning Buckets or School kits. Additional communication will be sent in the next few days regarding collections sites around the conference where you can take assembled kits.
Our conference has on hand some cleaning buckets ready for just such emergencies. We are currently working on finding transportation for those cleaning buckets and any additional kits your churches assemble. If your church can assist with this transportation (with trucks, trailers, and/or drivers), please contact Amelia Fletcher, Conference Disaster Response Coordinator at 251-978-8384 or email@example.com.
Thank you again for your continued prayers and concern for those who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy.
The response to Hurricane Sandy is still in the emergency/rescue stage, but UMCOR is already a caring presence in the area and hard at work preparing for the next stages of recovery and relief. Click here to see how UMCOR is responding.
You can immediately give $10 to UMCOR's disaster response fund by texting the word RESPONSE to 80888. Or click here to donate online. You can also mail a check to the fiscal office, made payable to Alabama-West Florida Conference, marked "Hurricane Sandy Relief, Advance #3021787".
We will send more details in the days and weeks to come about additional response efforts and how your church can assist.