Never grow weary of doing good
It was an invitation to get involved, to engage in hands-on ministry. A friend recently asked me if I, or any members of my church, would like to join a mission team headed to New Orleans in April.
Curt Howard’s group, Smoke Rise Missions of Fellowship Bible Church, has been making regular trips to the Gulf Coast to help with rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. At first, nothing struck me as unusual or extraordinary about Curt’s invite. Then the reality began to slowly sink in.
New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina. August 2005.
It has been more than five years since the massive, Category 3 hurricane ripped through Mississippi and southeast Louisiana. Since then, a flood of workers and a sea of money – tens of billions of dollars – have poured into that hurricane-stricken area of the Gulf Coast. But much time has passed. The media is long gone, drawn to the current drama of the day.
Hurricane Katrina is old news.
Less than a year after the hurricane struck, a dozen or so men from Hillside UMC went to the Gulf Coast to help with repair projects. There were still many thousands of homes that had not even been cleaned out of mud. One of the Hillside volunteers, Rob Galloway, was surprised by what he witnessed.
The only people actively engaged in recovery efforts seemed to be from church groups, Galloway said. It was the people of God who were still answering the call to help the suffering.
There have been various other natural disasters since 2005, other human tragedies, other high-profile events that have taken the attention and focus of the nation. And yet, Christian mission teams are still engaged on the Gulf Coast, still raising money, still volunteering their time, still cleaning, constructing, repairing, praying. And, perhaps most important of all, still letting the people of the region know they are not alone. They have not been forgotten.
The world may have moved on, God’s people have not.
What a powerful message.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has poured $64.5 million into recovery efforts in the Gulf in the past five years. UMCOR’s work has involved rebuilding thousands of homes and building more than 100 new homes.
“Because of our connectional system, United Methodists are uniquely positioned throughout the country and the world to meet the needs of survivors, including how we rally volunteers,” said Catherine Earl, UMCOR executive secretary for U.S. disaster response.
In Louisiana alone, nearly 72,000 United Methodists have devoted 3 million hours of time, energy and effort, and more than 160,000 people have participated in Mississippi recovery projects.
And, as the mission teams continue to be engaged in the Gulf Coast, other recovery efforts continue as well.
It has been 16 months since west Cobb was swamped after many days of heavy rain. The North Georgia Conference has been involved in the recovery efforts for the long haul, organizing a steady stream of volunteers to rebuild homes. Teams of volunteers are still at work in west Cobb.
Now, a year after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, it is clear the nation is a long way from recovery. How many years will it be before the suffering people of Haiti return to anything resembling normalcy?
No one can know for sure whether Haiti will need assistance for 5 more years or 50, but it is a safe bet that, either way, there will be devoted men and women from UMCOR, and the North Georgia Conference, who will answer the call to help.
To contact Advocate Editor Glenn Hannigan, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.