Call to serve in wake of disaster


       Mike Yoder knows what it is like to live on the edge of disaster. In truth, he believes it is his life’s calling.
      Yoder, a long-time member of Conyers FUMC, has been chairman of disaster response for the North Georgia Conference for eight years. He also serves as president of Georgia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). Yoder’s work brings him face-to-face with some of life’s greatest extremes: devastated families left with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and the caring volunteers who are willing to do whatever they can to help.
      “The Lord called me a number of years ago to be an enabler,” Yoder said. “I am trained to enable people to work on disaster relief and to help others. I help people to become the hands and arms and feet of Christ.”
     Yoder has his hands full in the aftermath of the recent historic storm that spawned deadly tornadoes across Georgia and the southeast. In Ringgold, a city of 2,800, eight lives were lost. At least 75 homes were damaged beyond repair and half the businesses in the city were damaged.
     Ringgold UMC, surrounded by the devastation, sustained only minor damage. Yoder has been joined by various other disaster response organizers, both federal and state, who are using the church as a staging area.
   Tornadoes struck other areas across north Georgia, including Rome, Spalding County, Meriwether County, Bartow County, Dade County and Troup County. Volunteers have been dispatched to numerous areas across the conference. Vaughn UMC in Griffin sustained heavy damage.
    Yoder knows this will be a long-term effort.
    “Last month we just finished up the last house from the 2009 flood in Cobb County,” Yoder said. In that recovery effort, 176 work teams from across the country stepped up to fix 200 homes.
    “The first 40 days of response are all about recovery, relief, clean up, getting tarps on homes and making sure people are safe,” Yoder said. “After that, it will take 400 days, maybe even two years, in the rebuilding effort.”
        Yoder said it is important for volunteer teams to call before showing up to work. The main call center number is 678-533-1443.
        “This is a big task,” Yoder said, “but anything the Lord asks us to do, he is going to help. We are helping all people who need help, not just Christians.
    “This is our chance to live out what we believe.”