Loving Our Neighbor, Responding to Storms
Photo by Larry Garrard. Members of Alpharetta First UMC's Early Response Team pray with a homeowner in Newnan.
By Sybil Davidson
MAY 13 UPDATE
Last month North Georgia United Methodists gave nearly $52,000 to Disaster Response efforts to support Newnan Area tornado recovery. This is in addition to dozens of trained UMCOR Early Response Teams who served over the past 6 weeks, and an emergency grant awarded from UMCOR just one day after the storm.
As the long-term recovery phase begins in the area, a team from the Conference Disaster Response Warehouse delivered 125 cleaning buckets and 240 hygiene kits to Newnan Chapel UMC for their upcoming community tornado relief day May 15. Pictured from left to right are. Dr. Stephen Redmond, Rev. Terri Lemons, Gerral Brown, Charles Ogletree, Wendell Morgan, Sheldon Tyndall, Rev. Matt Murphy. Redmond, Tyndall, and Murphy of Shephard of the Hills UMC delivered the kits.
APRIL 29 UPDATE
After a month of recovery from tornado damage, Coweta County is now shifting to the final phase of the Disaster Response process: long-term recovery. That means that the need for trained ERT teams is no longer pressing as rebuilding finally begins. In this lengthy recovery phase, churches that can send a roof, sheetrock, flooring, or other construction team for a day or long weekend will be called into action.
"Thank you for your generous giving, your prayers, and participation in response to the March 26 tornadoes and damage in the Newnan area over the last month," said Rev. Scott Parrish, Conference Disaster Response Coordinator. "We are grateful for the incredible response as over 23 churches have sent trained Early Response Teams!"
ERT volunteers served from:
Cornerstone UMC Newnan, Peachtree City UMC, Newnan First UMC, Newnan Chapel UMC, Fayetteville First UMC, Mountville UMC, Carrollton First UMC, Mt. Pisgah UMC, Mt. Bethel UMC, Northside UMC, Inman UMC, Due West UMC, Griffin First UMC, Canton First UMC, Alpharetta First UMC, Acworth UMC, Ellijay First UMC, Roswell UMC, St. James UMC Atlanta, Cascade UMC, Senoia UMC, Northbrook UMC, and Hillside UMC. (If your church served but isn't listed, please let us know.)
The Conference is especially grateful for ERT trainer Bill Pound who took on the role of coordination of these teams.
APRIL 1 UPDATE
True to our calling, North Georgia United Methodists are responding to last week's devastating storms by showing love to neighbor.
The National Weather Service has confirmed that on March 25 an EF4 tornado struck in Heard, Coweta, and Fayette counties, along with an EF1 tornado in Bartow county, and a significant downburst in Polk county. Other parts of the Conference experienced wind damage and localized flooding.
That morning Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson requested a solidarity grant from UMCOR on behalf of the North Georgia Conference for emergency response in our Conference and by noon the request had been granted. The funds will be used on response efforts in coordination with Coweta County Emergency Management.
The North Georgia Conference established a fund (Fund #3752) for Newnan Area Tornados. These funds will be used for North Georgia Conference Disaster Response efforts. Give through any North Georgia Conference United Methodist Church by indicating that your gift is for "Fund 3752" or "Newnan Area Tornados." Donations may also be made to UMCOR US Disaster Response #901670.
Generous donations have already come in including more than $12,000 from Peachtree City UMC and $10,000 from Northside UMC in Atlanta among others.
(Pictured: Newnan Chapel UMC outreach event on Saturday)
Newnan Chapel UMC's building was damaged, and yet that congregation's focus is turned outward.
"Looking across our community it looks like World War I," said Rev. Terri Lemons, pastor of Newnan Chapel. "Homes on the same street as our church were destroyed, including one home that was lifted up off its foundation."
Approximately 1,700 homes in the Newnan area were damaged. Newnan Chapel UMC's roof and steeple were damaged and a huge tree fell across the property.
"As much damage as has been done, no lives were lost due to the tornado," said Rev. Lemons. "It is truly a miracle."
Several Newnan Chapel church members and other area United Methodists had damage to their homes, including at least one whose home is now unlivable.
Among the homes damaged in the community, some residents are without homeowners insurance and others have a high deductible that will be difficult to cover. There are also a number of rental homes that were damaged, and the church has found that many of those residents did not have renter's insurance.
Newnan Chapel collected and has given gift cards to help renters who lost both their place to live and their belongings.
On Saturday the church hosted a neighborhood outreach event in collaboration with a dozen nearby churches (including Baptist, Presbyterian, and Seventh Day Adventist congregations) and community organizations. They served more than 300 families that day. The event included a free hot meal from a food truck, gift cards, diapers, wipes, toiletries, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, water, and prayer for neighbors who are displaced or in need. Other United Methodists lent support and supplies including Smith Chapel UMC, John Wesley UMC, Cascade UMC, Wesley Chapel UMC, Jones Hill UMC, and Roe’s Chapel UMC.
(Pictured: Rev. Terri Lemons and Rev. Yolanda Jones-Colton with other community leaders at Newnan Chapel UMC Saturday.)
Rev. Lemons has held on to Psalm 91 and 23 this week along with Hymn 462, "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus."
"Those of us who didn't have any damage personally, we are blessed to be a blessing to others," she said. "This is what Jesus said. We are to love our neighbors, care for the last the lost and the least, and that's what we're doing."
March 30 through April 3 Newnan First UMC is serving as an emergency shelter for storm victims.
"This is just one way we can help," said Rev. Andrew Chappell, associate pastor of Newnan First. "Please continue to pray for this community and the hands and feet hard at work."
"I am inspired by the strength and determination of the people of Newnan and the way our churches in the community have responded to the great need around them," said SouthWest District Superintendent Rev. Susan Landry. "They are being the hands and feet of Christ to hurting people. I'm also thankful for the generosity of United Methodists from across our connection."
ERTs Are Early to Arrive, Last to Leave
While the local community is serving side-by-side, our experienced, highly skilled UMCOR Early Response Teams have been on the ground all week. Cornerstone UMC, Alpharetta First UMC, Mount Pisgah UMC, Mount Bethel UMC, Carrollton First UMC, Griffin First UMC, Northside UMC, and Bethlehem UMC in Bremen have all set ERTs and more are scheduled for the weeks ahead.
How We Can All Serve
Our best responses remain prayer and giving. Donations can be marked for North Georgia Conference Fund #4390 or made to UMCOR US Disaster Response #901670. Please do not collect unsolicited items such as water or clothing.
In the coming weeks, there will be a need for more volunteer teams. If your church is interested in the long-term recovery effort, please contact Rev. Scott Parrish at email@example.com.