You've seen the pictures on television and Internet. You've heard the reports of death and devastation. Only a day's drive from much of Florida, many lives have been forever changed because of record amounts of rainfall described as a "1,000-year flood."
It's natural to want to help.
But boots on the ground aren't the answer yet. The Florida Conference Missional Engagement office, which includes disaster recovery ministries, has been fielding calls from local churches asking about launching missions to the affected areas, particularly in South Carolina. The conference is recommending prayers and donations but cautioning that the floodwaters have not completely receded, and volunteers reporting for duty in hazardous conditions before trained rescue personnel are ready to receive them will likely only add to the region's woes.
South Carolina Bishop Jonathan Holston urged restraint as well.
“Presently, we are in a time of waiting until the floodwaters recede before any coordinated response can begin,” Holston said in a statement posted to the South Carolina Conference website.
"The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) stand ready to provide assistance as recovery efforts unfold," he said later in the statement. "We are a connectional church, and we are not alone as we seek to respond faithfully to communities in crisis."
Pam Garrison, disaster response coordinator for the Florida Conference, echoed Holston's recommendation that United Methodists in Florida who want to help offer prayers and cash donations through UMCOR. Youth groups and others who want to help may also consider collecting materials for flood buckets for the United Methodist disaster response hub known as the Sager-Brown Depot in Louisiana, she said. Click here for information..
"When we get the invitation from the disaster response coordinator in the South Carolina Conference, we will put a call out to our early response teams to go in and provide assistance where it is needed," she said in a post to the Disaster Recovery Ministry page at FLUMC.org.
"These teams go in prepared to be self-sufficient and know what to do to help when they get there. Right now they do not expect to issue that request until next week – but even that may be too early."
Click here to view updates from the Florida Conference Disaster Recovery Ministry, or check out the ministry's Facebook page to stay current on relief opportunities.
Click here for a report on South Carolina flood damage and response in the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate.
-- Susan Green is the Florida Conference managing editor.