Bishop visits hard-hit areas (Aug. 25, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Bishop visits hard-hit areas

Aug. 25, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0149}

An e-Review Feature
By Michael Wacht*

PUNTA GORDA — Florida Area Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker spent two days last week visiting churches, pastors and communities hardest hit by Hurricane Charley.

The hurricane damaged churches and communities from Fort Myers to Daytona Beach after making landfall Aug. 13 in the Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte communities of Fort Myers. Residents close by in Fort Ogden and Arcadia, as well as farther up the state in Central Florida's southeast Orlando, Winter Park and Polk County communities, were also significantly affected.
Whitaker was in Arcadia at Trinity United Methodist Church Aug. 19 to meet with conference disaster response leaders and people working in the local community. The next day Whitaker traveled to Punta Gorda to meet with Ft. Myers and Sarasota district pastors and visit some of the communities hit hardest by the storm. 

PUNTA GORDA — Ice, food, water and hot meals were available for free at First United Methodist Church  here. While crews worked to repair damage to the sanctuary and other church buildings caused by Hurricane Charley, volunteers unloaded trucks of food and trunks filled with ice and distributed both to people in the community affected by the category four hurricane. Photo by Michael Wacht, Photo #04-0080.
Standing in the sanctuary at First United Methodist Church, Punta Gorda, with no power, no air conditioning and showing damage inflicted by Charley, Whitaker thanked the pastors and laity who were volunteering to show the love of God to their neighbors.
"Pastors are like the captains of the ship who don't desert, but also don't take for granted how difficult it is," he said. "People are hurting…you are there, and I thank you."
The bishop also expressed his concern for the people leading the relief and long-term recovery efforts. "I'm concerned about your care and the care of your communities," he said. "Love is a beautiful word, but I know in this kind of situation, it is not easy. Showing love for people is not an emotion, it is an act of will."
After a time of sharing with and listening to the pastors, Whitaker led those present in worship and communion.


This article relates to Florida Conference Disaster Response.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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