Main Menu

Florida United Methodists continue to respond (Nov. 15, 2004)

Florida United Methodists continue to respond (Nov. 15, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida United Methodists continue to respond

Nov. 15, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0193}

NOTE:  A headshot of Whitaker is available at

An e-Review Commentary
By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker**

We have learned a lot about disaster. We know now more than we would want to know about its costs-physical, financial, social and emotional.

We are beginning to learn about disaster response. The way a community responds to a disaster is remarkable. In some sense, the response is as chaotic as the disaster itself. Trying to organize quickly at a local level to take care of immediate needs for shelter, water and food, being unable to communicate because of poor telephone service, arranging for volunteers to help where they are really needed, and dealing with one another in stressful circumstances are typical aspects of disaster response during the emergency phase and the relief phase of the first several weeks.

The people of Florida, including United Methodists, deserve commendation for the way they have come together to help one another during the past several months. Especially we are grateful for the tireless labor of our district disaster coordinators and their helpers who have been marvelous in their service to congregations and communities.

Now, we are beginning the longest and most complicated phase of disaster response, which is the recovery. The recovery is the period of about two years when the cleanup is completed, homes and businesses are repaired, and people's lives are put back together. The phase of recovery is the most difficult because there is so much to do, and the work is not glamorous, and most of it is done in obscurity without the bright lights of cameras.

Over the years The United Methodist Church has developed an essential role in the phase of recovery. Within the large network of government agencies, non-government organizations and churches, different groups play different roles. Some groups are organized to do most of their work during the period of emergency and relief the first several weeks, and then they leave the scene of a disaster. Others, like The United Methodist Church, pledge to the rest of the groups in the network to make their major contribution during the recovery. United Methodists take on a major responsibility for case management and handling the needs of homeowners, displaced poor families and others by helping them to get the funds and volunteers they need to rebuild their lives.

How can you help? By calling the Florida Storm Recovery Center, 1-800-282-8011, extension 149, you can volunteer to be a case manager to work at least one day a week, or you can volunteer to help others with the tasks of rebuilding. There is still a need for unskilled labor, but over time there will be a need for people with some basic skills in electrical work, plumbing and carpentry. There is also a need for persons in the Lakeland area to volunteer to serve in the Storm Recovery Center to help coordinate the skills of volunteers with the needs of people in the various affected communities. Of course, financial contributions to the Florida Storm Recovery Fund are still much needed.

We in Florida are grateful to the staff members of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) who are working with Mrs. Marilyn Swanson, our Storm Recovery Project Director, to establish our system of case management.

To learn more about different kinds of training to help with the recovery, visit the Florida Conference website

When this is all over we shall have learned much about a disaster and how a community responds to it. We will have a much better understanding of our own Church's significant role in it. Surely, we will want to make some changes in preparation for future disasters. And no doubt there will be stories to tell about the amazing ways people struggled under the most difficult circumstances to act responsibly and compassionately as the people of God sustained and guided by the light of God that shone in Jesus Christ and is reflected in our hearts today.

This commentary 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.
**Whitaker is bishop of the Florida Conference.