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Church helps family cope with son’s death after storm

Church helps family cope with son’s death after storm

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Church helps family cope with son’s death after storm

Feb. 4, 2007    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0617}

An e-Review Feature
By Tita Parham

Carl Gordon and his fiancé were going to be married in eight weeks. Now, his family is preparing for a funeral instead of a wedding.
Gordon, 20, was killed Feb. 2 when a tornado ripped through his Lady Lake neighborhood. The tornado was part of a severe weather system that began moving through the Central Florida area shortly after midnight that day. The storm killed 20 people and damaged thousands of homes.

The Rev. James Holden sings during a service at his church, Christ United Methodist Church, Leesburg. He and members of his congregation made reaching out to Carl Gordon's family a priority, and they continue to do so after Gordon's death. Gordon was killed in the storms that hit the Central Florida area Feb. 2. Photo courtesy of Christ United Methodist Church. Photo #07-0515. Web photo only.

The Rev. James Holden, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Leesburg, had been with Gordon, his fiancé and family members the night before the storm, counseling the couple before their wedding.
“There was lots of laughter and excitement that last night,” Holden said. “Who would have thought five hours late he would be dead. … This is a big struggle for them. It’s just devastating all around.”
Gordon’s father, an electrician, had helped Gordon get a job at his workplace. When Gordon didn’t arrive for work later in the morning Feb. 2, his dad became worried. Gordon’s fiancé and a neighbor found him dead in his home. The house had been picked up and thrown in the storm. Gordon had rented it just two weeks earlier.
Gordon was the third of seven siblings. His father has been raising the four younger children, ages 6, 9, 16 and 18, on his own. Gordon’s older siblings are 21 and 23. Holden said a big part of the church’s outreach has been ministering to the family, who live down the street from the church parsonage in the neighborhood behind the church.
The church initially reached out to the youngest children, who attend services and participate in the church’s children’s activities. Their father goes to church with them fairly regularly, and their 16- and 18-year-old sisters occasionally attend. Gordon would sometimes attend, as well.
Holden described Gordon’s father as a dedicated worker and the family as living close to the poverty line. He said the church helped in a variety of ways beyond encouraging them to participate in activities at the church — keeping the cars running and the telephone connected. Holden had been meeting regularly with Gordon and his family because they had wanted to grow closer as a family. Holden said they had been making a lot of progress. “They had really gotten to a great place. This has really been very painful.”
Holden is helping Gordon’s father through the process of dealing with the medical examiner, who is performing an autopsy, and making funeral arrangements. Holden will lead the funeral service sometime soon. The church planned to pay for all arrangements, but Gordon’s mother’s workplace, a local hospice, offered to take care of those expenses. Members of the church’s nurturing committee have called the family to offer condolences and support, and the bereavement committee has been preparing and delivering meals. The church also plans to take up a collection for the family.
Holden said First United Methodist Church in Orlando and Community United Methodist Church in Fruitland Park have also offered to help. Gordon participated in the day care program at Community United Methodist Church, and Gordon’s fiancé lives in Fruitland Park.
Before he could spend time with the family after the storm Holden had to lead the funeral of another member. “It’s very hard for me. I’ve shed a few tears. I’ve told people it’s my hardest day in ministry yet.”

Individuals who would like to contribute to relief efforts are encouraged to give to Florida Conference Advance #605, “Florida Tornadoes.” Checks should include “Advance #605” in the memo line and may be given at local United Methodist churches, made payable to the church, or mailed to Florida Conference Treasurer, c/o Florida Annual Conference, P.O. Box 850001, Orlando, FL 32885-0207, and made payable to Florida Conference Treasurer.
Individuals may also send checks to United Methodist Committee on Relief, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087, with “UMCOR Advance #901670, Domestic Disaster Response – Florida Tornadoes” written on the memo line. One hundred percent of every donation will support recovery efforts.


This article relates to Florida Conference Storm Recovery.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.