General Conference paused on Monday morning to recognize the tragedy and celebrate the resulting witness that grew out of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in August 2005. Episcopal leadership from all areas affected by Katrina took part inthe time of remembrance and renewal.
“Signs of hope abound; but Katrina fatigue has set in,” stated Bishop William Oden, encouraging a renewed commitment to participate in recovery. Oden is the leader of the Katrina Church Recovery Appeal sponsored by the Council of Bishops.
United Methodists contributed approximately $3 million to this appeal to rebuild and support churches throughout the Gulf Coast. The Rev. Darryl Tate, executive director of Louisiana Recovery Ministry, counted some 40 churches in New Orleans alone that would not be open without these funds.
How Far We’ve Come
An emotional video brought the sights and sounds of Katrina recovery into the arena at Fort Worth. It was “a reminder of how far we’ve come in 33 months,” said the Rev. Bill McAlilly, superintendent of the Seashore district in Mississippi.
“Through UMCOR’s significant efforts, hope is being restored and life is being renewed,” said Bishop Edward Paup, UMCOR president.
“We give thanks,” said Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of Jackson, Mississippi, “that through the connection of the United Methodist people in the state of Mississippi, 11,000 families are back home.”
McAlilly emphasized the importance of the long-term aspect of UMCOR’s work.”While many faith-based organizations are folding up and going home, we are still heavily involved.”
“The generosity of United Methodists has been absolutely phenomenal,” added McAlilly, detailing the importance of the church’s connection in recovery. More than $60 million was given to UMCOR for long-term relief and recovery.
The Rev. Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR executive for domestic disaster response, reported that more than $10 million in additional funds have been leveraged through UMCOR’s Katrina and Rita response work.
“This will extend our work and make more available for individual families,” he said. Hazelwood affirmed the continuing need to work, especially in the area of case management–walking beside families in their path of recovery. “As we move along, the problems families are facing are more complex,” he added.
“We’re in this ministry for the long haul.”
* Michelle Scott is the communications director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
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