Methodists continue to help storm victims. One place is Louisiana. Millions were told to evacuate in Louisiana, and the United Methodist Church was ready and willing to help.
The denomination’s Louisiana Conference Center saw approximately 200 people seeking shelter in its physical building as well as the emotional comfort and support from the center’s staff, reported United Methodist News Service.
"One woman told me that she couldn’t believe a center like ours existed," Rev. Richard Bushnell, the center’s executive director, said. "She called us her ‘refuge in the storm, a haven.’"
The label, “haven” aptly describes the center with its “two residential lodges, a main facility with meeting rooms and dining services, and a chapel” (UMNS).
According to Bushnell, people from all over fled to this convention center turned makeshift shelter. Coming from Mobile, Ala., Pensacola, Fla, Gulf Shores, Ala, New Orleans and cities in the New Orleans area, the people flooded the convention, even causing a Louisiana Conference’s Academy for Spiritual Leadership leaders’ conference to be postponed.
Bushnell cautioned his staff to make the visitors comfortable. He warned them that some were traveling for over ten hours and frazzled from the stress of the storm and the suspected damage to their home that is waiting for them when they would finally be able to return safely. So give them “a healthy measure of patience... and go that extra mile to meet [the] guests’ needs," he says.
Visitors were so grateful for the staff and the center’s assistance in this time of need, but one woman credited God’s providence. This woman said that she felt like she is on vacation "‘instead of running away from Hurricane Ivan. I think winding up here was God’s way of telling me that things will be OK.’"
The optimism and energy was matched by the center’s own staff. The staff worked tirelessly to find room for all the people. Even when they ran out of space, they referred the victims of Ivan to other shelters.
The center even housed soldiers from Camp Beauregard, a National Guard base in Alexandria, La. While the camp was taking in storm victims, they ran out of space for its own staff, and referred them to the Methodist convention.
Bushnell said, "This was a wonderful, uplifting experience for the staff. It became a time of spiritual revival and renewal for each of us that worked here.” The statement supports the conventional saying that times of crises are opportunities for God to reveal His grace and power.
UMNS urges the public to help the storm effort. The United Methodist Committee on Relief is responding to storm-related needs along the Gulf Coast and elsewhere. Donations can be made in several ways to UMCOR’s appeal, "Hurricanes 2004," Advance #982410. Online, donors can go to www.MethodistRelief.org. Checks written to UMCOR can be placed in church offering plates or mailed directly to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 330, New York, N.Y. 10115. Donations by credit card can be made by calling, toll free, (800) 554-8583.
UMCOR continues to need flood buckets containing supplies that volunteers use in post-hurricane cleanup. For details, go to http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/print/kits/. Completed flood buckets-with $1.50 per bucket to cover reshipping-should be sent to UMCOR Sager Brown, 101 Sager Brown Road, Baldwin, La. 70514.