Media coverage on Hurricane Charley has dwindled down to the occasional featured release. However, Christians and Humanitarian groups have continued to flood on-scene to provide the next chapter of disaster relief: recovery ministry.
Within the United Methodist Church, the second largest protestant denomination in the US, members have been contributing more and more and providing thousands of ‘flood buckets’ or cleanup kits for those affected by the storm.
Many of these flood buckets pass through the Grace United Methodist Church in Cape Coral, Fla., where the roofs and steeples were damaged by the hurricane. Despite the damages incurred on its own chapel, Grace United has become a central station for the UMC, Salvation Army and other nationwide relief groups. The Church itself acts as a relief group by giving bottles of waters for distribution to its members during service.
"We served communion as a reminder of God’s hope and help, and then we gave out bottles of water and asked them to pray about becoming hope and help to the world," said the Rev. Jorge Acevedo, pastor of Grace.
"We are living in two worlds," he said. "We are recovering ourselves, but we are also out helping other people. We walk a fine line; we have to make sure we are taking care of our community and our neighbors and loving them in Christ’s name."
"For the most part, we have gone from emergency work and emergency ministry to relief and recovery ministry," said Acevedo. "There are still large portions of Charlotte County that are without electricity and are still in emergency mode."
According to Acevedo, the church members have grown to give and serve more through the hurricane.
"Interestingly enough - I think it is a God thing - our giving was one of the best we have had all year,” said Acevedo.
Recently, the Southern Baptist Church released a report estimating that over two thousand SBC volunteers are on-scene. According to the release, the SBC is the largest relief group in the nation, third only to the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. The UMC’s relief group, UMCOR, has also announced that it sent out over 1,000 volunteers for the effort.
As is the case for Southern Baptists, the United Methodists said the volunteers provide more than physical recovery and relief.
"Spiritual care is being provided in three primary areas: care of pastoral leadership; care of congregations; and care and outreach to communities,” explained Tom Hazelwood, United Methodist Committee on Relief executive secretary for U.S. Disaster Response.
Hazelwood said a task force has been set aside to address the needs of migrant farm workers and the low-income elderly.
Donations to UMCOR should be earmarked for that appeal. Checks can be placed in church offering plates or mailed directly to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Credit card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583.