Wednesday, April 27, 2011

South Carolina UMVIM ERT Disaster Response to North Carolina

While the South Carolina Annual Conference’s Disaster Response Team helped their neighbors to the north clean up following historic tornadoes, they heard many stories of people saved by the grace of God, and saw evidence such as this of the devastation. Photo: Billy Robinson

By Billy Robinson*

From April 21 to 23, ten members of South Carolina United Methodist Volunteers In Mission’s Disaster Response Team (Early Response Team – ERT) responded to the call to aid people in need following the devastating tornadoes that hit across North Carolina on April 16, 2011. That was the worst single-day outbreak of tornadoes in North Carolina history; 24 people were killed.

When we arrived on Thursday, April 21, at the town of Rowland, we were amazed at the amount of destruction a tornado had ravaged there. We placed a tarp on one damaged roof and preformed chainsaw work at three homes, clearing trees from roofs, driveways, and yards. We spent the night at a nearby Baptist Missions camp.

Friday and Saturday, we were directed on to Fayetteville, NC, where we saw a massive amount of destruction from an EF3 tornado. Some believed it became an even more powerful EF4 tornado along part of its devastating path. It left many homes destroyed, several people injured, and one dead in Fayetteville. It launched a minivan up into a tree.

Friday, it rained all day on us, but our dedicated volunteers continued to work right through the cool, pouring rain. We were called to be “God’s hands and feet” to hurting and devastated people who were in dire need of love, compassion, hope, and a sense of normalcy. We placed tarps on three roofs and preformed chainsaw work at seven homes.

Survivors told a lot of amazing stories of how they were spared by the grace of God. There was also the story of two 4x6-foot construction company signs found near Raleigh, 49 and 54 miles, respectively, from their original locations. We saw a minivan sitting in huge forked branches that had broken off of a big oak tree when the van landed in it and then fell on top of two other vehicles. It was an amazing sight to behold, as were the splinters of wood that pierced through homes and roofs.

We saw an awful lot of devastation and, also, a wonderful amount of good being done by volunteers, including Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Mennonites; people from Samaritan’s Purse, various faith-based and civic organizations, and the Red Cross. It is always so wonderful and uplifting to see so many good-hearted people come together for a common cause. You see the best of people, as they give their all to help others in need. Unfortunately, you can also see the worst of people, when some try to take advantage of others who already are in deep, emotional distress.

We experienced and also heard of how Jesus was ever present in both the storms and the response to them. When a tire and rim of one of our disaster-response trailers was destroyed on I-95, team members stopped to help us. Relief workers included a father and son on their first out-of-state mission together; people from all walks of life who worked together in perfect harmony; and neighbors who came together as never before. We learned of a mother who stretched herself over her children to protect them from harm during the tornadoes. And we experienced God’s protective hand of safety over all of the relief and recovery workers who had come to North Carolina to help.

*Billy Robinson is the South Carolina Annual Conference’s UMVIM Disaster Coordinator

Monday, April 25, 2011

World Malaria Day

By Nyamah Dunbar*

For the United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria (INM) campaign, every day is World Malaria Day. In the East African nation of Mozambique, where the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) will commemorate World Malaria Day this year, every 45 seconds marks the unwritten inscription of another life lost to this deadly disease.

INM is the denomination’s global health initiative to create awareness of malaria and build support for its eradication. April 25 is internationally recognized as World Malaria Day, a day to remember the millions of people whose lives are lost or affected by this preventable disease. Children are among the most vulnerable, and in Mozambique, about 36,000 children die annually of the disease.

This spring, UMCOR is partnering with the United Methodist Church in Mozambique, the Missouri Annual Conference, United Methodist Communications, and the Mozambique Ministry of Health’s Malaria Control Program to launch the National Malaria Nets Campaign in Mozambique on May 14.

The campaign kicks off in Golo, Homoine District, where Bishop Thomas Bickerton, Western Pennsylvania Conference, will join Bishop Joaquina Nhanala, Mozambique Annual Conference, along with several local and national authorities for a festive celebration.

After the celebration, 100,000 long-lasting, insecticide-treated nets, provided by the Global Fund through the Government of Mozambique, will be distributed to residents of Homoine and Panda districts. UMCOR is coordinating and funding the logistics of the net distribution, with additional support from NetsforLife and Nothing But Nets.

In cooperation with the Government of Mozambique, 550 trained community workers will provide ongoing malaria-prevention education and treatment to the districts’ more than 200,000 residents.

The net distribution serves as the first major health program to be executed through Center of Hope (CESPE), a community-based health center located on the grounds of Chicuque Rural Hospital, which is supported by UMCOR. CESPE offers community-based health workers training and education on malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and maternal and child health. The volunteer health workers then bring life-saving education and preventative measures to remote communities.

*Nyamah Dunbar is the INM executive for Grant Management, UMCOR Health

Reaching Out to Vulnerable Communities after the Storm

Stony Brook Mobile Home Park was one of the places hardest hit by April 16 tornadoes in North Carolina. Photo: Barbara Tripp/UMCOR

Driving around the town I have lived in all my life, I realize how very much things have changed. Hundreds of thousands more people live in Raleigh, North Carolina, than did when I was small. The city has spread its boundaries way into the former countryside. But no amount of year-in, year-out change compares to the sudden changes a tornado—like the one that blew through here on April 16—can make!

Take my favorite seafood shop for example: the roof now resides in a neighbor’s yard. The historical African-American University closed up before the end of the semester, the windows blown out of all the dorm rooms. And homes, thousands of homes, damaged or destroyed in a jagged line that cuts across the heart of Wake County.

Where does one begin? We begin with prayer and then with hard work — work that will continue for a long time for many people all across North Carolina.

But there is much hope and help available. One of the extremely hard-hit areas in Raleigh was the Stony Brook Mobile Home Park. Rev. Heather Rodrigues is an associate pastor at Millbrook United Methodist Church, one of those churches originally established in the country, but now located deep within the city limits. Heather’s church works with a local nonprofit ministry, Centro Internacional Raleigh (CIR), which helps the local Latino immigrant population.

“John Fasion of CIR and I met a month ago,” she says. “He walked me into the woods across the street from our church to meet the homeless people living there. Many of them are Latinos, and John works with them out of his home church and CIR. That first meeting, to me, was a ‘God-Thing,’ providential,” Heather says, “as now, after the tornadoes, we have been able to connect concerning support for Stony Brook,” where many Spanish-speaking, Latino immigrants also live.

“Our church has the added bonus of having a Latino Outreach pastor on our staff,” she continues. “Rev. Leo Reich is heavily involved in the effort to assist people at the Stony Brook Mobile Home Park, and his Spanish-speaking gift is coming in handy.

“And yet our non-Spanish-speaking members are also out there doing good work” Heather says. “This morning one of them told me, ‘I don't speak Spanish, but that's OK—the people understand the words God, food, drink, and they understand my hugs and my tears.’ What a testimony to the Spirit's ability to overcome language barriers!” Heather remarked.

We, as United Methodists are connected not only to our own multitude of churches, but also to the communities in which we serve. This is one of the blessings of our church and of our training to respond to emergency situations, which encourage and guide us to reach out.

By Barbara Tripp, UMCOR disaster response consultant, and a native of Raleigh, North Carolina