This week most of our two Cabinets and several Conference staff from North and South Indiana are going to Mississippi for a mission work trip. We will be staying in the dormitory built by the Indiana Area at the Heritage UMC in D’Iberbille, MS. We will be rehabbing houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina in order to make them livable again. And we will be preaching in several of the United Methodist churches in the area to give their pastors a break and to witness to our UM connection.

Why are we going? Part of the reason, of course, is that people in Mississippi still need help. A year and a half after Katrina, there are still thousands of people who are in FEMA trailers or other temporary residence, and we want to help a few of them get back into their homes. Recovery from such a major disaster takes years, and my friends in Mississippi say that it is really only the churches, especially the United Methodist Church through UMCOR and thousands of teams of workers from local churches, who are still there helping. That was my experience in the terrible flood in Grand Forks, ND, while I served as bishop of the Dakotas. Long after the government agencies and even Red Cross were gone, it was church folks who kept coming and helping.

Our other reason for going is to do some team-building. Altogether, 15 of our 18 District Superintendents are able to go (some have health issues which prevent them from making the trip), and our total group with spouses and staff will number 36. We will learn a lot about each other by working side by side, and we will have some good evening discussions about the future of Indiana and the United Methodist Church, too.

More and more it is becoming clear to me that our whole Imagine Indiana process is about relationships, about trust, and about building a larger sense of “church” here in Indiana. Not surprisingly, when United Methodist folks from all over Indiana get together we discover a common commitment to Christ, a mutual concern for people, and a great many similar issues that we are facing. In short, we learn to be church together.

Please keep us in your prayers. Pray that we not hit too many thumbs with hammers, and that our words at such moments are a positive witness. More importantly, keep praying for the people of the Gulf Coast who are still suffering and who need to know that they are not forgotten. Thank you.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner