This summer has produced lots of rain in surprising places, and some of that rain has produced disasters. One has been here in Indiana where the south side of South Bend had huge amounts of rain and over 40 homes were damaged badly by the flooding. Of course the huge flood has occurred in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and surrounding areas where the devastation has been called "Hurricane Katrina without the wind." That part of Louisiana does not usually flood, but huge amounts of rain have produced devastation.
People always want to know how to respond to such disasters. My own experience from being bishop in the Dakotas during the huge flooding in 1997 in Grand Forks, ND and surrounding areas is that PRAYER is the best and first response. Then GIVING is the next response – and we United Methodists have the perfect mechanism for giving through UMCOR where 100% of the gifts go to help persons in need. Then HELPING comes when the receiving area is ready for work teams and mission groups to come into the area and help people muck out and rebuild.
Our Indiana Conference Disaster Response Team is asking UMCOR for a small grant to help in South Bend, Indiana, and our Indiana Conference Team will likely send a gift to the Louisiana Conference to help them (we have done that many times when other Conferences are facing disasters). Such small grants and gifts are mostly a gesture of support, but they are well-received (as I can attest from being on the receiving end in the Dakotas Conference).
The largest form of support comes when local congregations take a special offering and send it through our normal Indiana Conference giving, with such gifts clearly marked "Disaster Response" or UMCOR. Our Conference office then forwards all such gifts to their intended purpose.
So I encourage every local congregation in the Indiana Conference to respond to these disasters in these ways: Please pray for the victims. Please consider special gifts or special offerings to UMCOR or to our Indiana Conference Disaster Response Fund. And consider sending teams of willing workers to help when the requests come from those affected areas.
Thank you for being generous United Methodists who work together through our connection to respond to these disasters.