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Special Hurricane Katrina offering planned Aug. 26

Volunteers from Christ Church United Methodist in New York repair a roof damaged by winds from Hurricane Katrina in Biloxi, Miss. United Methodist churches will collect a special offering on Aug. 26 for the Katrina Church Recovery Appeal.
UMNS file photos by Mike DuBose.

By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Aug. 20, 2007

HELP WANTED: People with sturdy spirits, loving hands and bountiful prayers to rebuild lives, homes and churches on the Gulf Coast. Jobs available for the next 20 years. Rewards reaped in heaven.

As the second anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita approaches, the need continues for prayers, volunteers, partners and donations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The recovery stage has evolved into the rebuilding stage in most areas, though some places in New Orleans have been untouched since Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005.

United Methodist churches will collect a special offering Aug. 26 for the Katrina Church Recovery Appeal. Donations go directly to the rebuilding of United Methodist churches, parsonages and other facilities as well as to salaries for support staff; training for lay leadership; and efforts to grow congregations where membership has declined.

Ken Ward (left) and Dale Kimball say
people like Leona Cousins, 95, are the reason they have worked long hours six days a week to help rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

New resources to help tell the story of rebuilding and recovery are available at http://www.umc.org/katrina.

"We have been able to reopen churches that were totally devastated and that was made possible only because of the gifts of the people of the church," said Bishop William Hutchinson, Louisiana Annual (regional) Conference. "At the same time, major parts of the city of New Orleans and surrounding area have not been touched and still need basic services."

A reason to celebrate

A special "New Orleans-style" celebration will be held Sept. 6-7 in New Orleans to say thank you to volunteers of the past, present and future - giving their time, money and prayers.
"At this point in the recovery process, we are deeply involved in casework management. Families continue to need help and we continue to need skilled construction teams who are willing to volunteer in this ministry," said Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster, Alabama-West Florida Annual (regional) Conference. "Our prayers are that all those affected by this tragedy will see the love of Christ in our work."

"As we approach hurricane season on the Gulf Coast, we remember what wind and water can do as we press onward to rebuild homes, churches, schools, communities. Your partnership is essential," said Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, Mississippi Annual (regional) Conference.

One extraordinary example of Christian mission and volunteerism is a group of retired lay people from First United Methodist Church, Victoria, Texas, who were making their fifth trip to New Orleans this spring. They were helping the Rev. Helena Wright-Butler rebuild her house while the retired United Methodist pastor lives in a small white FEMA trailer.

"It has been difficult but it has increased my faith," said Butler as she watched volunteers put insulation between the studs of her walls. "It helps to see people here. They could have turned their backs and said, 'Hey it didn't happen to me!' but they were willing to give of themselves, give of their finances and love. It makes it all worthwhile."

Extraordinary contributions

Sue Bymul (front) works
with other members of her volunteer team to remove a handrail prior to tearing out the walls in a Biloxi home.

At this year's annual (regional) conferences, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama-West Florida reported the contributions that volunteers have made to each area:

  • Texas (hit by Hurricane Rita) hosted 4,401 volunteers serving 4,304 individuals;
  • Louisiana (Katrina and Rita) hosted 26,156 volunteers serving 14,955 individuals;
  • Mississippi (Katrina) hosted 30,500 volunteers serving 5,265 individuals;
  • Alabama-West Florida (Ivan, Dennis and Katrina) hosted 2,590 volunteers serving 475 individuals.

Louisiana also helped nearly 15,000 people during the relief stage of the storm, bringing the total number of people served there to about 30,000. Volunteers came from 42 states, two foreign countries and 60 United Methodist annual conferences.

Mississippi helped more than 12,000 people during the relief stage of the storm, bringing its total to more than 17,000 people served.

As the work continues, ministries assisting in the rebuilding efforts need teams with at least one skilled laborer who can hang Sheetrock, install roofs and wire homes for electricity, according to Chris Bower, conference resource coordinator for the Mississippi Annual Conference.

"There is still tons of work to do," Bower said.

People can make contributions to the Katrina Church Recovery Appeal #818-001 through local church offerings or online through http://www.umc.org/katrina.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Worship Service for Aug. 26 special offering

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