|United Methodist leaders tour hard-hit Texas areas
Hurricane Ike peeled the roof off the day school at Wesley
United Methodist Church in Beaumont, Texas. A UMNS photo by Bishop
Janice Riggle Huie.
By Eleanor L. Colvin*
Sept. 16, 2008 | HOUSTON (UMNS)
United Methodist leaders in Texas feared the worst is yet to be
discovered as they began touring churches and communities battered by
Hurricane Ike and its 110-mph winds.
"The real question is, what is the damage in Galveston?" asked the Rev.
Don Waddleton, a district superintendent whose oversight includes the
barrier island community. "We cannot get in there to assess."
Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, who leads the church's Texas Annual
(regional) Conference, traveled to areas south and east of Houston Sept.
15-16, but was not able to reach Galveston because authorities have
blocked general access to the island. A city of 57,000 people, Galveston
has five United Methodist churches. Another 20 of the denomination's
churches dot nearby areas in and around Freeport, Texas City, LaMarque
Ike was the worst storm to hit Texas in 25 years and killed at least 40 people in 10 states, including 11 in Texas.
Galveston was among the hardest hit. City government leaders have urged
residents to stay away from the coastal community, saying the city is
unsafe as a massive cleanup begins with no power and little clean
Relief and recovery
Huie reflected on her tour of damage in a Sept. 16 message posted on her conference's Web site.
"While this hurricane was very bad in places, we are also grateful to
God for the limited loss of life," Huie wrote. "The eye of the hurricane
landed on our shores, and tropical-force winds extended all the way to
the northeast edge of the conference before exiting to the east.
Thousands of United Methodists in the Texas Annual Conference are in the
process of relief and recovery from Hurricane Ike."
“While this hurricane was very bad in places, we are also grateful to God for the limited loss of life.”
–Bishop Janice Riggle Huie
Three days after the storm hit landfall on Sept. 13, more than 2
million homes remain without electricity in Houston, the nation's
fourth-largest city. Damage was also significant in Beaumont, which lies
78 miles east of Houston.
"One of the saddest sights is at Wesley United Methodist Church in
Beaumont where the winds peeled back the metal roof covering the Praise
and Family Life Center as though someone had opened a can of pork and
beans," Huie wrote.
The center housed recovery ministries for 2005's Hurricane Rita, in addition to a childcare facility and fellowship hall.
"Children’s artwork, their cots and teaching supplies are covered with
wet insulation and ceiling tiles," Huie wrote. "It is a mess. However,
given the indomitable spirit at Wesley, more than 20 volunteers worked
all day yesterday to clean up the water, move Rita Recovery to the choir
room, and begin putting their facility in order again. Rita Recovery
will be open again today."
A Sept. 15 tour of the southeast district, which covers the Rita-ravaged
"Golden Triangle" of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange, found at least
three United Methodist churches demolished—Bay Vue, Bolivar and Sabine
Additionally, Ike ripped off roofs of at least a half dozen churches
across the conference's more than 700 churches. It also tore off the
roof of its east district office, which is housed 120 miles inland in
Lufkin. Flooding ranged from six inches to nearly six feet in churches
Huie has requested a $10,000 emergency grant from the United Methodist
Committee on Relief. UMCOR representative Sandra Kennedy-Owes
accompanied the bishop on the second leg of her two-day assessment tour.
The roof was blown off the activity center that housed a
homeless ministry in Houston. A UMNS photo courtesy of Servants of
Despite the inability to pinpoint specific needs, the Texas conference
and UMCOR have mobilized to provide flood buckets, ice and other
resources in impacted areas. Three UMCOR distribution sites have been
established at United Methodist churches in Vidor, La Porte and League
Ahead of the storm
Before the storm hit, representatives of the conference’s nine
districts loaded tools into trailers that will equip early-response
teams to help disaster survivors. Stocked with everything from ladders
and axes to box fans and flashlights, the trailers will support district
emergency response teams and will be housed at a local church within
each of the nine districts.
"These districts are prepared to respond to disasters within their own
district, within the conference and everywhere," said the Rev. Rick
Goodrich, assistant to the bishop, who mobilized the units on Sept. 16.
The Rev. Clay Whitaker, disaster response coordinator for the
conference, said providing the trailers and essential tools for recovery
zone work was a vital step in equipping Texas conference volunteers.
The conference has nearly 300 trained and certified early responders.
"We’re trying to do better about getting (to disasters) quickly,"
Whitaker said. "We’re great at getting there and staying the longest.
We’re the best at staying the longest. We’ve not been the best at
getting there quickly, and this will help."
To aid Ike recovery work, send financial donations to UMCOR Advance No.
3019695, "Hurricanes 2008, Hurricane Ike." Mail checks to UMCOR, P.O.
Box 9068, New York, NY 10087, and write the Advance number and name on
the memo line of the check. Credit-card donations can be made online.
*Colvin is the director of communications for the Texas Annual Conference.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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