“The boat, battered by the waves, was far from the shore, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning He came walking toward them on the sea.” – Matthew 14:24-25 (NRSV)

I can still remember hunkering down in our basement with my wife as Hurricane Isabel blew over us in September of 2003. The power went out. We had a flashlight, and a battery-powered radio. For a couple hours, we sat and listened to the radio and prayed. We listened to the strong winds howling; hearing the sounds of trees falling, and hoping that they were not hitting our house. When it was all over, we had lost most of the trees on the wooded lot where we lived, and our house was not damaged. The street was impassable because large trees had been toppled over on it. Some of neighbors’ houses suffered structural damage. We were without power for two weeks.

That stressful memory pales in comparison to the reports we are hearing from Texas and Florida in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Jesus came to his disciples as they battled the effects of the storm. He still comes today to those who are battling the effects of stormy winds, through the outreach of His disciples in groups like the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

I was speaking with a United Methodist pastor from Houston today, and he told me how he is part of a group of disciples from his church that has been going out almost every day, from dawn to dusk, mucking out houses in their neighborhood. Every house along the street is piled high with debris from the yard and the house. There are weeks ahead of this kind of work, before much repairs and rebuilding can begin. He expressed particular appreciation for the flood buckets. This is the kind of work that UMCOR specializes in. Early Response Teams have already deployed from the Virginia Conference to join others from around the country in helping Texans clean up from Harvey. It is only a matter of time before the same is true of Floridians and Irma.

UMCOR has earned a reputation for being among the first people to show up after a natural disaster strikes, and the last to leave when the recovery is over. I want to thank all of the churches and disciples in the Alexandria District who have made contributions to UMCOR, who have assembled flood buckets, and who are planning to join United Methodist Volunteer in Mission teams to spend time on the ground helping in recovery efforts. Jesus is coming to our traumatized neighbors through us.

Particular thanks is expressed to Burke UMC and Cranford UMC for volunteering to be the collection points for churches to drop off assembled flood buckets from our district, and to arrange for transportation to the conference center in Richmond.

If you have not yet done so, please extend the invitation to persons in every church in our district to be part of this appeal—to pray; to put together flood buckets; to make an offering to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, directly UMCOR: Give to US Disasters or through designated giving to your local church; to go with an UMVIM team to help with the recovery process through hands-on assistance. We don’t want to let the stormy winds of these major catastrophes pass by without extending the assurance of Jesus’ love reaching out to those whose lives have been battered by the storms.

Learn more about hurricane relief and response HERE

Grace and Peace,
Jeff