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a publication of the

Oklahoma Conference of The United Methodist Church

Staying until recovery is complete. That’s our church. This issue chronicles the ongoing response by people who, led by the Holy Spirit, are moving in a variety of ways to help those suffering from Oklahoma’s spring weather tragedies. On these pages we relate the journeys of volunteers and disaster relief workers, of strangers and friends. Glean from these articles education about the Church’s disaster response around the world, in our nation, and throughout the state. Through these stories, celebrate The United Methodist Church at every level, connecting in Christian love to meet needs of people in crisis. Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the UM General Board of Global Ministries, said the Church’s disaster response work “is an expression of faith, a confirmation of discipleship, and a witness to love for neighbors worldwide…We work in collaboration with other religious groups and public and private sectors, partnerships that recognize the fullness and wholeness of God’s creation ... We allow God to work through us, serving in both humility and confidence.” Yes, “it takes a village” of believing people to effectively respond to disasters — from local churches to the Office of Mission in this Oklahoma Conference; through our UMCOR, UMCOM, and other partners; with deepest gratitude for the generosity of individuals of all ages, church groups, companies, and other UM annual conferences. It requires love to lead people from hurt to hope, from the ruins to restoration. The United Methodist response does not cease when the public shifts its focus to some fresh drama. UM disaster ministry continues until rebuilding is complete, no matter how long that takes. The U M C O M sponsored b i l l b oard s an d T V ad s in our state this summer proclaimed our commitment: “That’s Church!” Rev. Dr. Joseph Harris Director of Communications

Front cover: Frankye A. Johnson surveys tornado damage at the home of Trent Steward in Moore, Okla. Johnson is superintendent of the South Oklahoma City District of the the Oklahoma Conference of The United Methodist Church. UMNS photo by Mike DuBose



A message and prayer of hope From: Bishop Hayes To: All United Methodist Congregations in Oklahoma


We’re praying for you.


Running on God’s power


What would Jesus do? The theology behind Christian disaster relief and recovery


‘I’ve never seen the sky so dark’


Tears flow for $100,000 gift


Are you a savvy donor? Take this quiz


Newtown’s teddy bears: How many is too many?


A ring in the rubble


Social media vital to disaster response


Masters of the matrix

Alphabet soup Here’s a glossary of abbreviations you’ll encounter in these pages.

FEMA — Federal Emergency Management Agency GBGM — General Board of Global Ministries GBOD — General Board of Discipleship MARC — Multiple-Agency Resource Center OEM — Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management UM — United Methodist UMC — United Methodist Church UMCOM — United Methodist Communications UMCOR — United Methodist Committee on Relief UMNS — United Methodist News Service VIM — Volunteers In Mission VOAD — Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters

CONTACT The Magazine is a publication of the Department of Communications – Oklahoma Conference of The United Methodist Church All contents copyright © 2013 POSTMASTER: Send address changes to CONTACT, 1501 N.W. 24th St., Oklahoma City, OK 73106-3635.


UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr. surveys tornado damage at the Westmoor subdivision in Oklahoma City on May 29.

A message and prayer of hope


Native American conference helps in special ways


Love lessons from school


Circle of Care gets special delivery


Bolivian pastor blessed by first day


Salvaging the sacred


Church wades in to help


Joplin, one year later


When hearts break


Worst and best donations


A lifeline for the long term


The story of hope

From: Bishop Hayes To: All United Methodist Congregations in Oklahoma Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Oklahoma Area:

“We are pushed hard from all sides, but we are not beaten down; we are bewildered, but that doesn’t make us lose hope; we all suffer, but God does not desert us; we are knocked down, but we are not knocked out.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) The prophetic words of the Apostle Paul come to mind as we live in the aftermath of the tornadoes and flooding that have occurred in Oklahoma. The loss of life and devastation of property are constant reminders of how fragile we are and how quickly our world can be turned upside-down. As people of faith we know there is no storm or wind or water that can destroy the foundation of our faith and hope, which is in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior! Therefore, I urge each and every congregation throughout the Oklahoma Area to set aside a time of prayer for the victims of these calamities, and I also ask that we use those moments of conversation with God to renew our hope and resolve to be the people of faith who will restore and make whole those communities that have been affected. The people called United Methodists already are providing invaluable assistance in the places that have suffered loss, and we will be there as long as necessary.

Pray with me: “O Thou, in whose presence our souls take delight, on whom in affliction we call. “Our comfort by day and our song in the night, our hope, our salvation, our all!” Gracious and loving God, we turn to you in these days of trial and loss to remind us that you are still God and we are still your children. We pray for those families that have experienced death and loss; we pray for those who have been displaced and are in need of basic human necessities. Use us, we pray, to mend the broken places and restore the shattered faith of those who suffer. Give us the resolve to finish the task of rebuilding so all communities can be made whole again! In the name of our Lord and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray. Amen.

Conference team visits Moore, Okla.

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Annual Conference participants travel to Moore with Bishop Hayes on May 29, 2013. Watch video of Bishop Hayes praying with the team and with people from the community who were affected by the tornado.

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We’re praying for you by Holly McCray

We’re praying for you. For D.A. Bennett, this familiar promise grew more precious in late May. Action erupted May 20 at the church he pastors, St. Andrew ’s UMC in south Oklahoma City, after a massive tornado churned nearby. The American Red Cross opened an emergency shelter there for people suddenly displaced. Unsolicited donations of supplies — water, diapers, clothing, and more — began to accumulate. Dazed storm UMNS photo by Mike DuBose victims arrived, needing direction. Flattened remnants of homes extend behind OKC-St. Andrew’s Pastor D.A. Bennett. “We were so busy engaging with people, trying to bring relief to people in crisis,” Rev. Bennett said. “It was moving so fast.” After the Monday tornado, all of St. Andrew’s came together Thus when callers declared “We’re praying for you,” Bennett’s for a prayer service. They did not wait for Sunday morning worresponse was “Please.” ship. About 20 church families were directly impacted by the He told them, “Please do not underestimate the need we have storm. for prayer; please intercede for us. It is so chaotic, we don’t have “Our people needed to be together, to pray. Our hearts were time to stop and pray. The need for asking God’s help, strength, broken,” said Bennett. He preached from the book of Job. A and intervention is greater than we can do.” mighty wind flattened Job’s house and killed his family, and later In a late July interview, the clergyman reflected, “We were so God appeared in the form of a whirlwind and spoke to Job. busy doing the other work God had called us to do that He was In January, St. Andrew’s completed training to be certified calling other people to pray in our place.” as a Red Cross emergency shelter. In April, the church hosted a And Bennett said he has seen the fruitfulness of God moving “Family Safety Seminar,” partnering with News 9, for the wider when people pray. community. And one month later, they found themselves respond“Things that happened here were so awesome, so seamless,” ing to a weather disaster. he explained. “I was taught in seminary when the Holy Spirit “I think God was preparing a witness for His mercy in the moves, it’s so much bigger than us. When we talk about all that midst of devastation. I believe God’s heart is breaking because of happened, I can tell people it was birthed in moments of prayer.” the devastation, the disruption, and the death,” Bennett said, “but Those promises by other faithful people also reminded the God had some people ready to administer His love and grace. pastor to make time to pray as well as serve. His usual private devo“When God called us to do this, we were faithful. Glory to tional time is in the morning, before he turns on his computer. God, not to St. Andrew’s.”

Prayer service for Oklahoma Watch this prayer service for the Oklahoma tornado victims with Bishop Robert Hitchcock Spain, who serves as the chaplain at the United Methodist Publishing House. (Ministry Matters website)


Running on God’s power by Holly McCray

Worshippers arriving June 2 at First UMNS photo by Mike DuBose UMC in Moore found the church lacked electricity. They didn’t need it. Packed with people, that Sunday morning service was powered by the Son. For almost two weeks, the church had been charging into the chaos caused by a tornado May 20. Two-dozen people died, including children. Thousands of homes were gone. The church family hugged and helped neighbors and members impacted Homeowner Connie Boevers, right, is comforted by Tish Malloy after a tornado swept by that storm. through Boevers’ neighborhood in Oklahoma City. At left is Adam Shahan. Both pastors, They kept hustling to minister when Malloy and Shahan toured the area with other United Methodist leaders on May 29. another round of deadly tornadoes struck central Oklahoma on May 31. That time, The joy of the Lord is your strength, Nehemiah told the the church building sustained some damIsraelites. That deep joy will strengthen First UMC through the age, along with more of the city’s power grid. But June 2 brought a bright-blue sky. Open doors drew a challenging months to come. Already, it’s obvious. On May 24, an initial delivery of breeze through the church’s Christian Life Center, merely months old. Babies gurgled. Children scurried to select activity kits. UMCOR emergency relief supplies for tornado survivors was Additional folding chairs appeared as the crowd grew. Passing the unloaded there. **(see QR code below) The church is providing office space for a Disaster Recovery Center, in coordination with Peace of Christ held extra meaning. Tish Malloy, senior pastor, acknowledged the lack of electric- UMCOR. A support group for survivors began meeting June 20. Despite the continuing electrical outage, First Church on ity and water. “But we have life!” she proclaimed. And worship bulletins. Those had been printed by McFarlin June 3 welcomed some 60 elementary students for the first day of Project Transformation, a nine-week literacy day camp affiliated UMC, a valuable gesture by a good neighbor in Norman. Without power for microphones, worship leaders almost with the Oklahoma Conference. became “shouting Methodists” (a term formerly used to describe Electrical power was restored June 5 and phone service on the members of the faith, according to Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. of the next day, according to a receptionist at the church. Oklahoma Area). “It’s more important than ever that churches like ours rise up” “We’ve worshipped without electricity a longer time than in the crisis, Malloy preached on June 2. “We’ve got to be comwith it,” said Rev. Malloy, and older worshippers smiled knowingly. munity for people who (now) don’t have one. We must light the The people prayed, “Lord, open our hearts and minds… darkness for others.” that…we may hear with joy what you say to us today.” Coincidentally, that Sunday also was Malloy’s last as the (Editor’s note: Rob Harris is the new senior pastor at First UMC, pastor. She now serves as Stillwater District superintendent; she and Adam Shahan continues as associate pastor.) pastored for seven years at Moore. And the church family prayed that day to hear God’s word with joy.

**UMCOR responds Watch this video of UMCOR delivering tornado relief supplies to Moore-First UMC, Moore, Okla. (produced by the Oklahoma Conference Department of Communications)

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What would Jesus do? The theology behind Christian disaster relief and recovery by Thomas Kemper

“Churches Shelve Theology for Disaster Relief Efforts” declared the headline in a Tennessee newspaper reporting on a 2010 flood. The story focused on how churches with different ways of thinking were working together in response to the needs of flood victims. Yet the headline also suggested that theology was absent from this response. In reality, the opposite is true. As United Methodists and as Christians, we do not “put our theology on the shelf ” to respond to disasters. We put our theology to work! We contribute funds and supplies. We volunteer for cleanup and rebuilding after hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and sometimes even armed combat. W hatever form it takes, Christian humanitarian relief is a deep affirmation of theological conviction. Identifying with and assisting individuals and communities affected by disasters are ways we follow Jesus Christ — whether those disasters are naturally or humanly generated. The mission theology statement of the UM General Board of Global Ministries makes this point clear: In God’s mission, “Jesus poured himself out in servanthood for all humanity” and “the church experiences and engages in God’s mission as it pours itself out for others.” “God’s light shines in every corner of the earth,” proclaims the Global Ministries’ statement. “There are no places where God’s grace has not always been present.” This understanding of God’s mission highlights the spirit of disaster relief response necessary for post-disaster restoration. For that reason, UMCOR is a natural part of our denomination’s mission agency. We follow and find Christ in disaster situations.

Biblical roots Concern for those in distress after a calamity is rooted in both the Old and New Testaments. As Rabbi Myrna Matsa observes: “The people of God accept in perpetuity the message of Leviticus 19:2: ‘You

shall be holy because I the Lord your God am holy’ and holiness means to nurture the earth, care for humanity, and leave the world in a better condition than the way we found it.” (Jewish Theology of Disaster Response and Recovery) Jesus was steeped in the Jewish tradition of holiness and instructed in the care of humanity. Matthew 25 spells out the obligation Jesus’ followers have for those who are hungry, thirsty, sick, unclothed, or in prison. In the Great Commandment, Jesus tells us to love and care for our neighbors as we care for ourselves — an admonition also from the Old Testament — and in Galatians 5:14, the Apostle Paul uses “You shall love your neighbor as yourself ” to sum up the whole of religious law. Acts 11 tells the story of what may have been the first Christian collection for disaster survivors. When the church in Antioch learned that fellow believers in Judea faced famine, “the disciples determined that, according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea” (Acts 11:29). In the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, Jesus broadens the definition of a “neighbor,” cutting across ethnic and religious boundaries for the sake of human service and dignity.

Our heritage Our Methodist heritage, stemming from John Wesley’s ministry in 18 th-century England, includes a strong concern for people in jeopardy because of calamities. Wesley railed against factories’ pollution of the air, water, and soil, and he started small enterprise programs to rescue at least some women and children from the mills. Wesley’s ministry extended to those sick from all causes. Medicine was not highly developed in his time. Wesley compiled the best available medical information, including home remedies, in a book titled “Primitive Physick.” Every Methodist preacher making rounds on horseback in England was expected to carry this handbook in his saddlebag. This

As United Methodists go about the work of disaster relief and rebuilding, we are guided by strong theological themes from our Wesleyan heritage. Here are a few.

The disaster response of the church and its members is an expression of faith, a confirmation of discipleship, and a witness to love for neighbors worldwide. But we do not remove debris and rebuild homes with the intention of converting others; rather, we do so as the practice of a theology of presence that requires few words.

All people need God’s grace. Helpers in disaster are not superior to those being helped. Responders act with humility and not for the sake of feeling good about helping others.

We respond in collaboration with other religious groups and public and private sectors, partnerships that recognize the fullness and wholeness of God’s creation; we work with others to restore and preserve.

We allow God to work through us, serving others in both humility and confidence. We realize that everyone needs and has access to God’s grace.

— Thomas Kemper


powerful Wesleyan tradition of concern for the vulnerable was at work in 1940, at the onset of World War II, when U.S. Methodists first set up what today is UMCOR. Its founding was triggered in part by memories of the horrendous effects of World War I on civilian populations. Bishop Herbert Welch conceived the idea as a loving response to a world of violence.

Humility and confidence Another Wesleyan theological theme addresses the attitude of the responders in disaster relief and subsequent rehabilitation. John Wesley built into Methodism the conviction that all people need the grace of God to be redeemed. This has special application for church members who set out to do “good works.” It is a reminder that the helpers — the funders and the cleanup teams — are not superior in divine favor to those being assisted. To follow Jesus in servanthood to others is to be baptized in humility. We seek to be both confident and modest, asking not how our action makes us look, but how putting our faith into action contributes to human welfare, peace, justice, and reconciliation. As the embodiment of United Methodist disaster response, UMCOR offers services and presence without regard to religion, race, nationality, politics, or gender. It responds to small as well as large, well-publicized disasters. John Wesley admonished Methodists to do as much good and as little harm as possible in the world. Those are guiding precepts in our response to disaster.

Theology of presence The church’s disaster response is an expression of our faith, a confirmation of our discipleship, and a witness to our love for our neighbors. As United Methodists, we do not distribute food, 8 Contact the magazine |

water, blankets, cleaning buckets, and health kits or rebuild shelters and schools with the objective of converting others either to Christianity or to Methodism. Such a goal would miss the point of God’s grace, which is offered in freedom. To us, disasters are opportunities for service, inviting us to our highest levels of compassion and concern. The theology of presence requires few words. We also take a broad view of partnerships in disaster relief and rebuilding. In the continuing response to the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, UMCOR works with Methodist or ecumenical partners not only from the Caribbean and Latin America but also from Canada and the United Kingdom. We also cooperate with nonprofit agencies not affiliated with the church. In the aftermath of the devastating 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, we worked with other Christian, secular, and Muslim organizations. UMCOR has long-term plans for response to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. UMCOR’s response entails collaboration with Japanese Christians, putting particular emphasis on work with economically marginalized ethnic communities and on issues such as agricultural production where nuclear contamination exists.

Long-term recovery Working with others, including other religious groups and government entities, serves a theological objective: to recognize the fullness — the wholeness — of God’s created order and to collaborate with others in the restoration and preservation of all creation, including human families and communities. The focus is often on “the least of these” from Matthew 25, because the weakest are hardest-hit by disasters. The poor and elderly characteristically have the least substantial housing and are the most vulnerable regarding immediate post-disaster needs and long-term rehabilitation. Methodists have always been strongly committed to ministry with the poor. Restoration of housing, social institutions, and the means of making a living are

long-term post-disaster tasks. UMCOR is well known as an agency that arrives early and stays the longest through disaster recovery. Our work in response to the prolonged war in Bosnia lasted for years after hostilities ceased, covering a full decade and involving the restoration of farms. Work in Armenia and Georgia now has extended for two decades. Job training and the rebuilding of homes, schools, and other infrastructure in Haiti is ongoing, carried out in close collaboration with local communities and the Haitian Methodist Church. One objective is to provide job training of value to individuals and families in the years ahead. UMCOR is especially skilled in postdisaster case management, a process that helps people get back on their feet economically and socially. Sometimes a new start can take place in the area affected by the disaster, but sometimes people have to start over in a new place. UMCOR received major public contracts in case management

after Hurricane Katrina, which devastated large areas of the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005. Much of the response was in collaboration with UM volunteer mission teams.

God at work through us As in the parable of the wedding guests in Matthew 25:1-13 — in which the bridesmaids need to carry extra oil for the lamps used to welcome the wedding party — we must be ready when God invites us to respond to human need. The message is to “be alert.” God is at work everywhere, all the time. So in God’s mission, we seek to serve others in humility and confidence. We know that everyone needs — and has access to — God’s grace. In disaster response, we know there is no perfect humanitarian solution. We simply do our best, praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we put our theology to work in action — doing as much good as we can. 

UMCOR’s work spelled out The United Methodist Committee on Relief is a separately incorporated humanitarian unit of the denomination’s General Board of Global Ministries. It has its own board of directors, elected by directors of the parent agency, and incorporates international and domestic disaster relief, health ministries, and development programs.

(UMNS, May 24, 2013. Revised. Kemper’s full commentary originally appeared in the March/April 2013 issue of New World Outlook. He is the top GBGM executive.)


“The bedding kits and cleaning buckets were going out the door.” — Greg Forrester, UMCOR official

“We have to keep bringing this to people’s attention.” — Barry Bennett, MSMT chairman

‘I’ve never seen the sky so dark’ by Linda Bloom

In El Reno, Barry Bennett had no doubt the approaching storm May 31 would be bad. “I grew up in Oklahoma, and I’ve seen many tornadoes,” expained Rev. Bennett, the pastor of Wesley UMC in El Reno. “But I’ve never seen the sky so dark. I knew this thing had to be huge.” He and others sought protection inside the El Reno church, which escaped with minor damage that night. But several church members lost their homes, he said. In south Oklahoma City that same day, the Red Cross emergency shelter was shutting down at 4 p.m. at St. Andrew’s UMC. It had opened May 20 after an afternoon tornado carved a deadly path 17 miles long. But agency and church staff kept watch on the clouds again building on the western horizon. Only a few hours later, the shelter officially reopened, after multiple twisters in the state’s center. “They really had not gotten everything out of the door when the storm started hitting,” said D.A. Bennett, St. Andrew’s senior pastor and Barry Bennett’s cousin. Also May 31, in the city of Moore, already reeling from the destruction on May 20, Richard Norman was ushered to safety in FEMA’s joint field office. This day a tornado skipped over the shopping mall where the office was located. For Rev. Norman — serving twin roles as the Oklahoma Conference’s disaster coordinator and as president of Oklahoma VOAD — the new storm complicated an already tragic situation. “It slowed down the response effort” under way after the previous storm, he said. The cycle of extreme weather in Oklahoma drew national attention. Hail, torrential rain, and flash floods occurred in addition to multiple twisters. “It wasn’t just one tornado, it wasn’t just one day, and it wasn’t just one area,” noted Jeremy Basset, the Oklahoma Conference director of the Office of Mission.

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Oklahoma’s United Methodists are appreciative of the many forms of support that has come from across the country and as far away as Japan. Greg Forrester, the U.S. disaster response coordinator for UMCOR, joined Oklahoma United Methodist officials early in June to survey the “unbelievable” damage.   Forrester watched newly hired staff of the Moore Disaster Recovery Center working with homeowners and coordinating cleanup teams. He helped distribute supplies shipped by UMCOR to Oklahoma on May 23. “The bedding kits and cleaning buckets were going out the door,” he reported. He had discussions with Church leaders on how UMCOR could collaborate with the two Oklahoma annual conferences, led by Bishop Robert Hayes Jr., for long-term recovery work. In El Reno, a few days after the shock of the May 31 storm, the MARC set up in the high school gym was playing a critical role. As Barry Bennett visited the center June 4, “we were able to put some funding and supplies in the hands of families,” he said. Bennett also chairs the Oklahoma Conference’s Mission & Service Ministry Team. These efforts were only among the beginnings of United Methodist participation in Oklahoma’s recovery. “We will be here until the last shingle is laid,” Bennett predicted. He emphasized in a late July interview, “We have to keep bringing this to people’s attention.” Bennett described the Church’s ongoing, crucial disaster recovery work as “unprecedented in our Conference” and “probably the most complex we’ve had to deal with.” And he applauded the effective UM response. “Because we are so organized, we are reaching more families than we ever did (in past disasters). Other conferences are asking how we are doing this.” (UMNS, June 6, 2013. Holly McCray also contributed.)

Tears flow for $100,000 gift by Kathy Gilbert

When word went out that McFarlin Memorial UMC in Norman was taking donations for tornado disaster relief, they never dreamed that they would collect more than $100,000 in one day, without even a chance to pass the offering plate on Sunday. Linda Harker, senior pastor of McFarlin, said one family donated $50,000 and another couple matched that donation. “When people come and share out of their generosity and abundance, there are simply no words, only tears of gratitude,” she said in late May. “Our phones have hardly stopped ringing with people wanting to help.” Rev. Harker had just returned from touring with the local sheriff in the area of Moore hit hardest May 20, and she said the destruction was hard to describe. “It’s even hard to identify where you are because road signs are gone and you can’t even remember what used to be there.”

She said electrical workers from all over the country were busy trying to reconnect electrical services despite heavy rain UMNS photo by Mike DuBose that continued intermittently in the days after the tornado. Harker said United United Methodist Bishop Robert E. Hayes (wearing Methodist-affiliated Oklahoma dark jacket) and members of a team from the City University opened its Oklahoma Annual Conference pray with Pam dorms to about 200 displaced Stafford (to Hayes’ left) at her tornado-damaged families and more than 200 first home near Oklahoma City. responders. She and other UM clergy had been meeting with those staying the people came together that this was how at the university. the world could be. She said, ‘Do you think “I visited with a young couple last that’s the way it’s supposed to be?’ I said I’m night, and they were just sharing their sto- sure that is the way God wants it. ries. The young woman said, ‘You know I “ We are just one small part of the just wish the world could be this way all whole connection. There are many, many the time; it would be a place of peace.’ And people doing lots of great things.” I thought, in the midst of all this, they had (UMNS, May 23, 2013) lost everything and yet she was seeing as

Are you a savvy donor? Take this quiz

Recently a church congregation in Greenville, N.C., collected a tractor-trailer load full of water and cleaning supplies they wanted to donate to Hurricane Irene survivors. Irene struck the East Coast in August 2011, and the congregation was aware that people were still recovering. The church really wanted to help. by Susan Kim

Unfortunately, faced with logistical challenges, they couldn’t move the load of supplies into the affected area, said Cliff Harvell, disaster response coordinator for the North Carolina Conference. “So they unloaded it into a local container — at $90 a month in rent.” There the supplies stayed for nine months, until Harvell rented a U-Haul truck for $250 to finally deliver the supplies. “Between all the parties involved, we paid nearly $1,100 for supplies that could have been bought a lot cheaper on site.” Harvell appreciated the intention, especially since donations tend to fall off during long-term disaster recovery. “I’m so appreciative they even knew we were still recovering from Irene. But it’s difficult when people collect supplies and they are unable to ship them, or if they ship supplies and there’s no place to put them.” What was the first misstep? It was collecting supplies that weren’t specifically requested. But when people feel strongly committed to helping, sometimes it’s hard to direct them away from their initial “inspired” donation, said Harvell.

“People have an emotional trigger, and their feelings of wanting to help are very strong.” What pulls that emotional trigger? Dramatic news media coverage in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. After watching the latest national news segment on a disaster, emotion-based giving might feel good, but it sometimes results in a mismatch of giving versus need, agreed Jackie Watkins, a member of Trietsch Memorial UMC in Flower Mound, Texas. Watkins has been a leader in planning events that help educate youth about what to expect in the wake of a disaster. “In my humble opinion, savvy donors do their research,” she said. “They take the time to investigate the cause and the beneficiary before giving.” Consider yourself a “partner” with your chosen organization, she added. “Less savvy donors are more emotional givers [with a] knee-jerk, immediate response for perceived immediate relief and no follow-up.” A savvy donor. Are you one? Take the quiz and find out. (UMCOR, May 7, 2013)

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TRUE OR FALSE? 1. It’s best to start a collection drive right away in the wake of a disaster.



2. Disaster survivors who have lost ever ything must need everything.



3. It’s best not to be specific about whom you want to receive your donation.



4. You call a UM disaster relief center to offer your donation — and they turn it down because they don’t need it. It’s best to take it in stride and ask for a referral to another organization that could use your donation.



5. You receive a beautiful catalog or see a well-known celebrity promoting a certain type of donation. Surely, these signal something disaster survivors really need.



6. There are donations that are always appropriate, no matter the disaster.


False  Answers on page 15

Newtown’s teddy bears: How many is too many?

An impromptu memorial adorns the fence outside Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., where seven students were killed when a massive tornado struck May 20. Inside the fence, amid the rubble of the destroyed school, are crosses honoring those who died. UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

by Susan Kim

When a distressed child hugs a teddy bear, there is a moment of innocent comfort that soothes not only the child but also the grownups around her. No wonder, then, in the wake of the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Conn., the donation of choice for many people was a teddy bear. Undeniably, for some of the children in Newtown — and adults, for that matter — a new stuffed animal was just the right gift at the right time. But then a hundred bears arrived. Then a thousand. Then tens of thousands. Along with prayer shawls. Flowers. Rubber bracelets. A lot of “stuff ” landed at Newtown UMC, a pillar for the Connecticut town’s ongoing recover y. The pastor, Mel Kawakami, was featured in national news reports. Three months after the tragedy, Rev. Kawakami quietly worried that he perhaps offended some gift-givers because he hadn’t yet responded to them. His “sister churches,” he said, already helped write more than 300 thank-you notes. But there are thousands more to go.

“You don’t want to sound ungracious,” he said, “and you don’t want to be ungracious. Because we became a witness for how deeply people were touched.” Just what is the best response to a horrendous act of public violence? There’s no right answer, Kawakami said. “One strategy might be to do something in your own community that honors the victims and also honors those who survived.” What about our own need to send “stuf f ?” Mar y Hughes Gaudreau of Oklahoma, a U.S. disaster-response consultant for UMCOR, believes it’s important to recognize the hearts of people involved in giving. Within UMCOR’s broad range of response to disasters, a vital component is emotional and spiritual care. “I really do think when people give gifts after acts of public violence that, in some ways, they’re trying to deal with their own pain,” said Rev. Gaudreau, who has supported Kawakami and the Newtown church during the ongoing recovery. “We don’t want to have suffering be the last word. We need to touch something or do something tangible to make that real.”

Sometimes when you’re trying to offer emotional and spiritual care, it’s important to examine yourself as a giver, Gaudreau said. “There are times when we find people who get very angry when their desire to do something good is rejected. They desperately want to help, and they feel frustrated when their help is not needed.” The teddy bears were not rejected. Some went to local parents who had lost newborn babies. Some were given to church visitors and parishioners. Some were transformed into compost destined for a memorial garden. And some did make it into the arms of kids. “The truth is, they needed those teddy bears,” said Gaudreau. But thousands of them? “Then it gets complicated,” she added, “and we need to consider those six key words: It’s about the people we serve.” Kawakami would like people to keep praying for Newtown, “but if I could attach a tag to that,” he said, hesitating. “If you can freely send out the prayer — without expecting something in return.” (UMCOR, April 2013)


UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

A ring in the rubble It’s funny what chaos looks like on the second day. As two of us walked one of Moore’s streets today, I remarked that the tornado debris looked far more organized than when we walked there yesterday. For others seeing it for the first time this day, it still must have looked like a senseless mess. by Jimmy Doyle

What made the difference for me was that yesterday very few people had been in the area. However, today the area was full of families and crews working to retrieve anything important and/or salvageable from the wreckage. It was an amazing thing to see, a true gift of God’s grace to witness it. Today our two- and three-person teams from New Covenant UMC in Edmond worked on several houses. Some of us worked with one family during the late morning. They were the Stephenses. Mom, Dad, college-age daughter, and our group — strangers who were close friends in the moment — spent the morning digging through the remains of their house. We were looking for their photos and paintings, for Mr. Stephens’ tools, for the daughter’s yearbooks. Mrs. Stephens was joyful at times, thoughtful at others, on the verge of crying once or twice. They, in the midst of their destroyed home, showed us hospitality with cold water, smiles, hugs and handshakes, and joking. They had survived in the cellar out back, barely getting the door closed before the storm hit. We asked Mrs. Stephens where we needed to look for things she wanted to recover. The daughter told us her mom wanted the

From ruins to restoration Boston Avenue UMC, Tulsa, lends a hand in Moore, Okla. (video produced by the Oklahoma Conference Department of Communications)

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dishes and knickknacks in a china cabinet, explained that some of the material had belonged to her grandmother. We found the cabinet face-down, removed the wall that had fallen on top, and pried off the cabinet’s back. Amazingly most of the items were unbroken. Then Mrs. Stephens noticed the top of her workdesk in the rubble. She suddenly remembered that she had put her wedding ring on that desk. Without hesitation, two of us began digging through the insulation covering the crushed desk, inch-by-inch and bit-by-bit, praying quietly but audibly that we would find her ring. We found coins, bracelets, pens, earrings that she had placed on the desk the morning of May 20…but no ring. We went through it again. Suddenly, there in the debris, a wedding ring. We pulled it out. But it wasn’t Mrs. Stephens’ wedding ring — it was the one that had belonged to her father. She was ecstatic and overjoyed. Although we never found her ring, Mrs. Stephens said that’s all she needed. After working at the house, we spent time talking and exchanging information with the family. We talked about stages of grief. They shared how they felt almost ready to walk away from the mess and not come back. We joked about splinters in fingers, underwear seen by everyone, and how intense dads can be when their kids are in danger. They took pictures of us for their memories, and Mrs. Stephens hugged and thanked us again. Strangers and friends in the midst of the chaos, sharing goodness in the midst of great tragedy, finding small things of great value in the rubble. (Doyle attends Edmond-New Covenant UMC and is on staff at the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation.)

ANSWERS to quiz on page 12

1. FALSE. Wait before you collect. Find out what’s needed. After a spontaneous collection drive, donors often insist that the affected community take the collected items. “And, in fact, many communities do!” said Pam Garrison, disaster response manager for the Florida Conference. That creates a secondary disaster. “Volunteers who were helping in the community may now be pulled in to offload supplies that aren’t needed, sort them, and try to figure out what to do with them,” she said.

2. FALSE. Though news media outlets may depict disaster survivors who appear to have lost everything, that portrayal doesn’t always reflect reality. “You think they need what you have to offer. It isn’t your agenda but theirs that determines your ministry,” advised Garrison.

3. TRUE. Don’t be extremely specific about what you want to donate to the point that it makes it difficult for your donation to be used, explained Bobbie Ridgely, director for the Sandy Recovery Program in New Jersey. “For example, if you want to specify a financial donation, specify your donation to ‘a local homeowner’ rather than ‘a local homeowner with three children, two cats, and one canary!” she said.

4. TRUE. “If the organization is not accepting the item you are willing to donate, don’t be angry; simply ask for a referral to a different organization,” advised Ridgely.

Photo by Stanley Strong

SCAVENGER HUNT UM youths from Yukon-First UMC search a wheat field to clear debris before harvesting begins. May’s tornadoes struck just as the ripened crop was ready to cut in Oklahoma. These volunteers were working between Yukon and El Reno. Directing them was church member Stanley Strong, also a leader for Youth Force-Oklahoma City. Storm-strewn fragments can cause expensive damages to farm equipment. More than 3,000 acres affected by the May 31 tornado had been walked and cleaned for farmers by late July, according to Pastor George Rowe of Union City UMC. A youth group from OKC-First UMC also responded to Facebook calls for rural help, he said. Ruined crops in some fields had to be burned before wreckage could be removed. Needs remain and include replacing fences, said Rev. Rowe.

Garrison agreed: “A savvy donor can hear and receive a ‘no thanks’ without offense because it’s not about them. They aren’t trying to meet their own personal need; they just want to help if they are needed.”

5. FALSE. It’s easy to get caught up in large relief efforts that make national news, or ones that hold celebrityfilled benefits, said Kristin Pratt, who handles disaster response communications for Asbury UMC in Petal, Miss. “Do some research,” she advised. “You need to make sure that the organization you choose has reliable distribution methods for its aid and has the cooperation of the local government; otherwise goods can be left to rot without ever reaching those who need them.”

6. TRUE. A cash donation to UMCOR will always go directly toward helping a disaster survivor.

UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Volunteers from the Fuente de Vida congregation, a campus of St. Luke’s UMC in south Oklahoma City, prepare tamales to feed people at suppertime May 30 in the Red Cross shelter at OKC-St. Andrew’s. From left are Nereida Garza, Maria Luisa Guardado, and Sidalia Zuniga.


Social media vital to disaster response by Boyce Bowdon Two of the most powerful U.S. tornadoes ever documented struck the Oklahoma City area during May. The first, on May 20, tore a mile-wide path, 17 miles long, through rural communities and the southern suburb of Moore, population 56,000. The second tornado hit May 31, on the western side of Oklahoma City. It was 2.6 miles wide — the widest tornado ever recorded. The death toll reached 49 after two weeks of weather-driven crises in the state. Record-keepers can estimate how many people were injured, and how many homes and businesses were destroyed or damaged. But no one can put a number on the trauma experienced. To quickly help bring comfort and hope, many spiritual leaders turned to social media. For example, Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. of the Oklahoma Area wrote a message and prayer on June 1 to reassure hurting people that God loves them, grieves with them, and will lead them through tough days to come. Hayes’ message, posted that Saturday on the Oklahoma Conference’s Facebook page, urged local churches to share the prayer in their Sunday worship services. An informal survey of clergy Facebook posts showed many did.

An instant supply channel Churches also made use of social media to help distribute supplies and other vital resources.

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In south Oklahoma City, St. Andrew’s UMC, in addition to being an American Red Cross shelter, became a distribution warehouse in the first weeks after the May 20 storm. D.A. Bennett, senior pastor, said, “Pickups started showing up with cases of water and packages of diapers. We used Facebook to let people know we had them available.” Rev. Bennett said Facebook not only helped St. Andrew’s get supplies to people who needed them, but also helped the church secure other supplies that were desperately needed. “People would say, ‘We need shovels and rakes.’ We would post their needs on Facebook, and suddenly here would come a pickup full of rakes and shovels.” A member of St. Andrew’s who teaches school told Bennett that students of Moore’s four elementary schools had been invited to an end-of-year event. She and other teachers and principals wanted to give the students backpacks filed with things they could enjoy and use; some students had lost everything in the tornado. That meant the project needed 1,200 backpacks in less than 48 hours. “We put an appeal for help on Facebook and, before noon the next day, we had 1,200 backpacks and more were coming in,” said Bennett. “So we gave 700 to another school in a neighboring community hit by the tornado.” Like St. Andrew’s UMC, First Baptist Church was also a key center of ministry throughout the disaster. It, too, is a Red Cross shelter.

Kyle Duncan, business administrator for First Baptist, pointed out that needs change rapidly during disasters. “We post on Facebook that we need diapers, and right away we have more than we can use,” he said. “So we post that we have too many diapers, and ask people to stop sending them. Just then, Southgate Baptist tweets us, reporting they can use the diapers, so we post their need on Facebook.”

Toy Story 4 in Moore In Moore, New Life United Methodist Church quickly organized a related event by also using social media. Worship attendance averages 70. “Most of our members are past being able to dig through rubble,” said member Shirley Pigg. “Over the years, several of us have lost our homes in tornadoes. We were determined to find something we could do to help. We were especially concerned about kids. So we decided to have a toy drive.” New Life announced the drive on Facebook, and donations and volunteers poured in. “We got thousands of toys from all over the country,” Pigg said. One of the church’s Facebook posts declared: “Our toy drive for children impacted by the tornado has been incredible. We have received 1000s of toys from those in our community as well as from United Methodist churches as far away as Vancouver, WA, and Shalamar, FL. Now it’s time to get the toys to the children! We will be giving toys away June 18th and 20th from 6:00-8:30 p.m. and June 22 from 9:00-12:00. Each child will be able to pick out a toy, a book, and a stuffed animal, as long as toys last. Families will need to bring an ID that shows proof of residency in an area that was impacted by the tornado. Please help spread the word.” When the drive ended, Pigg said, “people started volunteering to help us [distribute the toys]. By that time most of us who had been working in the drive were needing a break, so we were glad to get the help.” Pigg said a mother in Michigan called to tell her she wanted to bring a carload of teenage girls to help with the distribution. Two Tulsa elementary-school teachers called to volunteer. When children came to choose toys on the distribution days, enough volunteers were available.

Communications disrupted “Our church wasn’t damaged during the May 20th tornado,” said Tish Malloy, senior pastor of Moore-First UMC at that time. “But the May 31 storm destroyed our roof.” The church had an even bigger problem. “We couldn’t get in touch with our members,” Rev. Malloy said. “Telephone lines were down. We didn’t have electricity. Our computers wouldn’t work,

which meant we couldn’t communicate by email. Many of our streets were blocked. Many of our members lived in heavily damaged parts of town; if they left their neighborhood, they couldn’t come back.” Moore-First Associate Pastor Adam Shahan solved the church’s communication problem. “I went a little north of Moore so I could get an Internet connection on my cell phone and accessed our church’s Facebook page,” Shahan explained. “I posted that the church was still standing, and asked our members to check in with us on Facebook so we would know how they were.” Members began posting their statuses on the church’s Facebook page. Their posts revealed that at least 20 families in the church had lost their homes and several others’ homes were damaged. Now Stillwater District superintendent, Malloy said she plans to insist that every church in the district develop a disaster response plan and make sure it includes the use of social media. “One of the big lessons I learned during the tornado,” she said, “is that Facebook is not a toy. It can be a vital tool of communication that we as individuals and as churches can use to communicate God’s love. We’ve got to learn to take social media seriously and use it wisely in all kinds of weather.” (Reprinted with permission,, July 8, 2013. Ministry Matters™ was launched in 2011 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Rev. Boyce Bowdon is the former Oklahoma Conference director of Communications.)

Posting notes: Oklahoma United Methodist Communications page: • May 20 post announcing special Oklahoma Conference fund to help tornado victims — 40,272 unique views •

June 1 post of Bishop Hayes’ message and prayer — 11,600 unique views

July 10 post about digital billboard ads in OKC area — 23,296 unique views

Oklahoma United Methodist Mission & Service Ministry Team page: • May 20 post announcing how to donate to UMCOR disaster relief fund —  52,560 unique views

(Facebook system tracks views for 28 days only.)

That’s Church Staying until recovery is complete is the message of the TV spot aired in the Oklahoma and Tulsa viewing areas. (Costs for this awareness campaign were covered by the denomination’s media agency, United Methodist Communications.)


Masters of the matrix

UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

Kevin Walker (right) checks in with volunteer Mel Rogers as she clears tornado debris at a home in Moore, Okla. Walker is director of the Moore Recovery Center for The United Methodist Church.

The date: July 19, 2013. The place: an improvised office at Moore-First UMC. Dominating the room: a large whiteboard covered with handwritten lists. The occupants: three disaster response coordinators, all young adults with valuable field experience. The task: logistics. by Holly McCray

This Moore Disaster Recovery Center is a United Methodist epicenter for managing the complexities of effectively helping Oklahomans in great need. Two months have passed since a cycle of deadly May tornadoes began. A total of 49 people died. Damage claims neared 15,000 in mid-July, according to FEMA. Recovery will take two years, officials say. In the office at the church, the trio stays on task, unfazed by such statistics. Remember, Jesus fed thousands of people from five loaves of bread and two fish.

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Today the whiteboard displays addresses for 20 ruined homes and names four volunteer groups working at sites. (The groups are from Tulsa’s First and Asbury UMCs, a Scout troop, and UM Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, Mo.) Since May 24, about 14,000 volunteers have deployed through this office as of this date. Most are Oklahomans, with large numbers also coming from Indiana, Missouri, Alabama, North Carolina, Texas, and Nebraska. Many are United Methodists, but groups also deploying through this office represent other faiths as well as companies and civic organizations. A team from the California-Pacific United Methodist Annual Conference brought a disaster response trailer. A woman from Maine put to good use her certified chainsaw training. A skilled construction crew came from Tennessee. Their service certainly is not limited to Moore. This office is directing volunteers to numerous affected areas, including farmland. Two months into the recovery, volunteers are sifting through properties to pick up smaller debris, necessary to thoroughly clean the land. Although crucial, this stage of help can appeal less to volunteers, site coordinator Kevin Walker comments. Unlike the first weeks after the storms, now “you may not see the homeowner,” volunteer coordinator Sarah Nichols says. She

advises volunteers to discard any “preconceived notions.” Part of the office’s task is to continually educate volunteers, to help them know “they are in ministry even if they aren’t doing what they expected to do. What they are doing is still valuable,” Nichols emphasizes. Walker recalls a Springfield, Mo., couple who arrived in late May in their recreational vehicle and served for three weeks. He asked what advice they had for future volunteers. The wife’s three suggestions: • Be flexible. • Wear layers of clothing. • Be flexible! As Oklahoma moves into autumn, some rebuilding will begin, Walker expects. Volunteer enthusiasm will resurge as new homes go up. The Moore Disaster Response Center will have more people managing the logistics.

The word logistics seems unglamorous, insufficient to describe the people who so effectively manage the extensive United Methodist systems that connect people who want to help with those who need their help. Walker says the time to reflect on what the office accomplishes will come when he sees recovery complete “from point A to Z.” “There’s no time to process right now,” he says. “We reboot and go on to the next one.”

Photo by Holly McCray

Kevin Walker, seated, and Sarah Nichols lead the extensive logistics work at the Moore Disaster Recovery Center, housed at Moore-First UMC.


The Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OIMC) is no stranger to disaster relief. The conference was among the first to send a UM Volunteers In Mission team to New York City’s ground zero following the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001. OIMC members again are offering a helping hand — this time in their own backyard, after May’s destructive storms. “What makes disaster response unique in the OIMC is that we not only deal with our own membership but [also other] Native families,” said David Wilson, the Conference’s superintendent. “Oftentimes, there are cultural needs in Native families that other agencies aren’t aware of.”

Native American conference helps in For example, he said, when a 1999 tornado devastated Moore, the conference was able to find interpreters for a storm-ravaged Kickapoo family who did not speak English. The Conference also understands the importance of intergenerational family connections within many Native American households, Rev. Wilson added. It’s not uncommon for grandparents, parents, and children to live under one roof and want to continue to do so after they rebuild. “So oftentimes, we have to help FEMA and other people understand, ‘Here’s the situation,’” Wilson said. Soon after tornadoes struck central Oklahoma on May 18-20, OIMC collaborated with Moore’s New Life UMC, in the Oklahoma Conference, to set up an emergency relief center in that church. Wilson said OIMC was working with some 25 Native American families in Moore and about the same number in Little Axe, which is about 20 miles from Norman. “One of the very first things we did was to receive calls from family members who live far away and who were asking about the safety of their loved ones,” Wilson continued. “We received the names of tribal members representing at least 15 tribes that were affected, and we located numerous people for worried relatives.” In Little Axe, Wilson said, “one look at a few of the homes that were hit was overwhelming. The damage was not as extensive as in Moore, but it is an isolated community and is not receiving as much public attention,” he said. David Wilson (right) of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference visits with Gov. George Blanchard of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma at the tribe’s resource center in Little Axe, Okla. The building is serving as a relief center following the recent tornadoes. UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

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special ways In that main community for the 3,400-member Absentee Shawnee Tribe, he met with the tribal governor to discuss immediate needs. He found the tribal leader working in a warehouse, helping to dispense food and clothing. “The governor told me that their relief efforts were not just for tribal members but for all in the area,” Wilson said. “His words were a powerful reminder of the way Native people live our lives. We are not called to worry just about ourselves and our relatives but all of our relations.” He noted the historic generosity of Native people was also evident far from the devastation. “I was at the historic Goodland UMC, a Choctaw congregation near Idabel, while they took up a special offering for the relief effort. I saw many children and youth come and drop money into the plate. It was refreshing to be reminded that people of all ages are remembering others,” he said. The conference also requested and received a $10,000 initial grant from UMCOR. Perhaps most significantly, OIMC disaster responders can help address the spiritual needs of Native families who have undergone trauma — even if they are not United Methodist. In tribes across North America, a family that loses a loved one or celebrates a new beginning will request a “cedaring” or “smudging” ceremony. During the rite, people burn cedar or sweetgrass and pray.

“The purpose is that it cleanses you physically and spiritually, and the smoke takes your prayers up to God,” Wilson said. “While many of our United Methodist churches may not do that, people who are outside of the church often do it.” Early Methodist missionaries discouraged the practice of cedaring. But Wilson and many other Native Americans see no contradiction between the rite and Christian teaching. Wilson likened cedaring to the Roman Catholic Church’s tradition of burning incense during Mass. “When you see a priest go through with incense, they are purifying the church,” he said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing with cedaring.” So, OIMC members offer comfort to bereaved Native families and, if requested, help them perform the blessing. “We don’t look down on them because we understand the significance,” Wilson said. On May 22, OIMC leaders planned a prayer service at OKC-Leland Clegg UMC. During the event, Gene Sovo, who is a Comanche from the Fletcher area, was scheduled to offer a cedaring for the storm victims. OIMC includes more than 80 churches and about 6,000 members from more than 30 tribes. While the majority of congregations are in Oklahoma, the Conference also has churches in Texas and Kansas.

(Elliott Wright of GBGM and Heather Hahn of UMNS contributed to this report.)


How you can give…

How you can volunteer…

 Donate to the Oklahoma Conference’s special fund, “2013 May Tornado Relief.” Gifts had reached $969,396.03 as of August 12.

 As a group  As an individual Sign up your team or just yourself* on the Oklahoma Conference Volunteers in Mission website

 UMCOR reported $2.8 million in total giving to “U.S. Disaster Response,” Advance No. 901670, from May 20 through July 18.

* Volunteers under the age of 18 may only register as part of a team. Youth volunteers must be between the ages of 15-18. Youth teams will be accepted on a case-by-case basis based on the level of safety for the jobs available for the dates requested.

Love lessons from school About 20 students and faculty at United Methodistrelated Oklahoma City University were directly affected by the May 20 tornado, according to Sandy Pantlik, OCU director of communications. Mary Brewer, one of the dormitory “house moms,” lost her 49-year-old daughter, who was in a store that collapsed during the storm, Pantlik said. OCU has been responding to needs in several ways, reported by OCU communications staff. •

The university community gathered at a prayer vigil in the Angie Smith Chapel. OCU Chaplain Rodney Newman said people were invited to write down their prayers, light candles, and kneel at the altar rail. Student Trey Witzel led a liturgy, “Lord, hear our prayers.” Janet Boone sang; she is the chapel administrative assistant.

Pantlik said the university opened its dorms to house any students affected by the storm. Community outreach was coordinated with Oklahoma City Community College and local United Methodist churches. The university’s food service company provided food for first responders.

In New York City, OCU alumni joined in a benefit cabaret on June 23. Funds raised from the event, “Oklahoma Rising,” were donated to the United Way of Central Oklahoma’s May tornado relief fund.

Two groups from the university community crafted handmade thank-you cards for rescue workers and volunteers who responded. They met in the evenings in early June to work on the project, finishing with 250 handmade cards. The cards were then sorted into 50 stacks of five cards each and delivered to a designated tornado relief center.

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“We thought the victims of the tornado would want to thank the many people who helped them,” said Karen Dickerson.

Karen Vann, administrative assistant in OCU’s Petree College of Arts and Sciences, and Dickerson, associate director of the Adult Degree Completion Program, organized the crafting sessions that attracted help from more than a dozen people — faculty, staff, and a graduate student. — Compiled by Holly McCray

Photo by Amelia Ballew

Following deadly tornadoes, student Olivia Coil lights a candle during a prayer vigil in Smith Chapel at OCU, the only UM-related university in the state.

On the day Pastor Modesto Mamani arrived in Oklahoma from Bolivia, he joined a group of United Methodists serving in Shawnee. Photo by David Stephenson

Bolivian pastor blessed by first day Pastor Modesto Mamani’s first day of ministry in Oklahoma made him cry. The Methodist clergyman from Boliva was supposed to arrive June 19. However, snarled travel plans forced him to sleep overnight in the Dallas/Forth Worth airport. His plane landed about 10 a.m. June 20 in Oklahoma City. By 11 a.m., Rev. Mamani had changed clothes and joined a team of volunteers from Tulsa-First UMC working in Shawnee, helping remove tornado debris. He was accompanied by David Stephenson, liaison for the Oklahoma-Bolivia Methodist Pa r t n e r s h i p i n t h e O k l a h o m a Conference Office of Mission. Here is what Mamani wrote, edited for clarity, about the unexpected events of his first day.

“Dear brothers and sisters: “With God’s help, I found Pastor David Stephenson had come to pick me up from the airport. I thought that we were going to go home to rest, but God had other things prepared for me. God, through Pastor David, sent me directly from the airport to help families affected by the tornado in Oklahoma. “When we arrived to the place of the disaster, things were not little as we think from a distance in Bolivia. Things were very serious. I resisted in crying near people, but [away from them] shed deep tears, not of pity for the affected families but for the way of solidarity by the many members of First United Methodist Church of Tulsa helping. They had young brothers, senior elderly men and women, shepherds, the senior pastor and leaders of the church, but also a Bolivian helping alongside.

Circle of Care gets special delivery by Martha Smith

On May 21, I received a phone call from Doris Frame, my dear friend in Illinois, with the news that she and her sisters in Kansas wanted to reach out to Oklahoma tornado victims. They wanted to be sure that their donations and efforts would go directly to families in immediate need, especially those with children. Frame said, “ W hen my sister Janis heard about the tornado in Moore, she wondered, ‘ W hat can I do?’ The word dresses popped into her head.” She told me, “What began as a sewing project for the children in Haiti and diaper distribution in the tent cities after the Haiti earthquake in 2010 has created a network of very giving volunteers from churches and organizations across the country.”

Dresses were stockpiled at another sister’s home in Topeka, K an., plus 700 diapers, recently donated for babies in need, were avai lable. Word spread, others joined in, and women in Topeka quickly created shorts for boys. Their efforts resulted in more than 125 handmade dresses and shorts. Janis Deveney and Judy Hartegan also sought donations from three companies, and in four days money gifts were collected and diaper drives were completed. Men’s and children’s flipflops were also part of the

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Child SHARE Co-op

special delivery to Oklahoma on May 25 by Janis and her daughter, Desirae Peel. The Oklahoma United Methodist Circle of Care received the clothing items and money to purchase 3,500 diapers and baby wipes. Pam Turner, coordinator for the agency ’s South Oklahoma City Child SHARE

program that assists foster families, accepted the much-needed donations with a grateful heart. Distribution began immediately to Child SHARE families who had been impacted as well as to other families in the storm-ravaged area.

(Smith, a member of OKCVillage UMC, recently retired from Circle of Care.)

Church wades in to help (Oklahoma-Bolivia Partnership ministries, “Those people are my spiritual brothers and sisters in Oklahoma. As we say in Bolivia, ‘Unity is strength.’ It is the power to help those who really need help. Those who believe in God so much in Bolivia, as in the U.S.A., need to keep in our mind what Paul said: ‘Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who are joyful.’ “A beautiful experience for pioneering work in Oklahoma.”

Mamani and his family will live in Oklahoma City for a year, as he works with Oklahoma peers to disciple a new Hispanic United Methodist congregation. Among the furnishings given by Oklahoma United Methodists for the family’s apartment, a refrigerator was donated by Bob and Margaret McClain of Moore. The McClains were among the May 20 tornado victims; the appliance in their garage was not damaged.

As heavy storms moved across the state on May 31, the city of Henryetta suffered extensive flooding. More than 8 inches of rain fell that night and Saturday morning. Evacuations were needed in homes along Coal Creek, as high water spread out over 100 yards wide. At 6:30 Saturday morning, the police called Dale Durnell, the pastor at Henryetta United Methodist Church, and asked if the church could open as an emergency shelter for flood victims. The Okmulgee County Sheriff’s Department sent a deputy in a Humvee to pick up Rev. Durnell and transport him through the flood waters to the church. Soon Yvonne McLaughlin, the church’s secretary, also arrived. The church provided accommodations and light refreshments for evacuees throughout much of the morning. The youngest person who was sheltered safely at the church was a baby, 2 ½ months old, along with the family; the oldest was a 92-year-old man who was transported to the church by the fire department. All those seeking refuge had left their homes as water was rising inside the residences, reported Durnell.

(Facebook post by Durnell, June 1)

Salvaging the sacred “Thank you, Jesus.” The song title almost shouts from the page of a storm-tossed hymnal found in early June at Fallis, a tiny community northeast of Oklahoma City. On May 19, Fallis and nearby Carney were among rural communities in the path of a tornado. The songbook was recovered by volunteers from Nardin UMC, an Oklahoma church very near the Kansas border. On May 29, Pastor Don Jones of Nardin had joined a group of United Methodists from various churches on an afternoon mission to help clear tornado debris from fields for farmers at Carney. The May 29 mission was led by Allen Carson, pastor at Chandler UMC, and was one of 14 Mission Opportunities during the 2013 Oklahoma Annual Conference, following the theme “Mission Possible.” During that afternoon, Rev. Jones saw firsthand the need for disaster response help in that area, so he returned June 7-8 with the group of volunteers from the Nardin church. Rev. Jones said the 15-member team was led by church member Bunny Lowe, who is a certified VIM team leader. They brought with

Nardin UMC volunteers sift earth at a farm near Fallis.

them farm equipment, including an auger, which was put to good use as they helped their farming neighbors at Fallis. Who is your neighbor? — Holly McCray


Photo by Russ Mehl

Joplin, one year later This 2012 story, published a year after tornadoes ravaged Missouri, offers insight as the Church now undertakes long-term recovery ministry in Christ’s name in Oklahoma. Thousands of United Methodists, including Oklahomans, have helped with cleanup and rebuilding in Joplin. by Fred Koenig

It’s been just over a year since an F5 tornado devastated Joplin, Mo., killing 160 people and leaving the central core of the town in rubble. People close to the Missouri Conference’s role in the recovery effort are in agreement on two things regarding progress since that fateful day: • Rebuilding is going well, and • There is still a lot to do. “We are well ahead of where we expected to be a year ago,” said Jeff Baker, Missouri Conference disaster response coordinator. “Part of that is due to tremendous support Joplin has received from outside of its community.” The recovery process has been well funded. Last year more than $1 million was given to the Missouri Conference in support of Joplin. Of that, about $800,000 came from churches, $135,000 from other conferences, and more than $200,000 from individuals. Joplin had an expedited debris removal process, and heavy equipment was used to quickly clear lots so that rebuilding could begin sooner. “There are other communities that were hit by a tornado before Joplin that are still cleaning up debris,” Baker said.

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Volunteers from New Covenant UMC, Edmond, help rebuild in Joplin, Mo., in February 2012.

One contractor, working through the Missouri Conference Office of Creative Ministries, cleared 130 demolished homes in six weeks. Another factor that has progressed ahead of schedule is the weather. Exceptionally warm weather allowed work to continue outdoors through nearly all of the winter, and spring came very early. As of June 2012, about $70,000 had been spent on Habitat for Humanity homes, $200,000 by the Office of Creative Ministries, and $110,000 to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. The total amount of donations spent was $467,000. The amount of money on hand recently doubled. UMCOR awarded the Missouri Conference a $500,000 grant for additional disaster response work in Joplin. That money will primarily go toward repair and rebuilding. “Most of the people we are working with now are the uninsured or underinsured,” Baker said. There are also many people now having a hard time due to contractor fraud. “We’ve had several cases in which we are helping someone who has paid a contractor several thousand dollars, but the contractor never finished the work,” Baker said. The tornado hit Joplin on May 22, 2011, and, according to an Associated Press report, was the most damaging in the United States in more than half a century. The 9-year-old worship center at St. Paul’s UMC was left in ruins, and there was major damage to the church’s family life center. St. James UMC was destroyed. The tornado’s aftermath has seen a massive cleanup and rebuilding effort, with United Methodists very much in the mix.

Ivan Lindner is the construction coordinator for Missouri Conference volunteer teams. He tries to line up projects with teams’ skill sets, and authorizes expenses on projects. He had a career in construction management before he retired in 2010. “It worked out real well for me to be available to help in this way,” he said. Lindner’s first months in Joplin were entirely at his own expense. He now stays in a camper-trailer owned by the Office of Creative Ministries, and he receives a $1,200-a-month stipend.

“We’re starting to see a lot of people who are falling through the cracks. We had an elderly woman with pans all over her house from a leaking roof, because she lost shingles in the storm, but she wasn’t directly affected by the tornado,” Lindner said. “The way I see it, we’re the church, and we’re there to help whoever needs help.” The amount of money being spent is picking up. “Early on, our outlay of money was small because we were mainly just providing volunteer labor,” Lindner said. “Now we’re working with more people who have less means of getting repairs made on their own, so we’re doing more.” For example, what initially was thought to be a simple paint job may call for more extensive carpentry work if the prep phase reveals rotten wood. A year after the storm, Nance has 150 projects on her referral list, ranging from landscaping to complete home rebuilds. The volunteers are not working on rental property owned by landlords. “On some of the rebuilds, the volunteers have done almost everything. On one the only thing we hired out was the foundation,” she said. Statler said, “There’s been a tremendous amount of cooperation between the city, churches, and all of the volunteers. It’s very impressive to me. It’s very heartening, and very hope-filled. We all have to band together here to get it done.”

Statler benefited from the process, as he formed a clearer picture of how things were progressing in other areas, and formed relationships with people in other churches who were active in the relief effort. Total volunteer hours in Joplin were 16,371 in 2011, from work by volunteers serving through the Missouri Conference. In the first four months of 2012, Missouri Conference volunteers worked 22,108 hours. When Statler looks around today, new homes are going up across the street from St. Paul’s. They were only broken founda-

The tornado’s aftermath has seen a massive cleanup and rebuilding effort, with United Methodists very much in the mix. Sometimes a homeowner has materials on hand, and just needs volunteer help with labor. In other cases some materials are purchased for the repairs. The goal is to not spend more than $3,000 on any one home. “We work closely with other organizations, like Catholic Charities or Lutheran Hearts, to fill in the gaps where needed,” Lindner said. Those organizations are housed together in a small warehouse, where they keep office space and have enough room to assemble new walls for Habitat for Humanity houses when volunteers need to work inside. At times in Summer 2011 there were as many as 400 people a day volunteering in Joplin through the Missouri Conference. The Office of Creative Ministries partnered with Americorp and Rebuild Joplin for job assignments. Mark Statler, pastor of discipleship and missions at St. Paul’s UMC, said managing masses of volunteers was not too hard in the beginning. “There was so much work to do, it was pretty easy to quickly send people out on a job,” he said. But by mid-summer, Statler realized that if local churches could increase their coordination, they could greatly increase the productivity of their volunteers. A weekly meeting developed. “I was trying to help create a stronger bridge between the Office of Creative Ministries and our local churches,” he said.

tions last fall. St. Paul’s itself is well along in reconstruction. St. James recently had a groundbreaking ceremony for a new building. Obviously, there’s still plenty to do. Missouri Conference’s 2012 Youth Summer Workcamps will be in Joplin, bringing as many as 180 volunteers at a time. Missy Nance is the Missouri Conference volunteer coordinator in Joplin. Like Lindner, she first went to Joplin as a volunteer. “It’s a blessing that we’ve had this kind of response,” Nance said. An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 volunteers per week (from all organizations present) will work in Joplin in June and July 2012. Coordinators have been gearing up for the sudden summer wave of help. Teams occasionally work on homes not directly in the tornado impact zone. These homes may not qualify for government assistance programs due to their location, but the people there need help.

(Originally published in Missouri Conference Review, June 2012. UMNS contributed.)

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Sponsor: The South Central Jurisdiction of The UMC


When hearts break

“Disaster spiritual care starts at the local level.”

by Susan Kim

A vital part of UMCOR’s response to disasters is spiritual and emotional care. Here are some essential myths — and truths —about this special type of post-disaster ministry.

Myth: Only people who identify themselves as “religious” can benefit from spiritual care. Truth: Disaster significantly disrupts people’s spiritual lives. Nurturing their spiritual needs contributes to holistic healing. “Spirituality is an essential part of humanity,” explained Mary Hughes Gaudreau of Oklahoma, a U.S. disaster response consultant for UMCOR. “Every person can benefit from spiritual care in times of disaster.” Myth: Mental health professionals can substitute for spiritual care providers. Truth: Spiritual care providers partner with mental health professionals in caring for communities in disaster. “The two fields share some similarities but are distinct healing modalities,” said Rev. Gaudreau. Spiritual care providers can be important in referring individuals to receive care for their mental health and vice versa.

Truth: Young children generally lack the verbal and conceptual skills necessary to cope effectively with sudden stress by themselves.

“That’s why emotional and spiritual care providers try to give children opportunities and encouragement to express their emotions through play and drawing,” said Gaudreau. “Believe it or not, playacting the disaster is often part of the healing process for children.”

— Mary Gaudreaul

times disaster survivors are simply having difficulty accepting the gravity of what has happened. Myth: Spiritual care must be left to the professionals coming from outside of the disaster zone. Truth: Local communities of faith are uniquely gifted in providing spiritual care.

“Disaster spiritual care starts at the local level,” said Gaudreau. “Sometimes overwhelming need may require additional assistance from outside the community, but that help supports rather than substitutes for local efforts.”

UMCOR trains spiritual and emotional Care Teams that meet national guidelines and ethical standards. Those teams are then prepared to provide additional support to local efforts.

Myth: “I’m fine” always means “I’m fine.” Truth: Those impacted by disasters may minimize their pain or the damage their families received.

It’s common to hear disaster survivors say “Others are so much worse off than we are” or “It could have been much worse.”

Sometimes this indicates honest, positive coping, said Gaudreau, but other

Myth: Once disaster survivors have returned to their homes, the emotional and spiritual impact of the disaster has ended. Truth: The full emotional impact of disaster may be delayed three to 10 months, or more, after survivors get a handle on practical matters and begin to realize the permanence of some of their losses. Myth: Children impacted by disaster can articulate their concerns with words. Kathy Brown, left, comforts homeowner Pam Stafford in Moore. Rev. Brown is pastor of New Life UMC in Moore. UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

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(UMCOR, Feb. 19, 2013)

Worst and best donations by Susan Kim

As Hurricane Sandy survivors rummaged through tables full of donations in a relief center, they found…used teabags. Wait. Used teabags? It’s no joke. Somewhere, a donor thought hurricane survivors could use a weak, stale cup of tea. When disaster responders are asked about the worst donations they’ve ever seen, their responses either make you laugh or cringe. There are fur coats for Florida hurricane survivors. Cans of pork-and-beans for Jewish and Muslim communities. Half-empty cans of old paint. What were those donors thinking? What are givers thinking? Most likely, they’re thinking that they want to help. But before giving anything in the wake of a disaster, donors could try to challenge themselves with a question, suggested Christy Smith, an UMCOR consultant. “It’s helpful for donors to ask: What would I need if I were suddenly displaced and left with nothing? It isn’t probably hemorrhoid cream,” she said. She received a tweet from someone in Joplin, Mo., after a devastating tornado: “Please send donations...that fit in envelopes.” Undesignated money is indeed one of the best donations, agreed Mary Hughes Gaudreau of Oklahoma, also an UMCOR consultant. But “stuff ” isn’t always out of the question, she pointed out. When a 1999 tornado outbreak struck Oklahoma, United Methodist volunteers put together and delivered 700 “Christmas Blessing” boxes that contained hot cocoa mix, mugs, lights, handmade ornaments, and stockings.

This material donation brought simple joy to families, recalled Rev. Gaudreau. Another material donation with a nice touch? “Home-grown tomatoes, brought to the tornado recovery staff whose gardens had died because they were working so many hours on the recovery,” said Gaudreau. Across the board , i f responders are forced to cite the overall worst donation, they all tend to agree with Richard Norman, Oklahoma Conference’s VIM disaster response coordinator: “The worst donation is unwashed, used clothing.” Responders struggle with how to tactfully, lovingly communicate this point to donors without sounding harsh or ungrateful. But, out in the field, their perspective is shaped by inappropriate donations that not only get in the way but also cause harm. Greg Forrester came across what he regards as a “personal worst” in a donation gone wrong

Driven to help

when he visited a tent camp in Haiti. “Stuffed animals given in tent camps where cholera had broken out. Kids dropped and dragged them through the contaminated mud,” said the head of UMCOR’s U.S. Disaster Response unit. (UMCOR, July 13, 2013)

Photo by Randy McGuire

A big rig filled with emergency equipment and supplies arrived in Moore on May 23 from UMCOR. Among items on that truck: 3,000-watt generators, 600 disposable protective suits, 250 shovels, 450 push brooms, about 1,000 cleaning buckets, 280 bedding kits for emergency shelters. A second truckload arrived June 10. That semi delivered 250 cleaning buckets and 180 bedding kits, plus other supplies. — Holly McCray


A lifeline for the long term The heart of Oklahoma Conference disaster response pulsates in the Office of Mission, housed at the United Methodist Ministry Center, 1501 N.W. 24th St., Oklahoma City. Visit there with Jeremy Basset and Richard Norman, and the big picture grows clearer about the impact of tornadoes, torrential rain, hail, and flooding that occurred in the state between May 18 and June 2. They are very familiar with the cycle of disaster response; the terminology (including acronyms such as VOAD, OEM, UMCOR); and the lessons learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, from the Joplin tornado and the Haiti earthquake. The two clergymen speak of the importance of nimble, flexible disaster response. The task involves collaboration by government, non-profit agencies, and faith-based groups. Best practices are crucial, they agree, to effectively help all people, avoid duplication, and efficiently share resources such as money gifts and hands-on help. Rev. Basset is director of the Office of Mission and a former VIM director. Rev. Norman chairs the Oklahoma VOAD and is Conference VIM coordinator of disaster response. On July 21, FEMA summarized:

• Almost 15,000 claims had been registered. •

Total unmet needs were estimated at above $82 million.

Nine volunteer groups had reported 144,579 hours of service. Those groups: United Methodists, Serve Moore, Samaritan’s Purse, Convoy of Hope, FBC Little Axe, All Hands, Southern Baptists, Steelman, and NECHAMA.

As VOAD chairman, Norman said dozens of groups are state members of that cooperative effort, from the American Red Cross to The United Methodist Church, from Catholic Charities to the Salvation Army. A state government liaison is assigned, too. The groups collaborate so people and money are directed when needed and where needed, the chairman said. The VOAD has convened at least six community task forces to address long-term recovery needs.

Jeremy Basset, right, expresses his gratitude for volunteers moving UMCOR emergency supplies. Photo by Randy McGuire

Norman wrote to United Methodists:

Dealing with disaster

“Oklahomans are known for generosity and a can-do spirit in

Offering hope and healing for

times of crisis. I ask you to take the

all those affected by tragedy.

following actions for our neighbors in need: “PRAY. What you are feeling

Resources, personal stories, useful links and more on this site:

in your heart can be best expressed through prayer to the One who can truly meet the needs that we are all feeling. “Consider donating money to help those directly affected. “Please DO NOT collect and donate clothing or other supplies.

Richard Norman, far left, helps unload emergency supplies from UMCOR. Photo by Randy McGuire

If specific unmet needs or calls for supplies are reported, those will be shared with you through updates by VIM Disaster Response and by the Department of Communications for the Conference. “Prepare your church membership for VIM mission service. “If you live within an affected community, reach out beyond your church’s membership. Some people may be hurting silently, without family or church connections, reluctant to ask for help.”

Two months into the response, Basset expressed excitement that UMCOR has been assigned the task of case management. In this long-term process, UMCOR finds solutions, family by family, for people with losses. The federal government turned to UMCOR for the case management following Hurricane Katrina, he noted. The Oklahoma and OIMC Conferences are partners in the disaster response. As the calendar year moves into autumn, Basset urged UMs to remember the work is far from ended. The rebuilding stage especially needs the support of VIM teams. “Just because it’s winter, people don’t stop suffering. Be willing to serve on through the winter,” he said. — Holly McCray

30 Contact the magazine |

The story of hope Everyone’s part ensures the story continues

Volunteers work to unload donations at Wesley UMC’s garage in Shawnee.

by Kristin E. Van Nort Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation

Soon after the ferocious tornadoes on May 19 and 20, the Foundation began receiving donations from across the United States. Individuals, families, churches, charitable groups, and other United Methodist Foundations sought ways to give and help. “Many donors had a relationship with us and knew we could begin deploying funds nearly immediately to help those impacted,” said Bill Junk, Foundation president. Discussions with leaders from Moore-First United Methodist Church led the Foundation to provide gift cards for area churches to distribute as needed. The gift cards enabled families to purchase what they needed in their immediate recovery efforts. To date the Foundation has provided gift cards to tornado victims in Moore, Norman, Oklahoma City, Chandler, Broken Arrow, El Reno, Yukon, Calumet , L ittle A xe, and

Shawnee. The cards offer hope to those needing it most in their communities and surrounding areas. A donor’s generosity and gift cards are only a small part of the recovery story for tornado victims. It is those who serve in the relief efforts who allow the story to continue. Gary Dowdy is one person making sure the story of hope continues in the Shawnee area. Dowdy, a longtime member of Shawnee-Wesley United Methodist Church, retired several years ago to devote his life to short-term missions. In the early hours after the May 19 tornado hit the Shawnee area, Dowdy began thinking about ways he and others from the church could assist in the recovery. “We began helping clean up fields the day after the tornado,” said Dowdy, who leads the church’s disaster recovery efforts. Dowdy obtained permission from church trustees to use a large three-bay garage as a hub for donations and supply distribution. Families and groups from the Shaw nee community as well as groups

across the country sent donated items, seeking any way to be helpful in the relief efforts. Just outside Shawnee, the Steelman Estates mobile home community was one of the hardest hit. The community encompassed approximately 87 homes. All but seven were destroyed or left uninhabitable. Many residents live in donated tents until permanent housing can be secured. As days, weeks, and now months begin to pass, the people of Shawnee and Wesley UMC are committed to meeting the continued needs of tornado victims. “When people move into new or temporary homes, they are coming with only the donations or recovered items from their destroyed homes. We have worked with a local furniture store to provide new dressers and beds as well as purchase new pots, pans, and other household items. For those who have lost everything, it is nice to be able to provide them some new items instead of finding things that have been used,” said Dowdy. The Foundation provided Wal-Mart, Lowes, and Visa gift cards to Dowdy and Rev.

Shawnee-Wesley volunteers work to clean up yards and fields after the May 19 tornado.

Ben Williams, pastor of Wesley UMC. They will use the cards to continue assisting those affected in Steelman Estates and the surrounding areas. “ We feel gift cards, particularly Wal-Mart or Visa gift cards, allow people to purchase just about anything they need. Giving someone the choice to pick out and purchase their own personal care items and clothing provides much-needed dignity in a time of loss and uncertainty,” said Junk. Thank you to everyone who gave to the Foundation’s Tornado Relief Fund. We are awed by the outpouring of generosity and stand committed to assist those directly impacted by the devastating May tornadoes with immediate, intermediate, and long-term needs.

4201 Classen Boulevard, Oklahoma City, OK 73118 (405)525-6863; 1-(800)259-6863


Council on Ministries Oklahoma Conference United Methodist Church 1501 N.W. 24th St. Oklahoma City, OK 73106-3635




Just a few hundred yards separate zones of total devastation, damaged roofs, and undamaged homes following the May 20 tornado in Moore. UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

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From Ruins to Restoration Fall 2013 Edition