Hurricane Isaac, Joplin, and Clean-Up Buckets!

Last week, we learned that disaster ministry often takes the shape of a road trip.

Josh Baird, Director of Disciples Volunteering, and I spent the week traveling in Joplin, MO, with our colleague Florence Coppola, Executive for National Disaster Ministries for the United Church of Christ’s Wider Church Ministries, and touring areas in Louisiana affected by Hurricane Isaac with Rev. Barb Jones, Regional Pastor of the Great River Region.

It was truly an inspiring trip! We were able to see, first hand, the fantastic work our partners in these disaster-stricken areas are doing, assessed current needs, and made plans with our partners for ways that Disciples and UCCers can plug into the response.

FIRST STOP: JOPLIN

From meeting with Senior Pastor Jill Michel and Kathryn Wilson, Minister of Mission and Outreach, at South Joplin Christian Church to catching up with Rebuild Joplin’s Construction Supervisor Tom Long to brand new Volunteer Coordinator Maria Olson to seeing how Long Term Volunteer Steve Huston keeps things humming, we saw—over and over again—that Joplin is indeed rebuilding, and we are a critical part of the recovery!

Rebuild Joplin has begun focusing on complete rebuilds of houses destroyed by last year’s tornado, providing plenty of opportunities for volunteers from our two traditions to put their skills, whether advanced or novice, to work in 2013.

Bob Dinkins, a volunteer from Saint Andrew Christian Church in Olathe, KS, one of the churches staying at the South Joplin Mission Station, recently posted this video about his experience as a volunteer in Joplin. The video, written as a thank-you for his employer’s generosity with flexible time off to go on a mission trip, does a terrific job of highlighting the work being organized by our partners at Rebuild Joplin and the mission station that arose out of the combined efforts of SJCC, countless volunteers from local churches, Week of Compassion, Disciples Volunteering, One Great Hour of Sharing, UCC National Disaster and Volunteer Ministries , the Ozark Area of the Christian Church in Mid-America, and the Missouri Midsouth Conference of the UCC.

If you are interested in volunteering in Joplin, contact Joplin Response Registrar Howard Self to learn what dates are open for volunteer groups in 2013.

SECOND STOP: LOUISIANA

From Joplin, Josh and I headed to Louisiana. Partnering with Rev. Jones, we visited several of our churches, First Christian Church of Greater New Orleans in Metairie, LA, which sustained storm damage from Isaac, and is in the midst of cleaning up and repairing damage; Grace Disciples of Christ Church in Covington, LA, which served as a Mission Station as part of the Disciples Hurricane Recovery Initiative following Hurricane Katrina, and First Christian Church, Slidell, LA, which has continued to house volunteers who are working with the Epworth Project, which has provided opportunities for Disciples and others to work in neighborhoods near Slidell and in New Orleans East following Hurricane Katrina.

While meeting with folks in our churches, we discovered a number of things:

  • Though the scale of damage caused by Isaac was nowhere near that of Katrina, more than 30,000 homes in the region were affected. On the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, parts of Slidell, Lacombe, and Madisonville, LA, faced significant flooding, and LaPlace, LA, 20 miles northwest of the New Orleans Airport, was also marred by flood damage.
  • Following Katrina, insurance companies made an important shift regarding policies covering damage in the event of named storms, such as Isaac. Property owners now face deductibles that are based on a percentage of the value of their property, creating a greater burden of financial responsibility for homeowners and church communities, and perhaps creating a need for more volunteers, as deductibles may reach several thousand dollars beyond what homeowners can afford to cover on their own. Rebecca Mowbray of The New Orleans Times-Picayune covers information about this shift here.
  • Most importantly, our churches have a heart for responding to their neighbors in need. All three of our churches voiced their desire to aid the recovery in any way they could.

Following our check-ins with our congregations, we visited with Dale Kimball of the Epworth Project, with whom we’ve partnered on the Northshore. Dale reported that Epworth will not only be providing opportunities for volunteering on the Northshore, but that they are going to be providing logistical and training support for the emerging response in LaPlace.

LaPlace, LA Cleanup; Photo Credit: Rev. Barb Jones

Dale estimated that there will be a critical need for volunteers interested in responding to Isaac-related needs in January-March 2013. Disciples Volunteering, Week of Compassion, and the Great River Region will be working with Epworth to coordinate opportunities for volunteering in the area. Watch for details!

Church World Service Issues Call for Clean-Up Buckets and Other Material Goods

As part of our ecumenical response to Hurricane Isaac, we are asking Disciples to consider supplying Cleanup Buckets and other material resources for Church World Service. Many people in need benefit from these resources. However, the response to Hurricane Isaac is rapidly depleting the supply of buckets. All efforts to replenish our supplies for future emergencies are incredibly helpful, greatly appreciated, and a testimony to what we do as an ecumenical community.

Information on CWS Cleanup Buckets is available at on their website.

As always, we give thanks for the opportunity to reach out to God’s people in the midst of recovery. We also thank all of those of you who support this recovery with your resources. Above all, we are grateful to a God who creates, re-creates, and brings comfort to those who grieve and recover in the midst of disaster.

Peace,

Brandon

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