Partnering in Oklahoma

Photo Credit: Brandon Gilvin
The dust is still settling in Oklahoma. Massive tornados struck several communities, large and small, on May 19th and 20th, and the damage has been devastating. Communities like Shawnee, Carney, New Castle, Little Axe, and Moore have been featured in national news segments, and stories of resilience and survival continue to resonate throughout the world.

 

Through your partnership with Week of Compassion, you have been there. Your generosity has already provided support to families who have been displaced, provided clean-up and other supplies to folks whose neighborhoods have been destroyed, and is bolstering the formation of long term recovery groups across the area.

 

This week, staff from Week of Compassion joined Disciples Volunteering, the Disaster Ministry of the United Church of Christ, General Minister and President Sharon Watkins, Transitional Regional Minister Dean Phelps, and UCC Conference Minister Edith Guffey in Oklahoma City. Together we have been on the ground checking in with those affected, identifying potential partners and resources, and imagining along with the community what recovery and a post-tornado "new normal" might look like.

 

Along with touring the damage, the delegation was able to meet with a group of 65 pastors and church leaders from Oklahoma Disciples churches, a group of interfaith leaders convened by local UCC pastors, representatives from FEMA, and visit with the pastoral staff of First Christian Church, Moore, which--though not damaged by the storm--has been at the forefront of caring for the community, providing care and resources to those affected.

 

According to many reports, the storm impacted just under 4,000 homes, businesses and non-residential buildings in Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma and Pottawatomie counties. Of those, 1,248 were destroyed, 452 sustained major damage, and 640 sustained minor damage. Communities from across the socioeconomic spectrum were impacted in many ways, and will need ongoing support in terms of long term recovery.

 

As Josh Baird, director of Disciples Volunteering, noted, "From the stories that were shared and the things that we witnessed, it is clear that folks do not need bottled water (cases are dropped on the sidewalk for passersby on nearly every block in some communities), nor are they ready for 'spontaneous volunteers' (one affected community of 650 people had 1,000 folks show up to help last Sunday alone). They do need prayers, financial gifts, and patient partnering as they look toward a recovery that will last several years."

 

Photo Credit: Brandon Gilvin
Conversation after conversation was marked by an infectious hope. "Just you watch," one pastor reflected. "We're going to recover."

 

It will take prayers, resources, coordination, the work of many volunteers, and right now, patience and time for these communities to recover. With the support of so many who want to put their Compassion into Action, we will be able to do more than just watch. We will be able to bring healing and hope over the long haul.

--Brandon

                                                                    

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance:
Oklahoma, Tornado Damage (2)
Development and Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation:
Palestine, Peacebuilding