|United Methodists provide shelter in storm|
Trees and trailers near Hugoton, Kan., are damaged by the ice storm of Jan. 12. A UMNS photo by Charlotte Thomas.
A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Jan. 19, 2007
With "high" temperatures in the 20s and days without sun, hundreds of thousands are finding a warm place to sleep, thanks to open doors at United Methodist churches across nine states.
"Of course, anything God does is absolutely gorgeous, whether it is good or not," says Ed Hewlett, a member of Schweitzer United Methodist Church, Springfield, Mo. "But it looks like a bomb went off here."
Hewlett and several other volunteers have been putting in long days at the church since Jan. 12, when a winter storm knocked out power and buried most of the city under ice. More than 150 people have been living in the church, and more than 200 have been finding hot meals there three times a day.
The winter storm has closed many roads, including this stretch near Leoti, Kan. A UMNS photo by the Rev. Rick Just.
The Associated Press is reporting at least 70 deaths related to the winter weather in nine states in the past week, including 23 in Oklahoma and 12 each in Texas and Missouri. Another round of snow and ice is predicted for Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas from Jan. 19 to 21.
Ministry took a lot of forms for the Rev. Darrell Maddox, including helping to deliver a calf and climbing on a tractor plowing paths for emergency vehicles after Keyes, Okla., was buried in snow in late December. The second storm, which began Jan. 12, encased much of the state in ice. Maddox’s two-point charge includes Keyes and Marella, Okla., United Methodist churches.
In western Kansas, members of several United Methodist churches have been serving as emergency shelters since Dec. 30. Healy (Kan.) United Methodist Church has "put up the whole town," said Bill Taldo, church member.
"We have German Baptists, Catholics, Church of the Brethren, Mount Pleasant Baptist and Methodist volunteers at the church, " said Donna Gillespie, a member of Quinter (Kan.) United Methodist Church. "We have plenty of people coming and going all the time. It’s really a community effort.
"We’re serving anyone who wants a meal," she said. "People are emptying their freezers and donating the food. The grocery stores donated food, (and so did) the Dairy Queen. We’re encouraging people to come have a meal and enjoy the fellowship.
"Everybody’s exhausted, but it’s a good exhaustion," Gillespie said. "It’s just a Christian effort."
Bishop issues appeal
Bishop Scott Jones, who leads the denomination’s Kansas Area, has issued an appeal for disaster funds, and volunteers are needed in many states to help with recovery work.
The church’s Nebraska Annual (regional) Conference requested and received $10,000 from the United Methodist Committee on Relief emergency disaster relief fund. UMCOR and individual contributions will be aggregated and distributed according to need.
A disaster committee has been established and will work through about 20 United Methodist churches in the area affected to issue food and gasoline vouchers for those most directly affected by the storms. Those in need can contact any local United Methodist church, and their information will be passed along to the Southwest District Office.
Youth give back
Utility poles near Santana, Kan., lean under the weight of the ice. A UMNS photo by Trena Slater.
Youth from Trietsch Memorial United Methodist Church, Flower Mound, Texas, on their way to a ski trip in Colorado in early January, were stranded by the winter storm and found sanctuary at Springfield (Colo.) United Methodist Church.
Members of the youth group found ways to give back to the community by shoveling snow for elderly members of the church and volunteering at the town's Women, Infant and Children program. While at the church, many of the youth used their ski-trip spending money to help restock the food panty.
Volunteers have been "amazing," said Hewlett. "Lots of people have put in lots of hours, but that's just what you do."
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn. Also contributing to this report were Susan Cooper, Kansas West Connection editor; Holly McCray, Oklahoma Conference Contact editor; and Holly Woldt, with the Nebraska Annual Conference.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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