Last month, Carol Greenslate was standing in a backyard in the east Texas town of Woodville, where a tornado had cut a swath in what was the latest in a string of flooding and tornadoes to hit the area. Greenslate can list the many counties affected by disasters — and it's a growing number — but she is also quick to say that churches are bringing hope to people who are wondering if the dangerous weather will ever end.
New storms this year have come on the heels of 2015 floods in the Houston area. Across Texas, more than 40,000 households applied for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance last year.
Churches not only in Houston but throughout Texas and the neighboring states have become "first responders," offering shelter, food, cleanup, and a prayerful presence, said Greenslate, who is the Texas Conference disaster response director.
With support from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), churches are receiving the training and guidance they need to respond in the best way.
"What I see UMCOR doing so well is equipping local churches and local communities to respond to their own disaster. We see so many churches offering immediate relief before any other responder can really get on the ground," she said. "I've been sending the message to people that, if you're part of a United Methodist church, and your community has been hit, you should be out there responding as soon as it is safe to do so."
Communities in Texas will get through these storms with more experience and with a sense of hope, Greenslate believes, and local churches will continue to be a foundation of response. "It's only early May, and we have the rest of the spring storm season," she said. "We need gifts of funds to help with immediate response and over the long term. I see so many people without insurance."
Even as a wave of new storms struck last weekend, Scott Moore found a neighborhood northwest of Houston that had been flooded weeks ago but had been quietly suffering with little relief. "Now we have teams from five different churches out today or tomorrow," he said. "We've had so many disasters in the last 11 months that our early response teams are taxed to the limit, and our surrounding conferences are, too."
Moore, who along with Greenslate helps lead the Texas Annual Conference disaster response team, also emphasized the need for funds. "We've really been stressing the financial needs," he said, "and getting the word out to our churches not to have drives for clothing and bottled water."
Susan Kim, journalist and regular contributor to www.umcor.org
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