Bethlehem UMC. Photo by Philip McVay
Many of you are aware that two churches in our conference, as well as several communities, experienced significant damage from yesterday's tornado outbreak. Below is today's update from Amelia Fletcher, our Alabama-West Florida Conference Disaster Response Coordinator. The conference will provide updates as we have them as well as further needs for these church communities.
Soul Chapel UMC
Update provided by Rev. John Bonner, DS Demopolis:
The town of Gieger, AL is damaged. Soul Chapel UMC (located on AL 17) and mobile homes in the are were heavily damaged. Soul Chapel will meet with Gieger UMC this Sunday. There is a large Mennonite population in the area that will most likely spearhead the recovery.
There were 3 deaths in Myrtlewood.
Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) and local law enforcement have restricted some access, but will keep us posted on when and what kind of response is appropriate. Emergency Response Teams (ERT) in Montgomery and Opelika are on standby.
Washington County Area
Update provided by Rob Gulledge, Mobile District:
There has been damage in Vinegar Bend, AL in Washington County, but no reports into the District Office. Two deaths were reported in Washington County.
Heavy damage was reported in the area. Bethlehem UMC is a total loss. Chris is working with EMA and local authorities. He will update us as he gets information and access.
Philip reported that the church is down to a handful of members and will decide in the coming weeks what course of action they will take. Bethlehem is led by Rev. J.W. Land, who has been their pastor for 29 years. They are devastated at the sudden loss of their building. They had no insurance and may consider merging with another church on the Sepulga Charge.
Most of the homes in the area have insurance and will not need assistance.
We will deploy ERT and cleanup crews as these areas report and open up.
We request that all the churches say special prayers of support and seek ways to respond to those within our conference.