Weekend Tornadoes Impact Multiple Conferences

January 26, 2017
The weekend of January 21 was a deadly one for residents in the Southeast due to the extensive outbreak of tornadoes. It was also a destructive one for those who live in the Mississippi, South Georgia and Alabama-West Florida Conferences. 

While the damage was limited to the West Alabama area of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, the impact was significant on Pleasant Hill UMC. Two families, the Boykin and Pruitt families, both had roofs ripped from their homes. Rev. Jimmy Boone, pastor at Pleasant Hill UMC, reported that the church is a very small membership church that averages about seven people a Sunday, so the damage affected over half of its membership. The church thankfully escaped any damage. Boone said, “After the roofs were blown off of the structures the heavy rains did substantial damage to the interior of both homes. The families were able to salvage some of their items but have had to seek shelter in nearby apartments and a hunting lodge. The road to the Pruitt’s home is currently washed out and not accessible.”

The Alabama-West Florida Conference disaster response ministry sent a monetary donation to offset immediate expenses. 

To the west and east of our conference, the areas of Hattiesburg and Petal, MS, and the Albany, GA, areas suffered loss of life and serious damage. In Mississippi, chainsaw and tree removal teams are immediately needed. Trained ERT teams are welcome in the Hattiesburg and Petal areas. More information about the Mississippi Conference Disaster Response Efforts can be found here

The South Georgia Conference was dealt a back-to-back blow in the Albany area. Just weeks before, another tornado caused destruction in Dougherty County. The most recent storms heavily impacted members of El Faro, a Hispanic United Methodist congregation in Albany. Weeks prior, they were reaching out to members of Albany FUMC, Porterfield Memorial UMC and other churches to clean up and recover. Now, the El Faro community is taking shelter at Albany UMC in the aftermath. 

All members of the El Faro congregation have been impacted in some way, said pastor Rev. David Diaz. Three families have lost everything, including their homes and vehicles. The storm shattered the community.

“The tornado destroyed everything,” said Rev. Diaz, who serves both El Faro and the Bainbridge Hispanic Mission. The families, many of whom live in a mobile home community near the church, initially sought shelter at El Faro UMC. When the church lost power, Albany First United Methodist Church opened its doors as a temporary shelter for nearly 100 El Faro members. Click here for more on this story

More information on how you can help the South Georgia Conference can be found here

An essential tool for disaster response is UMCOR health kits. The Alabama-West Florida Conference collects these at annual conference each year so that reserves are on hand. Due to the need, more are being requested. This is an immediate and impactful way you and your church can help. This is a great project for Sunday School classes or small groups to assemble. Click here for more details

We join with our brothers and sisters in Christ in praying for those affected by the January storms. 

Kara Witherow of the South Georgina Conference contributed to this article. Photo courtesy of Rev. Jimmy Boone.