Guest Newsletter Column by Bishop David Graves

We invite you to use this this text, written by Bishop David Graves, in your local church newsletter. We recommend publishing it the week of September 30. Click here for document

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Friends,

As we draw closer to October 10, the anniversary of Hurricane Michael, a multitude of emotions race through my head. Some of you watched from afar and experienced the uncertainty if friends or loved ones were safe, while some of you were quite literally in the eye of the storm. It took days to assess the safety of our clergy and their families, as well as the condition of United Methodist churches along the Florida Panhandle. Our conference leadership team and I visited the area as soon as it was deemed safe to enter. If you did not see the devastation in person, there are simply no words to express the destruction and chaos that Hurricane Michael left behind. It was a helpless feeling. As your Bishop, I am supposed to have answers and plans to lead you through times of despair but even the best plans cannot prepare you for a category five hurricane.

As I reflect on this past year, I am so humbled to see the progress in the panhandle communities. It will take years to rebuild but little by little, we have come so far. For that progress, I give thanks and celebrate the thousands of people who contributed their gifts, service and witness. From clergy in surrounding areas who quickly mobilized supplies and figured out delivery logistics; to our clergy in the damaged areas who put their own personal needs aside to help their church members and communities; to conference staff and the Hurricane Michael recovery team; I am reminded of the need for this connection. If you simply gave $10 or donated a toothbrush, you made a difference. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: we are at our best in the worst of times.

We have a long-term commitment to this area, that we will walk alongside these communities until there is no longer a need. We still need your help. We invite you to pray with us, make a donation and send teams. More information can be found at www.hurricanemichaelrecovery.org. The local church is where our vital ministries are. Join me in making this recovery process a priority. I give thanks to your church for your participation and leadership.

With Deep Appreciation,
Bishop David W. Graves
Resident Bishop
Alabama-West Florida Conference