While many people are preparing for Spring Break and the Lenten season, critical disaster relief work continues in Lee County. The afternoon of March 3, 2019, will forever be remembered as the day where lives were lost and, for those left standing, permanently changed. VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) reports that 199 homes were destroyed, 108 received major damage, and 251 incurred minor damage. In the midst of this devastation, The United Methodist Church continues to help lead the tornado relief work, which is primarily based out of the Montgomery-Opelika District and the Lee County churches.
“As with any natural disaster, the national news is now focused on other stories; but for those who live in the area, the devastation is very real,” stated Dr. Jeff Wilson, Montgomery-Opelika District Superintendent. “The district has utilized local and national resources to respond in the most appropriate ways. We are lucky to have strong community leadership in east Alabama, so this relief effort has been a partnership of many organizations, including the United Methodist Church.”
Response from within the Montgomery-Opelika District
- Several United Methodist pastors from the Lee County area responded the evening of March 3, providing crucial pastoral care to survivors and grieving families. These pastors continue to provide care and support as recovery moves forward.
- District churches continue to provide generous care and capable leadership through pastoral care, overnight shelters, work teams, supplies, food, coordination, and financial support for survivors.
- Alabama Rural Ministry, a United Methodist Ministry based in Macon and Lee Counties, has deployed staff and volunteers to assist in the effected areas.
- District churches and East Alabama Medical Center are working to locate and furnish temporary housing for survivors.
- Rev. John Fox, District Disaster Response Coordinator, is working with churches and emergency agencies to coordinate our United Methodist response.
- Many of our local pastors are working closely with the East Alabama Medical Center as it seeks to coordinate relief efforts through “MEND: Rebuilding Lee County One Life at a Time.”
United Methodist Support from the Annual Conference and Beyond
- Churches from around the conference responded with immediate supply needs the week of the storms. Churches are also sending working teams to clear debris and begin clean-up work.
- A special offering was requested on Sunday, March 10th. All funds collected from this offering will go towards immediate and long-term relief.
- Bishop David Graves called for prayer in various regional meetings in the days after the storm.
- Conference leadership visited the area on Friday, March 8. Bishop Grave and the cabinet are making plans to visit next week, as well.
- The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) sent a trailer of supplies and issued a $10,000 grant in the days after the storm. They are also providing supplies as requested by the District Disaster Response Coordinator.
- A representative of UMCOR visited the Lee County area on Friday, March 8, to have a better understanding of the damage.
How You Can Help
- Continue praying for those in Lee County and for our response efforts.
- Financial donations are the number one way you can help. Checks may be sent to the conference office with a notation of “Lee County tornadoes” in the memo line.
- At this time, additional supplies are not needed.
- Churches wishing to send teams for day trips are asked to visit leecoema.com. Because the response is rapidly changing, please check this site before sending a group. Currently, all groups must register with EMA on the day of their trip and receive wristbands for admittance to the disaster area.
- Smaller groups of five or less people can contact Rev. John Fox, District Disaster Response Coordinator, at John.Fox@aumc.net to connect with a local work team.
- Teams seeking overnight accommodations can contact Rev. Lisa Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org for availability.
The response to the Lee County tornado will be another long-term recovery ministry in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. As we partner with UMCOR and churches throughout our conference, we believe our connection will be an important part of rebuilding lives and homes. Additional questions can be directed to Rev. John Fox, District Disaster Response Coordinator, at John.Fox@aumc.net, or Dr. Jeff Wilson, District Superintendent, at DSMontOp@gmail.com.
Click here to see photos from the site visit.