On Thursday, January 12, 2023, multiple tornadoes touched down within the bounds of the Alabama-West Florida Conference killing at least seven and destroying numerous communities.
The next day a leadership team from the AWF Conference visited Selma, AL, to assess the needs. Rev. Chris Ackerman, AWF disaster response coordinator, stated, "Over the last two days of surveying damage in our conference, we have put our eyes on approximately 600 households affected by more than a dozen tornadoes that hit our conference. It would not surprise me if the total number of houses affected is over 1,000. The areas that were most affected are Selma, north of Prattville in Autauga county (including Old Kingston) and Eutaw." He continued, "I am happy to share that we had ERT volunteers from at least seven different UMC churches in our conference! They were able to accomplish some great work and some of that work will be continuing into next week."
A record-number of UMC Early Response Teams (ERTs) teams have responded and that number is expected to grow in the coming days and weeks. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) approved a $10,000 solidarity grant to enable the AWF Conference to meet immediate needs in these communities.
"From the moment the warning was activated in Dallas County on Thursday, our UMC connection stayed in touch with me to ensure that I was personally safe as well as our church members," stated Rev. Diane Everette, pastor at Church Street UMC in Selma, AL. "While Thursday was perhaps one of the most terrifying days of my life, I was never alone thanks to my brothers and sisters in Christ in this conference. It will be a long road ahead for Selma but our conference disaster response team will walk with us every step of the way."
Church Street UMC was able to serve 500 meals today thanks to donations from Fairhope UMC and an additional 500 meals were served Saturday thanks to meal supplies from the AWF Conference on Friday.
Here is how you can help in the immediate future:
1. Pray for these devastated communities. Pray that the UMC will be a source of love and light to these hurting communities.
2. Give generously to assist those in need. The conference has created an online giving link. Click here for the Central Alabama Tornado link. For church donations via remittance/check, please indicate project 215 and it should be included under conference advance giving activity 2005. You may continue to give to UMCOR as well under general church advance giving.
3. Consider becoming a badged ERT responder. All ERTs with current badges should have received a deployment email. If your badge is expired and you would like to renew it, or if you would like to receive information on how to become an ERT in our conference, please email Dan Kirk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This will be an ongoing response effort and updates will be issued as information changes.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.