A friendship forged in crisis, rooted in faith

November 02, 2020
(Kara Witherow for the AWFUMC) - Amid the storms of life, it’s important to have friends to help you weather the worst of times.

With a partnership forged in crisis, Rev. Chris Ackerman and Amelia Fletcher are that kind of friend for one another.
It was in the aftermath of 2018’s Hurricane Michael that Rev. Ackerman and Fletcher became acquainted. Fletcher, serving as Disaster Recovery Director for the Alabama-West Florida Conference, was the person Rev. Ackerman would call with questions and for advice about storm recovery.

“She quickly became somebody I could call on at any time and ask for help,” said Rev. Ackerman, who was serving as a campus pastor at Lynn Haven United Methodist Church in Panama City, Fla. and helping with his community’s recovery efforts. “She always had great advice, and I don’t think there has ever been a time where she hasn’t answered my phone call. She’s always been available and ready to support me.”

After serving 16 years as Disaster Recovery Director, Fletcher retired and handed the reins to Rev. Ackerman. She’s now serving as Director of Servant Ministries at her home church, Gulf Shores United Methodist Church, and the two have continued their partnership and friendship.

A shared love of Christ, a passion for disaster response, and similar personalities made the friendship flourish, Fletcher said.

“I think our passion for what we want to get done has paved the way for a lot,” she said. “To find someone passionate about something in this world is pretty special, and to be able to carry that through some really difficult times and decisions is special.”

Since Hurricane Sally struck the Gulf Coast on Sept. 16, the two have worked together to help as many people as possible rebuild and recover. While their roles have reversed, the partnership, respect, and mutual admiration endures.

“I appreciate his leadership,” said Fletcher of her protégé, who she said is like one of her children. “I think he has a heart for the ministry, and to me that’s worth more than just about anything.”

While near Gulf Shores one evening after the storm, Rev. Ackerman called Fletcher to check in. “I’m 20 minutes away. Do you need a hug?” he asked.

At the end of a long, exhausting day, the two friends sat together, hugged, talked, and were able to take a break from the stress of storm recovery.

“In that season, things move quickly, and that’s what made the hug nice,” Rev. Ackerman said. “It was a break from the intense, nonstop, day-to-day that we had been experiencing. Every time I see her we run at each other and hug. She and I are like family now.”