Ackerman Offers Guidance After Hurricane Laura
AWF Disaster Response Director, Rev. Chris Ackerman, has some very important words and advice for our conference after going through a traumatic hurricane just two years ago. Please carefully read his guidance.
(Rev. Chris Ackerman) - As a conference, we want to keep you updated on the aftermath of Hurricane Laura. As you can imagine, emergency crews are hard at work cleaning up debris and restoring utilities. The infrastructure of the impacted area took a severe hit, and it will be some time before basic utilities are functional. As a result, we have been asked by the Louisiana Conference, by UMCOR, and by federal, state and local agencies to NOT deploy into Louisiana at this time. Too many people showing up and trying to help is actually making it difficult for the emergency crews to do their job. In other words, an excess of people descending into the area is actually making the relief efforts worse and stopping people from restoring what is critical. State and local agencies are supplying basic needs of food, water and shelter. They are also not allowing entry or reentry in and out of the affected areas.
Soon they will allow for relief efforts to enter and assist. Until that time, we will respect the wishes of the conference and local authorities and patiently wait for an invitation to begin sending emergency response teams (ERT), in addition to relief items.
Speaking from personal experience after having gone through Hurricane Michael, I can assure you that pastors and staff who were affected by this hurricane are not in a clear state of mind. The stress and trauma of having experienced this situation, as well as the burden of wanting to be there for their entire congregation, is overwhelming beyond words. The simplest of decisions becomes incredibly difficult to make. That is why we are wanting to partner with affected churches in the area. Here is what that looks like. One of the things that brought our staff and me some peace was when we had other folks simply sit with us, pray with us, and be present with us. It becomes very easy to feel isolated and alone when experiencing the kind of stress levels that follow a disaster of this size. As a conference we will be working on making these connections for any church that is interested in partnering in this way. Please do not take it upon yourselves to try and make this connection on your own as it will make it more difficult for these churches. They will end up having multiple churches reaching out to them which puts them in a position of having to make more decisions. Additionally, partnering with these churches also has a financial component. Many of these churches are going to struggle to be able to put together worship services. Their congregation will also be struggling with their own needs as a result of the hurricane, which means giving will significantly decrease. Please consider partnering with these churches through the conference in a way that will allow them to continue their ministry without financial concerns.
I know the hearts of those in our conference and I know the deep desire we have to love on those affected by Hurricane Laura. Let’s be the absolute best we can be by first “doing no harm“ and second by doing “all the good we can.” I am thankful to be in ministry with all of you! I will continue to keep everyone updated as I know more. In the meantime, let’s cover our neighbors in prayer and position ourselves to join with these survivors in a long-term partnership.