Methodism is at its best when we work through our connectional covenant. When disaster strikes and we are called to help our neighbors outside our own conference who have been affected, our United Methodist covenant works through the United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR). A primary role of UMCOR is to provide a caring, Christian presence in the aftermath of disaster. A key principle of UMCOR’s response to disaster is that Early Response and Long-Term Recovery Teams should be sent where they’re invited, when they’re invited, to do what they’re invited to do. This affirms the posture of not wanting to impose an outsider’s wishes on the community, but rather to let the community own the disaster. Well-intended folks who arrive uninvited after an incident can cause more problems than they solve.
Granted, when this sort of protocol is utilized, things do not always go as quickly as we think they should. It can take weeks or months following a disaster before outside teams are invited to an impacted area. It often takes time for the local situation to stabilize enough to begin receiving teams. UMCOR’s position is that they would rather be committed to the long-term work and take their time getting started in order to setup that long-term work. UMCOR teams may not get there while the wind is still blowing but will be there long after the media and other groups are long gone.
It is important to continue to follow the Connectional systems in place in the event of a needed response. However, that does not preclude individuals from connecting with family, friends, or church connections to respond.