From Katrina to Isaac, UMs respond faithfully

Susanne Gill, Special Contributor…

The Gulf of Mexico is covered in a blanket of ominous clouds and her waters are churning.  As the blustery winds of Hurricane Isaac blow ashore residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast know it is an eerily familiar way to mark the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  The landmark of an anniversary is a unique time to reflect over lessons learned and progress made.

The way the United Methodist Connection has worked in the world that exists post-Katrina is a beautiful thing to behold and the fruits of the initial laborers work is still a beacon in the midst of this current storm and a sense of peace with the promise of future storms. 

While there were plans in place for hurricane relief, a disaster of the enormous scope of Katrina needless to say taxed and at times overwhelmed everyone’s plans and resources.  While Katrina brought devastation beyond measure the post-Katrina atmosphere served as an incubator and launching pad for the Disaster Response Program that currently exist in the Mississippi Conference.  It was a time to toss out the “we’ve always done it this way” model and truly work toward a plan of being the church in the center of a storm of epic proportions and then having the faith and courage to implement that plan in the face of overwhelming odds.

The model changed from using churches as temporary shelters to free standing transitional sites that can be used during disasters but also as mission training facilities.

In the Seashore District of the Mississippi Conference there are now three permanent camps:


Located behind Vancleave UMC ,  covers the eastern portion of the district.  It has a warehouse for materials as well as dormitory accommodations that can house as many as 70 volunteers for VIM teams, should the need arise.


Is a facility that will be used for year round storage of equipment, disaster related supply drop-off and distribution as well as year-round VIM, ERT and UMCOR team training.


Located behind Nugent UMC, possesses the same resources and capabilities as Camp Hope but services the Western Portion of the Seashore District.

Having independent sites with storage options allows for better usage of funds to purchase building materials and supplies in bulk.  Good stewardship of funds donated by the church is always a top priority; the more fiscally responsible the Disaster Response Team is, the more lives can be touched. 

The volunteer response of the United Methodist Connection post-Katrina was awe inspiring.  Mississippi UM Disaster Response hosted 180,000 volunteers which is equivalent to $160,000,000 in labor cost alone.  Seven years post-Katrina the Methodist connection is the only faith-based organization still working on Katrina recovery and the work of community building, in an area that saw the trials of a recession, BP Oil Spill and now another hurricane.  When the camera crews go away and much of the world forgets, the United Methodist Connection has continued to walk hand in hand with those affected.   The team has adopted the 10/10 Plan of Response, Relief and Recovery.  The relief phase generally lasts 10 times as long as the response phase and the recovery phase in turn lasts 10 times as long as the relief phase. 

To say that the landscape of The Mississippi Gulf Coast has drastically changed since Katrina would be an understatement.  The United Methodist Church not only suffered structural loss of churches but also there was significant loss of membership approaching 20 percent due to members being displaced. 

Though this anniversary is marked with some sadness and even tears, the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the United Methodist connection are able to look back with gratitude and ahead with much hope even in the face of Hurricane Isaac.  The faithfulness of God was seen in the midst of the storm and in his divine appointment of Tom Hazelwood , Assistant General Secretary of UMCOR, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, Bishop Bill McAlilly (former Seashore District Superintendent) and Robert Sharp, executive director for Mississippi United Methodist Disaster Response for the season that followed Hurricane Katrina.  Their selflessness and willingness to serve, as well as their staffs that so tirelessly worked with them, laid a foundation for generations to come to be able to walk through disasters with the peace and assurance that a plan is in place and the witness that God is faithful to lead those who will faithfully follow Him.

So as we look back let us also look forward reminded of the tremendous impact The Connection at work can make when we truly embrace THE POWER OF WE.

 Ms. Gill is with the Mississippi Conference.





Leave a Reply

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
Notify of
%d bloggers like this: