UMs take first steps in tornado response

Staff and Wire Reports…

Concerned individuals who want to volunteer in relief efforts following the May 20 tornado in Moore, Okla., are urged, for now, to pray and wait.

“It will take time for emergency officials to assess the damages and for us to learn how we all can most effectively help meet needs,” Richard Norman, disaster response coordinator for the UMC’s Oklahoma Conference, said in a message posted to the conference’s website soon after the E5 tornado hit the area. It touched down at 2:56 p.m. local time and covered a 17-mile path, destroying two primary schools, a hospital and up to 13,000 homes. At least 24 people were killed, including nine children, and more than 240 others were injured.

How to Help

You can support UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response, Advance #901670, with an online gift at or by calling or by calling (800) 554-8583

The tornado was one of at least nine to lumber through Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas on that day. It was the second bout of severe weather to strike Oklahoma in two days. On Sunday, May 19, some 24 tornadoes tore through five states—Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois—and destroyed 300 homes. The town of Shawnee, Okla., where two people died, bore the brunt of that outbreak.

Greg Forrester, executive in charge of U.S. Disaster Response for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, said UMCOR is ready to assist with training, funds and consultation, once the Oklahoma Conference and local officials have had an opportunity to assess and define immediate needs.

“The affected communities and conference must lead in their recovery,” he said.

Bishop Robert Hayes

For the moment, the most important ways United Methodists around the country can help is through their prayers and financial assistance, Mr. Norman said on the conference website. “Please prepare your church membership for possible VIM [Volunteers in Mission] mission service later,” he also wrote.

Oklahoma Area Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr. said bishops and other concerned United Methodists have called him to say they are keeping the storm-ravaged in prayer and are willing to help in any way they can. He added that United Methodist churches are opening their doors to shelter people, and individual United Methodists are already providing help in the form of monetary donations and prayer.

“This is not a one-day or two-day headline event. This will affect people’s lives for the rest of their lives,” he said. “We are prepared for the long-haul.”

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

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