A volunteer repairs a roof in Wolfe County, KY.
By Susan Kim*
Oct. 9, 2012--Nearly seven months after tornadoes crushed hundreds of homes and claimed 17 lives in Kentucky, storm survivors have been buoyed by the presence of volunteers who care.
During “Impact Kentucky,” a summertime day of sharing on August 25, more than 1,000 volunteers from across Kentucky visited the tornado-struck communities to repair homes and yards.
The event was sponsored by the Kentucky Annual Conference, Red Bird Missionary Conference, and United Methodist Communications.
The culminating New Hope Festival in Menifee County drew 1,200 people who celebrated with a sense of renewal.
Christy Smith, an UMCOR consultant, was reminded of the heart of her work as she participated. She reported: “Grins launched from sweat-stained faces...occasionally marked by tear tracks...reinforced what conference planners already knew: providing help to tornado-ravaged neighbors feels like ministry in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Smith said she also found signs of hope in the purple, yellow, and blue wildflowers resolutely poking through the shambles to remind all that God was with them. “Those courageous flowers, like their rugged Kentucky neighborhoods, are bringing recovery from the vicious winds,” she said.
Jim Morse, disaster response coordinator for the Kentucky Conference, was also on the scene, offering support to volunteers. “I remember late in the afternoon that day everything started to wind down. I was talking to a local church member who said: 'I cannot be prouder and happier to be a United Methodist right now.'
“I will always remember that,” added Morse.
Now that the fall season is underway, responders also wanted to remind people that eastern Kentucky still has serious needs as residents there begin their long-term recovery.
Julie Love, director of connectional ministries for the Kentucky Conference, said that many people who lost their home during the tornado outbreak are still living in inadequate housing. “In eastern Kentucky, homelessness is not the same as urban homelessness. We more often see families move in with other family members,” she said.
In Menifee County, hope is springing up in the form of a new United Methodist Church, an effort that had started before the tornadoes struck and is now moving even faster in the wake of the disaster.
“We had kind of planned to start a new church and had made some stabs at it, and then the tornadoes came,” said the Rev. Aaron Mansfield, pastor of Morehead UMC in a nearby Kentucky county. “As sad as the tornadoes were, they spurred us into action. The name of the Methodists is highly loved in Menifee County because of the churches and because of UMCOR.”
Help tornado survivors in Kentucky during their long-term recovery. Please contribute to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.