People from the South Central Jurisdiction learn about how best to respond to their neighbor in need. Photo: Audrey Phelps
By Susan Kim*
February 3, 2015—Early Response Teams. CARE Teams. Long-term disaster recovery committees. Volunteer home repair teams. Mission Team leaders. Are you called to serve in one of these groups? If you want to learn more, check out the United Methodist Church's “Disaster Academies” or “Mission Academies,” jurisdictional training that ensures you—and your church—are prepared to help people in need.
“We are responding to God's call to care for our neighbors,” said Cathy Earl, executive secretary for U.S. Disaster Response for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). “To do that—and do it well--it's best to get information and understanding to be prepared to respond in the most meaningful way.”
Ignoring training isn't just a minus for the person trying to help, Earl pointed out. Ultimately, training helps the disaster survivor. “Sometimes, even the most well-meaning people can cause harm if they don't know how to respond,” said Earl.
As UMCOR celebrates 75 years of service, it is also celebrating a record number of people who are trained, in some way, to respond to disasters and other situations that result in human need. More than 15,000 people across the country are trained to serve on Early Response Teams. CARE teams—people who provide emotional and spiritual care for those affected by disasters—have become part of an increasing number of United Methodist conferences.
Below are links to information and registration for UMCOR training in 2015 in all five United Methodist jurisdictions.
Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ), Feb. 23-25, Biloxi, Miss.
The SEJ Disaster Academy will be hosted by the Mississippi Annual Conference, UMCOR and UMVIM. Participants will learn about disaster response ministry as they also commemorate a decade of recovery since Hurricane Katrina's devastation. “We are open for registration through February 9 and welcome anybody who wants to join us,” said Cat Foster, connectional ministries and communications project coordinator for the Mississippi Conference. Register here.
Western Jurisdiction Disaster Academy, March 2-5, Denver, Colo.
Classes are for anyone interested in putting their faith into action by helping respond to natural disasters such as fires, floods and earthquakes. Class offerings include beginning through advanced levels for various types of volunteers, response leaders, church leaders and clergy. Register here.
Northeastern Jurisdiction (NEJ) Disaster Academy, March 18-21, West River, Md.
Participants will learn how to best serve those in crisis due to natural or human disasters. Gathering with others from NEJ, as well as UMCOR staff and trainers, they will learn, share and prepare so that churches can be ready to respond. “This is the first one we've had in 15 years,” said Rev. Nick Nicholas, NEJ UMVIM coordinator. “We have 35 people signed up so far.” Register here.
North Central Jurisdiction, Aug. 27-30, Indianola, Iowa
In celebration of UMCOR's 75th anniversary, the training will include an afternoon of hands-on work and learning by trainees. “We're really excited and expecting way over 100 people,” said Lorna Jost, UMVIM coordinator for the NCJ. Register here.
South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ) Mission Academy, September 25-27, Midlothian, Texas
“We are looking to expand topics this year so that the courses will be useful whether or not you are serving in a disaster scenario,” said Audrey Phelps, director of UMVIM and disaster response for the SCJ.
Your gift to UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response, Advance #901670, supports training activities such as these as well as hands-on response to natural and human-caused disasters.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.