These cleaning buckets were sent to Louisiana to aid flood survivors. Photo: Courtesy Bristol United Methodist Church
UMCOR relief supplies bring hope to flood survivors in Louisiana, and connects volunteers with disaster survivors
By Susan Kim*
September 22, 2016 — When catastrophic flooding hit Louisiana in August, the First United Methodist Church in Denham Springs was one of the only buildings in the area that didn’t flood. Immediately after communications were reestablished, the church became a distribution site for United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) cleaning buckets, among other supplies.
At first, flood survivors coming into the church would overlook the buckets, said Rev. Jacqueline King, senior pastor. “They would say, ‘Is something in there?’ I think they thought it was just a bucket with a lid.”
Then volunteers at the church began offering a cleaning bucket to every flood survivor who walked in the door. Soon, a different question was constantly being asked: “Is it possible to get another one?”
Though King’s home was not damaged by the flood, her daughter, a preschooler, observed all the ruined belongings on the side of the road, then piled pieces of toys at the side of her dollhouse.
Concerned about the psychological effects the aftermath of the large-scale flooding in Louisiana is having on children, King has used the cleaning bucket as a topic for her children’s message.
“The children see all the trash by the side of the road, then they see their parents cleaning up, and they see these cleaning buckets,” she said. “These buckets are a reminder of God’s love.”
UMCOR relief supplies not only connect volunteers with disaster survivors, they also connect volunteers with each other.
At UMCOR West Depot in Salt Lake City, Utah, a group of retired United Methodist pastors from the Rocky Mountain Conference were busy assembling relief-supply kits as they told jokes, said prayers, and talked about the growing need across the world for hope and help.
Pastor Ron Hodges, one of the participants, said the ties between members of this volunteer group go way back. “We started off as a collegial support group for pastors, and we worked together with ideas and with each other’s churches.”
Over their years as pastors, Hodges said, many of them expressed a wish to do mission work when they retired. “The year we retired, my wife and I went to the UMCOR Sager Brown Depot. We had a lot of fun.”
When UMCOR West opened, Hodges decided to convene volunteer teams that would assemble kits and spend time together. “We asked our closest friends in ministry to join us here, and this is the eighth team we have led. What we’re doing here is not rocket science but it is very, very important,” he said.
As the team completed pallets of relief supplies, they gathered around and offered a prayer:
“Most Gracious and Loving God, we come together to do your work; one item at a time, one kit at a time, one box at a time, one pallet at a time, to serve one person at a time, who is one from the multitude of your children in need across this world. Amen.”
And the need across the world is growing. Amy Fuselier, executive director of UMCOR Relief Supplies, said more than 15,000 cleaning buckets and 2,000 hygiene kits have recently been shipped from UMCOR’s depots. “Hygiene kits, cleaning buckets, and school kits are most needed,” she said.
Visit UMCOR’s Relief Supplies page on the UMCOR website to learn about the different kinds of relief-supply kits that are helping people cope and recover after a disaster and in challenging circumstances, then join with members of your church or community to assemble the kits.
Your gift to UMCOR Material Resources, Advance #901440, will help UMCOR purchase additional supplies and send these precious kits to people in need.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.