UMCOR

United Methodist Committee on Relief

Mission and Ministry in Disaster Response

By Michelle Scott Okabayashi*

March 29, 2012 — Just two days after Hurricane Irene devastated the town of Prattsville, New York, and other areas of the state in August 2011, Joseph Ewoodzie was there to help.

The New York Annual Conference mission coordinator and disaster response coordinator talks about the importance of going in person to disaster stricken areas: “It shows the presence of the church and that we are in this together. We are there for them,” he says.

The recovery in Prattsville and other areas continues and, Ewoodzie estimates, will take two years to complete. United Methodists are helping families rebuild through financial contributions and as volunteers. Some 200 volunteers came to help in those early weeks, and volunteer teams are still rolling in. Coordinating Volunteers in Mission is another aspect of Ewoodzie’s portfolio.

Ewoodzie has served in this position since 2003, when the post was first developed. As such, he is the first disaster response coordinator for the conference.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) worked with Ewoodzie over the course of four years to establish the New York Annual Conference’s disaster response plan. UMCOR provided consultants and training so that the conference would be ready when disaster struck.

When Hurricane Irene came, Ewoodzie and the New York Annual Conference were as ready as they could be. “We were hit in our own backyard,” Ewoodzie said. With the storm’s path predicted to come through the area, Ewoodzie set up a call center before the storm hit, to ensure the conference was ready to respond to needs.

In the weeks immediately after Irene, Early Response Teams sprang into action. Specially trained by UMCOR, these teams are prepared to go into a disaster area after the initial emergency. They helped muck out and secure damaged homes and prepared them for the repairs that needed to happen.

UMCOR also supplied funds for case-management training, which provided the New York Annual Conference with the necessary tools to continue to support families and their particular needs through recovery.

“My passion is actually to help people to do ministry beyond the local church,” he explains. When he first learned of this opportunity to serve the New York Annual Conference, he knew it was what he wanted to do. “What an opportunity to be in a ministry where you can connect the resources in one area with the need in another. When you can do that, a miracle takes place.”

You can support UMCOR’s US Disaster Response Ministry, which helps United Methodist annual conferences prepare for disasters and provides support when catastrophes happen, by giving to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670 .

*Michelle Scott Okabayashi is a journalist and a frequent contributor to UMCOR.org and the UMCOR Hotline.

You can support UMCOR’s US Disaster Response Ministry, which helps United Methodist annual conferences prepare for disasters and provides support when catastrophes happen, by giving to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670 .

 

 

Rev. Joseph Ewoodzie (left) and Rev. Jim Moore, district superintendent of Catskills-Hudson District, review the route of their assessment trip on a map following Hurricane Irene.
Rev. Joseph Ewoodzie (left) and Rev. Jim Moore, district superintendent of Catskills-Hudson District, review the route of their assessment trip on a map following Hurricane Irene.
Linda Unger/UMCOR