My grandfather used to have a saying. He would tell me that our family moves from one crisis to the next. When we finish dealing with one crisis there is another one on the horizon to get ready for. Papaw would remind us to, “Live in the present but be prepared for the future.” A week removed from when an unnamed storm dumped more rain on my home state of Louisiana, I understand what he was talking about. There is always another crisis somewhere, someday on the horizon. I also discovered something else. The United Methodist Church is a disaster denomination.
The United Methodist Church is a disaster denomination.
We are at our best when a crisis hits.
We come together from the left and right, from the top to the bottom. We act as one solid body. We put aside our differences. We put away our issues. We let go of our grudges to work side by side with one another. There is not another denomination that does more than the United Methodists do. I remember report after report during the recovery from Hurricane Katrina and Rita. As we were mucking out a house, a person said that she was Roman Catholic but she had seen more Methodists working than any other denomination. Another person remarked that the United Methodists are not usually the first people to arrive at a disaster, but they are always the very last people to leave. We stay longer and help more in recovery after a crisis.
Our connection is built for disaster.
From the United Methodist Committee on Relief to the local church, our denomination is built to respond to disasters. Clergy are connected to other clergy. Churches have built relationships with other churches. The real connectionalism is on full display when we are recovering. We open up our hearts and our doors. We give more, serve more, and love more. While the storms were tearing through Louisiana clergy and laity were already on the phones, social media, and in the pulpits asking for money and cleaning buckets. We know what we need to do and we do it. Methodists don’t wait for the appeal to come out.
Our churches are planted in the right places for disaster.
Like first responders, we see the disaster and run toward it. A former senior pastor once told me we help others before we take care of ourselves. We might not have the largest mega church in the city or the church in the prime location in town, but our multiple churches are placed far and wide in strategic locations. Methodist churches serve as shelters during the storms and recovery centers after the storms. Our churches have been placed in the right locations to serve as missionary outposts after disasters. Most of the Methodist Churches that I have served have showers installed. Why do you think that is?
Practical theology has always been a strength.
One of John Wesley’s three simple rules is, “By doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all men.” Do Good. While we have both works of piety and works of mercy in our toolkit, we have always been really good at works of mercy. John Wesley wrote, “He is inwardly and outwardly conformed to the will of God, as revealed in the written word. He thinks, speaks, and lives, according to the method laid down in the revelation of Jesus Christ. His soul is renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and in all true holiness. And having the mind that was in Christ, he so walks as Christ also walked.” The United Methodist Church has led the way in some of the most important ways walking as Christ has walked. We live out the faith. We don’t just say what we believe, we live what we believe.
So what can you do?
- Pray. Pray for those trying to recover from this disaster. Pray for the recovery workers. Pray for the clergy. Pray for the laity. Pray.
- Consider donating cleaning buckets. After the floods in March which affected the part of Louisiana that I serve and the Floods in August which affected the southern part of the state, the supply of UMCOR cleaning buckets has been greatly diminished. These are easy to make and a real tangible way that you can impact these types of disasters.
- Consider donating money to the recovery efforts. Money donate through the United Methodist Church directly impacts those on the ground assisting with recovery. This allows the monies to be used in the best way possible.