Here’s the letter I just received from Bishop Huie:
Dear United Methodist Friends,
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am grateful already for your prayers and acts of compassion for all those affected by Hurricane Katrina. United Methodists throughout the Texas Annual Conference are eager to respond. We are receiving many calls in our office. This letter is your first update from me. Others will follow.
Our Conference United Methodist efforts are being coordinated by our Partners in Mission office, Disaster Response leaders and several large United Methodist congregations. National efforts are being coordinated by UMCOR.
Katrina is the largest natural disaster we have ever experienced in the United States. Rescue efforts are under the supervision of the public officials and National Guard, and we have been urged not to send anyone into the area unless it is specifically coordinated with persons in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Our first mission will be to assist refugees in our areas. East Texas and Houston is filling up with refugees. There are more people on the way. Several UM congregations are being opened up as shelters. A list of those churches appears elsewhere. Please feel free to contribute food, bedding and volunteer your time by calling them.
Refugees in the New Orleans Superdome are being transferred to the Astrodome. St. Luke UMC in Houston has been asked to coordinate volunteers to staff the Astrodome. They expect to need hundreds of volunteers willing to work 12 hour shifts for at least a month. Two people can team to work six hours each, but those persons need to volunteer as a pair. If pastors will send lists of volunteers to Susan Silvus (firstname.lastname@example.org) via email, they will try to coordinate. Volunteers can come directly to the Astrodome. However, please be prepared to be flexible.
We are encouraging people to volunteer at their nearest Red Cross shelter if there is one near you. Every relief organization will be asked to stretch deeper and wider than it ever has done before. They need our help.
This disaster truly invites extravagant generosity. I want to encourage you to give generously through your local church. There are two primary ways to give. If you will mark your check “Katrina,” these funds will first be used locally to assist refugees within the bounds of the Annual Conference. They will be used for food, supplies, bedding, gasoline, etc., as they are needed here. Remaining funds will be sent to UMCOR. The second way to give is to mark your check UMCOR Hurricane Response. Those funds will be used for rebuilding. Finally, you can give directly to Red Cross.
Pastors, we need a quick turn-around on “Katrina” funds to the conference office. Area food banks are already running low on food. They need to purchase in large quantities. We want to be able to disperse funds quickly to local churches and to agencies working directly with refugees.
Once the clean-up process begins, there will be a tremendous need for flood buckets, health kits, bedding and other supplies. You can learn how to create those kits by looking elsewhere on our Web site. Churches can begin collecting supplies and taking them to drop sites for later distribution.
A tremendous rebuilding process lies ahead. As the waters recede, and sites are available, you will hear from Kathie Mann, who leads our Partner in Mission teams.
Please pray for all those people who have been affected by Katrina. They need for us to hold them in the presence of God hourly. They need for us pray for their safety, health, future and much, much more. Through the grace of God, we will help them put their lives back together again, and re-build their homes and cities.
This situation is changing hourly. We will give you the best information we have. Kindly keep checking your email and the Web site for updates.
God bless all of us as we seek to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Grace and peace,
Janice Riggle Huie