An Episcopal Letter to the Texas Annual Conference Churches
September 4, 2005
Dear United Methodist Brothers and Sisters,
Resurrection Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I write to all of you this day to tell you that truly we “have seen the Lord” in caring for our sisters and brothers of New Orleans. A friend commented to me earlier this week, “It is in times like this that one can see the true soul of a people and an institution.” Your souls are surely shining.
Many of you are personally in the thick of caring for displaced citizens. I have the privilege-when I’m not organizing volunteers and caring for folks like the rest of you-the privilege of seeing a larger view of the whole Texas Annual Conference in action. Even my own view is still partial, but I wanted to share with you some of what I know.
Here is a quick picture of the people of the United Methodist Church in action:
” It is my understanding that churches in every district are now directly engaged in caring for displaced citizens. All the churches which were designated Red Cross shelters prior to Hurricane Katrina are at capacity or more. We do not have anything approaching a complete listing, but I am aware that churches small and large have spontaneously opened their doors. Dr. Earl Bledsoe reports that Aldersgate UMC in Bryan has moved out of its Worship Center to fill it with cots; they will worship in their Fellowship Hall today and invite evacuees to join them. Christ UMC is now housing numerous special needs individuals. Dr. Richard Burnham reports that Wesley in Beaumont is housing approximately 50 Hondurans. The list goes on and on. The Conference Office will be working to compile a more complete list by next week.
” St. Luke’s UMC staff and volunteers have been “on the floor” of the Astrodome since before it received it first guest. They are helping to set up the infrastructure to serve a small city. Susan Silvus, director of outreach at St. Luke’s, greeted a young woman carrying a baby when they stepped off a bus. “I asked her how I could help her,” said Silvus. “She handed me a package of diapers and a can of Similac, and that is all she had. All.” My husband Bob reports that more than half the cots seem to be occupied by children.
” Numerous churches are engaged in feeding ministries. Congregation members are working at Red Cross shelters.
” Lakeview Conference Center received 106 special needs displaced citizens of New Orleans. These persons were part of a small group living situation in New Orleans. All require special assistance.
” The Methodist Hospitals are another shining face of the people of the United Methodist Church. Dr. Charles Millikan reported that as of yesterday, the downtown hospital alone had received well over 300 persons. The first 200 arrived beginning at 11pm. Some of the finest doctors, nurses and medical technicians in the world came back to the hospital and worked until every person was properly cared for.
In addition, many individuals and families have been in need of pastoral care. For example, Dr. Millikan told me the heart-breaking story of working with a mother who had gotten separated from her seven children. She believes they might not have survived.
” Methodist Retirement Communities has now received 80 persons into various facilities in the conference. It has been my understanding that they are referrals from The Methodist Hospital. I have no further details here.
” Lon Morris College in Jacksonville has invited displaced students of Dillard University in New Orleans to attend Lon Morris with free room, board and tuition. They are planning to send a bus to Baton Rouge to be able to transport people.
” Volunteers from Houston area congregations are attending training sessions for food service at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Dr. Ed Young reported that 4,870 people from many faith communities attended the first session. They are expecting over 6,000 persons today.
Throughout the Conference, congregations are in the process of raising $1,000,000. I am aware of several congregations dedicating their entire offering today to assist in this relief effort. The people of The United Methodist Church have great hearts. I am absolutely confident that the Texas Annual Conference will reach its goal.
You and I have an opportunity to practice radical hospitality and extravagant generosity in a situation which, God willing, comes only once in a lifetime. We are truly blessed to be called to this time and place to witness to Jesus Christ and to serve our neighbors in Christ’s name.
The words of the Apostle Paul encourage us this day, “Now to [God] who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
God bless you.
Bishop Janice Riggle Huie