Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Rural Church Sunday emphasizes role in disaster response

9/10/2021

A volunteer helps address the flood damage of a home in Haskell. Photo provided by Disaster Repsonse.

Rural Church Sunday will be held on Sept. 19, and this year, the Oklahoma Conference is focusing on the role of small and rural churches in disaster response.

Dana Parker, the new conference disaster response coordinator, shared about disaster response in the state and how churches of all sizes can be involved in its work.

What is the goal of disaster response?

The main goal of disaster response is to equip the local church so that it can be the hands and feet, the heart and voice of Jesus in the midst of disaster. We do that with information and training for churches to prepare before a disaster, and training, resources and coordination for churches to provide care and assistance after a disaster.

What role does disaster response play?

Disaster response can begin before a disaster strikes. Churches can prepare by making a disaster plan, and by communicating with their city and county emergency management office, offering any resources the church has available. After a disaster, the role of disaster response could be offering your church as a shelter or as a place of hospitality for first responders, or as a place to receive and disperse donations. The role of disaster response can also be offering trained and coordinated assistance with clean-up and eventual repair. It is always offering the caring presence of listening, compassion and prayer.

How can my church become involved in disaster response?

Churches can become involved by choosing a Local Church Disaster Response Coordinator. That person can contact me, the Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, to find out more information to prepare and train through the resources of the district, conference and jurisdiction. Together we can help you form a plan to become as involved as you would like to be.

How has the OKUMC been involved with survivors of the 2019 floods in Eastern and North Eastern Oklahoma?

The OKUMC has served 120 households from that disaster through case management and funding projects through area long term recovery groups. Almost all of these cases have been completed. Only 10 cases are still active and should be completed in the next few weeks. The generosity of the OKUMC through the special offering at last year’s annual conference allowed us to stay until all these families were served. I feel fortunate to have been involved in this specific disaster response as a case manager. I was blessed by experiencing the gratitude and relief that these survivors felt. All of them experienced damage that was beyond their own resources to repair. Your financial assistance made the difference, bringing these homes back to being safe and secure.

What are some goals you want to accomplish as the Conference Disaster Response Coordinator?

I hope to connect with as many churches as possible in the Oklahoma conference. I hope to be seen and used as a resource for churches, to enable them to become involved in their community. No matter the size of a congregation, I hope I can help every church feel confident, knowing they have something to offer their community when disaster strikes.

Learn more about disaster response by visiting www.okumcmission.org.

 

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