The small community of Platteville, Wis., rallied around its local UCC congregation to help raise more than $3,300 for hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico. The congregation turned an evening of planned family friendly fellowship into a fundraiser for the people of Puerto Rico. And as the news reported out of the U.S. commonwealth became more devastating, several members of the wider community joined in to help.
So far, the deadly, raging wildfires in Northern California have not burned any UCC churches. But as congregations reach out to check on their members they are finding some who have lost their homes to the fires and many others who have had to evacuate. Click the headline to navigate to the UCC News story.
Through the South Central Conference, UCC Disaster Ministries has hired Amariee Collins and the Rev. Joshua Lawrence of Houston, Texas, to coordinate the denomination's Hurricane Harvey recovery work over the next two years. The Houston couple will share one full-time position, in which they will provide expertise, direction, resources and referrals for UCC intermediate and long-term recovery efforts.
In Mexico, some 300 people are already confirmed dead as the result a series of powerful earthquakes. UCC Disaster Ministries' initial response includes a $3,000 solidarity grant to the Theological Community of Mexico to help survivors with medicines, first aid medical equipment and provisions, clothing, food, water, diapers, and instruments to remove debris.
As UCC Disaster Ministries communicates with its conferences and congregations in ministry to hurricane survivors in Texas, Florida and other states, it encounters stories of how they are using what they have to help their neighbors. Here is a story out of Florida post-Irma of how Miami Shores Community Church UCC made what it had available to meet many neighbors’ needs.
Even before the winds die down and the flood waters recede, UCC Disaster Ministries is already reaching out to hurricane survivors and laying groundwork for long-term recovery. Staff are making a second pastoral and long-term recovery planning visit to Texas right now, and will continue on to Florida. A recovery work site is open in Florida. And several grants have been dispatched to the Caribbean, Florida and Texas.
In Mexico, more than 200 people are already confirmed dead as the result of a powerful 7.1 earthquake that hit on Sept. 19, the 32nd anniversary of the largest quake to ever hit Mexico City. It's Mexico's second deadly earthquake in 11 days; the first killed dozens. At the same time, Hurricane Maria is raking the Caribbean.
UCC Disaster Ministries has just contributed $10,000 toward a proactive program to prevent cholera and malnutrition in Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Irma, and to treat any instances that occur. The implementing partner is IMA World Health, which has had a significant presence in Haiti since 1998, including relationships with government and communities.
A Category 4 hurricane in Texas, followed by flooding that brought raging water halfway up their front doors, didn't wash out a small congregation 25 miles northwest of Houston for long. Christ United UCC in Cypress returned to their fellowship hall for worship on Sunday. "If you look past the water, you see God's hands at work doing marvelous things in people's hearts – wonderful," Christ United Pastor the Rev. Jeffrey Willey told his congregation on Sept. 10.
Melinda Webster followed the news of Hurricane Irma closely as the storm approached the Southern Florida shores. Faced with the decision to evacuate, Webster and her 97-year-old mother left Tallahassee and drove north to Ohio to avoid Irma's path of destruction. Webster and her mother are staying with family in the small town of Tiffin, Ohio, for the week. And at least for one Sunday, they were welcomed guests at Trinity UCC.