Rev. Mike Butler, pastor of Fairview UMC in Cullman, wrote this letter to Bishop Willimon and others in the North Alabama Conference.
Bishop Willimon responds, “The Connection is working! I'm so pleased to get this grand account of a courageous pastor being upheld by an active church!”
Just wanted to write you all a letter of thanks from Fairview First United Methodist Church. If you are receiving this email then someone in your sphere of influence has blessed us in this small community. I have served as a United Methodist pastor for 15 years and a UMCOR volunteer since Katrina. I have always had a respect for our United Methodist connectional system, but I have never seen it work more effectively and efficiently as the response to these recent storms.
It began Wednesday April 27, 2011 around 2:20 pm. I received a phone call from my friend Rev. Ricky Smith (UMCOR volunteer) and we quickly went to the Church. As it passed, a 70 year old pecan tree crushed the bedroom where my wife had been moments before. After that dark day ended we had two tornado's that passed through our small community. The same tornado that hit Cullman, AL came within 800 yards of our church and it only damaged our parsonage. The horror came when we found out other areas got hit a lot harder than us.
That first Saturday our treasurer's company and Auburn University feed 1,800 people in the park. It was there I met Glenn Glover. He was a UMCOR Lay Rep from the South Alabama/West Florida Conference. Due to communications issues caused by the storm, Glenn had been sent to do an assessment of areas surrounding Cullman by Matt Lacey, our North Alabama Conference UMCOR Coordinator. After assessing our needs Glenn reported to Matt and I began receiving calls from teams by the end of the day.
Our Conference UMCOR responded with a disaster call center that became fully functional last Wednesday. This has been such a blessing and proven to be an effective communication tool for our needs. Supplies came in from everywhere. Maybe you will recognize some of these districts or conferences. The North Alabama Conference responded. Rev. Lillian Eddleman and her husband brought supplies from our NW District Relief Warehouse. Drew Carpenter from Cherokee First United Methodist Church in our NW District delivered a truck load of diapers. Pam Green from Bluff Park United Methodist Church in our South Central District delivered boxes, diapers, wipes and formula. Kevin Haynes from Montgomery First United Methodist Church in the South Alabama/West Florida Conference brought in a trailer loaded with supplies. We have been distributing supplies and are currently stocked up to continue in the months ahead.
UMCOR teams began arriving last week. First was a team of 8 from the Kansas West Conference. Ryan Brunholtz and his team came this past Thursday and helped my 90 years old neighbor. Thursday evening we had a UMCOR team of 8 come from the North Carolina Conference. Cindy Lundy and her team worked two whole days removing fallen trees in the area. John Beard from Bluff Park United Methodist Church in our Conferences South Central District brought 30 volunteers Saturday. They split into four teams. One team cleared the debris from my bedroom. Two teams did much needed tree work in the community. The forth went out with our members to deliver supplies to neglected areas where the damage was the greatest. It was a good week.
The Sunday following the storm there was a community worship service in the park, so this past Sunday was the first worship gathering for our Church. We opened up our service with this video done by a Cullman resident. Nothing I could ever say could communicate what I was feeling more than this video. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=275CyCkmpn4 ) The message was the journey to Emmaus. It was a journey of loss and grief for those weary travelers. Yet Christ partnered with them in that journey and his presence redeemed what they thought was a dead dream. We are confident our Risen Lord will redeem the dreams of our community. I'm sending this to you so you know that you ALL have been part of that redemptive work.
For His Glory,