From horror to hope - A year's journey through disaster


April 27, 2011 is not a day I want to remember. I have struggled mightily for days now with what to write in this article. I want to forget. I want to pretend it never happened. I only had one tree in my house, was scared out of my wits by the sounds I endured, and thought I was going to die. How must people feel that lost loved ones? Or those whose houses were ripped out from around them in just a matter of seconds? Or those who were tossed about and somehow survived? How must they feel about remembering? I think it is just fine if we want to forget, but then I ran across this excerpt from the movie Old Yeller and it gave me pause…

"That was rough…Thing to do now is try and forget it…I guess I don’t quite mean that.  It’s not a thing you can forget.  Maybe not even a thing you want to forget… Life’s like that sometimes… Now and then for no good reason a man can figure out, life will just haul off and knock him flat, slam him agin’ the ground so hard it seems like all his insides is busted.  But it’s not all like that.  A lot of it’s mighty fine, and you can’t afford to waste the good part frettin’ about the bad.  That makes it all bad… Sure, I know - sayin’ it’s one thing and feelin’ it’s another.  But I’ll tell you a trick that’s sometimes a big help.  When you start lookin’ around for something good to take the place of the bad, as a general rule you can find it." Old Yeller

As the North Alabama Conference Disaster Recovery Coordinator, my prayer has been that our District Coordinators and the Conference Disaster Recovery team and I can find ways to help “good” replace the “bad.” Our goal is to help rebuild lives not just houses. I know you probably expect me to quote Scripture instead of from Old Yeller. I certainly can quote many verses of Scripture that speak to the Hope within. We are promised that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Believe me, my team and I have counted on that promise daily. There is, however, just good, earthy truth in the words from the movie I quoted. We do have to help good replace the bad.

There is so much work yet to be done before we can say we have recovered from the results of the April 27 storms, yet much good has been done. Hope has replaced despair in many lives in our state, thanks to the efforts of many, many people. The United Methodist response to this disaster is only a part of the recovery that is taking place, but it is my job to guide our response for recovery and it is important for the members of our churches to know what we have been doing over the past year.

The early response phase of the disaster lasted until at least June 2011, and longer in some areas. The local church response and Conference response was wonderful. I am not referring to that phase of the disaster with the data you will read in this article. My responsibility as Disaster Recovery Coordinator began in June 2011 and I am reporting the work that has been done for recovery. We immediately received $50,000 from UMCOR as emergency funds to help with early response. By the time I came on board, the Conference received another $100,000 to help with administrative costs to set up our long-term recovery efforts. Additionally, I submitted two grants to UMCOR for funding to help with recovery.  One was for $1 million and the other was for $500,000. Both grants were awarded to us and we began dispersing those funds in January 2012. The grant money will be used for materials, supplies and case management, with a small portion to support the operations expenses of the effort.

Our Districts have also raised funds that are being used along with the UMCOR money to help with the rebuild/repair efforts. Other monies have also been made available in our Districts to help as well such as Bama Rising money raised by the singing group Alabama and the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund (GERF). 

One major responsibility of our Conference Disaster Recovery Team is to facilitate the registration and scheduling of UMCOR and UMVIM teams that want to help with recovery in our state. This task is on-going with teams registering weekly from across the country.

The following data reflects the response by our Conference Disaster Recovery Team, District Disaster Recovery Teams, and the UMCOR and UMVIM teams who have come from all over the country to help us:

Number of UMCOR/UMVIM teams hosted since June 2011 160
Volunteer hours worked by these teams 65,671
In-kind value of volunteer labor $1,402,732.56
Conference/District Team Volunteer hours 32,418
In-kind value of Conference/District Teams volunteer labor $692,448.48
Total Volunteer hours given for recovery to date 98,080
Total in-kind value of volunteer labor $2,095,181.04

Please reflect on these numbers listed above.  These hours and dollars reflect the heart of Jesus Christ himself.  They represent the Body of Christ reaching out to those who are hurting.  We praise God that so many people have been willing to give of their time, energy and money!

In order to house the teams that come into our Conference to help us, we have the following host sites which are listed by District. We could not function without the faithful servants in these churches and Camps that have been established.

Central District - (Cullman)
St. Andrews UMC
Hope House

Central District
(Pleasant Grove)

Sylvan Springs UMC
Aldersgate UMC (Homewood & Dora)
Canterbury UMC
Pleasant Grove UMC
Faith Free Methodist
Pleasant Grove First Baptist Church
Walnut Grove UMC

Central District
(Walker County)

Sylvan Springs UMC
Aldersgate UMC (Dora)

Mountain Lakes District
Henryville UMC
Upper Sand Mountain Parish
Guntersville First UMC

Northeast District
Good Shepherd UMC
Hazel Green UMC
Trinity UMC (Huntsville)
Crosswinds UMC


Northwest District
Haleyville First UMC
Camp Mike (District facility)

Southwest District
Camp Coker (District facility, donated by Coker UMC)
Taylorville UMC
Tuscaloosa First UMC
Cottondale UMC


We are so grateful to these host sites for all they do.

Below are those who serve on our District and Conference Recovery Teams:

Central District
Rev. Jonathan Todd, District Coordinator
Rev. Mike Butler, Coordinator for Walker County
Gordon Thomason, Coordinator for Pleasant Grove
Curt Brown, Construction Coordinator for Pleasant Grove

Mountain Lakes District
Bill Cater, District Coordinator
Tayna Rains, Coordinator, Upper Sand Mountain Parish
Rev. Keith Monk, Volunteer/Construction Coordinator

Northeast District
Rev. David Tubbs, District Coordinator
Jim McFarlen, Volunteer Coordinator
George Gorsuch, Construction Coordinator

Northwest District
Rev. Eric Bell, District Coordinator
Rev. Randy Burbank, Construction Coordinator
Karen Cotton, Volunteer Coordinator

Southwest District
Rev. Rock Stone, District Coordinator
Donna Fairchild, Volunteer Coordinator
Facilities Coordinator, Josh Davis

Conference Disaster Recovery Team
Rev. Nancy Cole, Disaster Recovery Coordinator
Lori Feist, Volunteer Consultant
Emily Nelms, Information Coordinator/Communications
Rev. Marvin McCormick, Construction Consultant
Sara Bryant, Administrative Assistant

Please keep all of these District Teams and the Conference Disaster Recovery Team in your prayers.  I am so grateful for all these servants who said “yes” to being the Body of Christ to those who are hurting.

*Rev. Nancy Cole is the Disaster Recovery Coordinator for the North Alabama Conference.

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