“It is always about being the hands and feet and presence of Christ during the most difficult and vulnerable times in people’s lives,” said Rev. Laraine Waughtal, Director of the Office of Missional Engagement and Outreach for the Louisiana Conference. “ We are honored and privileged that Christ calls us to such a ministry as this.”
In her new role for the Conference, serving as the Disaster Response Coordinator and working with Louisiana Volunteers in Mission, Waughtal believes that the privilege of such work is just part of our DNA as Christians. “The blessing that you witness as you see people’s faith renewed and restored, and their lives rebuilt, is a blessing beyond measure to be entrusted with by God.”
Waughtal will work with both UMCOR and UMVIM in providing trainings across the Conference, coordinating a team of “great trainers.” “I am here to work with any churches that are looking to engage in missions, within their communities, or beyond. In her work, Waughtal will also partner with the Mission and Mercies Ministry Team. “Through all of these, we are the hands and feet of Christ, making disciples for Jesus Christ.”
The ordained elder in The United Methodist Church has been appointed since 1999 and has served multiple churches. “My adventure into disaster work started in 2002. I had already been involved in missions and UMVIM for some time. I have never stopped to count how many mission trips I have been a part of – I am always just looking for the next opportunity to serve, and more importantly, I am always looking for ways to help others go and learn to be a part of this great ministry, whether it is in their own backyard, or traveling.”
The calling to be in disaster work started for Waughtal in 2002 when she took basic Early Response Team training. “I was quickly made a District Coordinator, and then in 2004, took on the role of the Conference Chair for the Disaster Task Force for the Central Texas Conference. Ultimately, I served as president for the Texas Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster (VOAD).
”Waughtal’s first trip related to disaster came when she worked on the Texas coast after Hurricane Ike. “I also led the conference in responding to multiple tornado events, flooding across the state, and the West Fertilizer plant explosion,” she said, also referencing her extensive work at those events with Early Response Teams, Emotional and Spiritual Care Teams, and with UMVIM.
Waughtal looks forward to the years ahead of getting to know United Methodists in the Louisiana Conference. “I honor that y’all have been doing this for a very long time, in many ways. I hope that through my calling, abilities, work as a trainer, and more, that I will help and empower you to do more in each of your communities, across this great state, and beyond! I am blessed to be here and thank God for this calling, and Bishop Harvey for the opportunity to come and serve with you.”