The Right Resource for the Right Time

September 24, 2020

Methodist Children's Home to Host Disaster Response Volunteers

It's hard to fathom anyone describing a storm as "worse than Katrina", but that's how many describe Hurricane Laura, including Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. 

"You got to understand, the storm was more powerful than Katrina," governor Edwards told WWL Radio. "It came onshore at 150 miles per hour. That is just seven miles-per-hour less than a Category 5 storm."

The recovery from Hurricane Laura will be measured in years, not months or weeks.

And, as is always the case with any storm or natural disaster, the Louisiana Conference stands ready to provide relief and restore lives as long as it takes.

When one thinks of resources, many things come to mind - from tarps to shovels, generators to roofing nails. Often times, the resource of housing and space is limited.

Immediately after Hurricane Laura, United Methodists from around the Conference and the Connection began calling the Louisiana Conference Disaster Response Ministry, offering to help Louisiana recover from the storm.

"Immediately, it became clear that, while volunteers were plentiful, one of our greatest challenges was to find housing close to the disaster zone for those volunteer teams," says Rev. Elaine Burleigh, Director of the Conference Office of Missional Engagement and Outreach. "Rick Wheat (President of the Methodist Children's Home) immediately saw an opportunity and contacted Rev. Bob Deich to explore how the Children's Home could be used to assist the recovery efforts."

In the coming weeks, the Methodist Children's Home will host volunteers from across the state and country. 

The Methodist Children’s Home has always been an important ministry of the Louisiana Conference says Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey. "The partnership and collaboration that has sustained both the Children’s Home and the Conference have provided life-changing experiences for many," she said. "The agreement to share space in Sulphur will once again be life-changing for many as it provides a space for volunteer teams. I am thankful to Rick Wheat and the trustees for their willingness to extend this gift to the Conference for such a time as this."

"It's really a win-win," says Burleigh. "This is a beautiful example of what God can do through our United Methodist Connection."

How It Happened

The day before Laura made landfall, the staff of the Children's Home in Sulphur safely evacuated all of the children in southwest Louisiana to the organization's Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center in north Louisiana.

This facility serves as an evacuation center for the south Louisiana programs. 

"While the eye of Laura passed over Methodist Children's Home of Southwest Louisiana, the hurricane did minimal damage to our facilities," says Rick Wheat, President of the Methodist Children's Home. "Still, it will not be possible to provide residential care for children until several key pieces are back in place. We quickly realized returning to Sulphur will not be possible until next year, and we admitted the children into Louisiana Methodist Children's Home in Ruston. We then worked with partners all across the state to free up our facility for use as a support center for disaster recovery."

What's Next

The Louisiana Conference stands committed to helping the people and communities recover from the life-changing trauma of the storm, no matter how long the recovery will take. 

"I think one of the clearest differences between this disaster and previous storms to affect Louisiana is its sheer geographical size," Burleigh says. "We know it will be years before much of the area recovers. And, for a variety of reasons, this disaster isn't receiving the national attention that others have. And that just means we will have to do more work with fewer resources. But I have so much faith in the good people of Louisiana and the servant spirit within the United Methodist Church. The work will be hard, and it will be long, but with the help of God, we will persevere and overcome the hardships."

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