Disaster responders are at it again!


By Dan Steska

Why would someone travel hundreds of miles to a very small town in southern Missouri in the heat of August to work on moldy sheet rock and rotted floors? How does anyone adequately thank the unselfish responders who generously give of their time, resources, and energies to selflessly minister to survivors who have experienced the loss of everything in their lives? It seems rather trite to say, “It’s a God thing,” but it really is! Serving those who are lost, lonely, and afraid is exactly the ministry Jesus had in mind when he referred to serving the “least of these.” 
The flood-ravaged town of Fremont, Missouri recently experienced the love of Jesus Christ. The Salvation Army, the Red Cross, the Mennonites, the Baptists, Convoy of Hope, and the United Methodists were all on hand to meet the needs. Some provided shelter; some provided food and water; some scraped the mud out of the homes; the United Methodists helped rebuild!
When the call went out to our Disaster Responders throughout the Missouri Annual Conference, you responded! Dan Steska, the Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, received multiple calls and emails. Pastors and lay members from numerous churches were asking, “How can we help?” Within a few days we had teams “on the ground” who were cleaning yards, raking, and loading debris.
Karen Kattner, from the West Plains UMC, led a team that went up and down the street, from yard to yard, doing backbreaking work. Karen said, “Hey, I live on a farm and there isn’t much I can’t do.” Teams from Cabool UMC and Cornerstone UMC in O’Fallon jumped in and began the rebuilding of a person’s home adopted by the conference. Melina, the owner,  had lost everything and was living in a small camper next to her empty house with a garden hose for running water. When she saw our volunteers at work she said, “I cried last night. I kept going in and saying thank you, thank you, thank you.”
There is a growing wave of new Disaster Response teams, in both large and small churches in various parts of the state. Many are trained in roof tarping, debris removal, rebuilding, and perhaps most importantly, Spiritual and Emotional Care for the survivor.         Personal care in the form of listening with the heart, empathy, prayer, and encouragement provide the beginning of healing and faith renewal. This is a fundamental ministry of the church and provides a major step in strengthening the hope of a survivor. 
If your church would like to learn more about the development of a disaster response ministry, please contact Dan Steska at the Office of Creative Ministries, steska@umom.com.