Ministry Matters

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Responding for the Long Haul

I couldn’t be more proud of the way that the churches of our Conference not only responded to the Eastertide storms in our state but have, throughout the summer, kept responding. It is one thing to respond in the heat of a crisis; it is another thing to keep on responding for the long haul. Nancy Cole and Emily Nelms are leading us in wonderful ways.

One of the most exciting events I have witnessed in my entire time of ministry has been Camp Noah. In two of our towns, more than more than fifty volunteers sat with children wrapped in homemade quilts listening to each child’s perspective of the April 27 storms. The Mountain Lakes District and Southwest District hosted Camp Noah for nearly 100 children in an effort to help them grieve their losses of homes, pets, and family members and recover.

By following the Biblical story of Noah and the Ark from disaster to redemption, the children identify their own loss by using arts and crafts to share their story. Children in both camps became more expressive in their art and play as the week progressed. Children’s art activities displayed their storm stories, their safe place and their wall of remembrance.

In the Mountain Lakes District, Camp Noah was held at Robertson Chapel UMC in Rainsville. Forty-three children and twenty-five volunteers participated from the surrounding areas of Piedmont, Henagar, Sylvania and Geraldine. The Site Coordinator was Aimee Kilgo from New Oregon UMC, and Rev. Christopher Cone served as their Noah for the week.

The Southwest District’s Camp Noah was held at St. Mark UMC in Northport. Fifty children participated, while thirty volunteers assisted. The Site Coordinator was Susan Clements, a member of St. Mark UMC, and the site’s Noah was Nathan Kenny, the intern for the Southwest District. Children attending were from the West End, Forest Lake, Alberta and Holt neighborhoods of Tuscaloosa, Cottondale and Coaling. Childcare was provided before and after Camp Noah.

“As Methodists we always seek ways to show God’s love and share God’s grace with others. Through Camp Noah, members of the United Methodist Churches of the Southwest District reminded children that God is with them, even in the midst of a storm. Our volunteers touched the lives of children and their families, and I know that God will continue to use this ministry to bless many others in His name,” said Dr. Bill Brunson, Superintendent of the Southwest District.

Nancy and Emily are now coordinating volunteers from nearly two hundred churches from all over the nation who will continue to come to Alabama and work with us in the recovery. The Southwest District recently opened Camp Coker, a permanent housing and staging area for volunteers.

As I say, the response to this disaster, by our churches, has been one of the most inspiring moments in my ministry. In responding to the needs of others, we have felt God responding to us, giving us creative, faithful ways to reach out in the name of Christ. Thanks be to God!

Will Willimon