Bishop Middleton sends the following letter from Bishop Robert Schnaze of the Missouri Conference. Offerings to assist in this and the other recent tragedies can be sent to the church designated U.S. Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #3021326.
"Among those killed in the devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri, were several United Methodists, and every United Methodist Church in the area has members who have lost their homes. All our pastors and church staff are safe. We lost two church buildings, including St. Paul United Methodist Church (a large, strong, vibrant congregation with an average attendance of close to 1000), and we lost the District Superintendent's Office. Several other churches and parsonages received more limited damage. The hospital and five of the seven schools in Joplin were nearly completely destroyed.
"The Missouri Conference Disaster Response team has been active and effective from the earliest hours, and many of our churches have sent trained First Responder teams. Tom Hazlewood from UMCOR was on the ground in Joplin within 24 hours. Many of you have generously offered funds directly to the Missouri Conference and others have expressed your intention of supporting the UMCOR Spring Storms appeal. All of your gifts are appreciated. In addition many have expressed their active interest in sending VIM teams to the area. Please refrain from doing so during the immediate days ahead since only highly trained and professional teams are on-site at this time. However, we shall covet your help during the weeks and months to come.
"The city of Joplin was named after Rev. Harris Joplin, an early Methodist preacher who settled there in 1839. For years, he hosted people in his home and led them in worship, prayer, and singing. His ministry was one of hospitality in the truest sense, and he used his own humble dwelling as a tool for ministry. As far as I know, the building he used no longer exists, but the church community he founded provided the seeds from which dozens of area congregations have sprouted. All of us who are Missouri United Methodists are to some degree the fruit of his ministry.
"Tornadoes and hurricanes and floods and fires can take away our beloved and sacred places in a moment's time, but the love of God that binds us to another is not nearly so vulnerable. God's persistent and persevering love causes us to reach out to help a neighbor and to embrace strangers and to assist one another in the rebuilding of lives. The church is not the pile of lumber and bricks left after the destroying winds and rains; the church is the gathering of people standing above the rubble unified by the spirit of Christ to love and serve others. The church is the people counseling one another through unfathomable grief and loss. The church is people risking lives for their neighbors and opening their homes to strangers. The church is people across the state and nation and world praying and giving and preparing to offer their best and highest in service to help rebuild lives. The church is alive and vigorous and redeeming. It is grace in every gesture and love in every action. The church is the body of Christ doing the things in Jesus' name today that Jesus did.
"Thanks to you, United Methodists will rebuild in Joplin. On behalf of others of our colleagues whose areas have been affected by tornadoes and floods, I strongly encourage you to lift up the UMCOR Spring Storms appeal. Funds at UMCOR are extraordinarily low right now, and this severely limits our capacity to act quickly and effectively during times of tragedy. Your help is appreciated."
Bishop Jane Allen Middleton
Harrisburg Episcopal Area
303 Mulberry Drive, Suite 100
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050-3141
Phone: (717) 766-7871