Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Ronda Cordill: How UMVIM Disaster Response Teams Work

Today’s post is by Ronda Cordill. Ms. Cordill is the UMVIM Coordinator for the Western Jurisdiction. This post is the second in a series about short-term mission in The United Methodist Church.

There are many ways Volunteer in Mission (VIM) teams serve.  They:
  •  Construct of homes, churches, schools and clinics worldwide.
  •  Serve in outreach ministries to people who are homeless, hunger, or in poverty.
  •  Provide medical and dental needs.
  •  Assist with programs for children and youth.
  •  Teach vocational skills or children’s education.
  •  Help in disasters both through Early Response Teams (ERT) and Long-Term Recovery (LTR) Teams

After Hurricane Katrina, leaders in The United Methodist Church saw all the devastation caused by the hurricane, but they did not see the church being involved in the disaster response. At that time, each type of disaster response by churches was specialized. For example, the Baptist are known for feeding programs, the Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) do donations management, and the United Methodist were best known for their Case Management.

In response to the church’s request to do more, the leaders of UMCOR and UMVIM met together at Mr. Sequoyah in Arkansas. There, they developed and signed a covenant on how they would work together. At that time, UMVIM teams served hurricane recovery sites to assist with rebuilding homes. Through this new collaboration, the Early Response Team was developed as a specialized UMVIM team.

So how does this all fit into disaster response ministry? There are 5 phases of a disaster. They are:  Readiness, Rescue, Relief, Recovery, and then Review. These phases are related by the “Rule of 10.” If a disaster lasts 1 day, the rescue phase is 10 times longer, or 10 days, and the recovery phase is 10 times that, or 100 days. Readiness describes preparations before a disaster, and review happens at the end of the disaster response.

How does the church response in a disaster? During the readiness phase, UMCOR has developed the Connecting Neighbors program, which teaches individuals, churches, and communities how to be ready to work together in the event of a disaster. They develop disaster plans.

During the rescue phase, churches can set up shelters or feeding of survivors and volunteers.

Early Response Teams serve primarily in the relief phase, assisting survivors to start recover to a new life.

The recovery phase is the longest phase.  For example, in a flood where water has been in place for 30 days, this relief phase will last 300 days, and the recovery phase is 3000 days or more than 8 years.  This is where the Long-Term Recovery Teams work and will be there until recovery is completed.

The review phase is taking lessons learned and preparing for the next time. 

ERT Teams work with Disaster Response Coordinators of the Annual Conference where the disaster is located. They are trained by UMCOR, and after a disaster the ERT Teams primary role is to make the survivor’s home safe, secure, and sanitary. This is done through removing debris, tarping roofs after a hurricane or tornado, mucking out after flooding, and sifting ash after a fire, all with a listening presence as the survivors start to heal and rebuild their lives.

Long Term Recovery UMVIM Teams do rebuilding ministry, working on individual’s homes, churches, or schools that were damaged by disaster. They work with the Long-Term Recovery Organization of that community to assist with unmet needs. They also provide a caring ministry as the survivors continue to heal. Often there is a special connection with those families. As the team tells their story, they connect their church with the family. As the house gets completed, you will see the church gathering new furnishing and giving a “welcome home” celebration for that family. 

Disaster Response teams create networking between Conference Disaster Response Coordinators and UMVIM and other organizations such as VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters).  There is a strong connection between the survivors and the teams. Almost anyone can be a part of Disaster Ministry through so many ways.  One of my favorite sayings is for my UMVIM teams is “Bringing Love and Leaving Hope”

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