The Dec. 10 tornadoes brought down the roof and walls of Mayfield First UMC’s sanctuary and blew out windows. PHOTO: Courtesy of Mayfield First UMC Facebook page

The Dec. 10 tornadoes brought down the roof and walls of Mayfield First UMC’s sanctuary and blew out windows. PHOTO: Courtesy of Mayfield First UMC Facebook page

By Dan Curran

December 16, 2021 | ATLANTA

“For a long time, we’ve talked about how discipleship is forged in a crucible of suffering,” the Rev. Joey Reed, lead pastor at Mayfield First United Methodist Church in Kentucky, told CBS News when talking about the December 2021 tornadoes. “After that suffering is acknowledged…after we have mourned our losses and start to let go of the things that mean so much to us, we can move into a bright future where we are helping our neighbors.”

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is already taking action to make that bright future possible.

Mayfield, which is now well-known because of the dramatic images documenting the damage it sustained, is one of the communities in eight states devastated by the recent disaster. More than 60 tornado reports were recorded in Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois and Missouri on Friday night and Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

In the moments after the storm, Lara S. Martin, director of U.S. Disaster Response for UMCOR, was in contact with conference disaster response coordinators serving the impacted regional conferences. The CDRCs had each received training from UMCOR and were already responding to the situation.

As part of its mission, UMCOR supports its local partners with education, training, resources, volunteers and access to materials that help them lead disaster response and recovery efforts. The district DRC for the Mayfield area was onsite the day after the storms.

Days after the storm, at the request of the Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee-Western Kentucky conferences, UMCOR awarded solidarity grants to enable them to assist with the immediate needs of survivors, many of whom are now without food, shelter and clothing. These grants offer flexibility to the conferences in responding to needs as they emerge. In addition, as damage assessments are completed and recovery plans put in place, UMCOR is prepared to extend this response.

Signs of significant damage and debris in front of Mayfield First UMC in Mayfield, KY, after tornadoes roared through the town on Dec. 10, 2021. PHOTO: Courtesy of Mayfield First UMC Facebook page

“Based on the initial assessments and UMCOR’s experiences with hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Irma and Maria, we predict this will be a very long-term recovery effort,” said Martin. “When we say UMCOR is ‘early in, last out,’ it is because long after a storm has gone away, UMCOR is there providing the case management services survivors need to access government resources that enable them to rebuild their lives.”

“As search and recovery efforts are still ongoing, we encourage anyone interested in helping not to self-deploy but instead to wait for updates on how and when to engage,” Martin told UM News. “Until then, we invite continued prayer and the support of survivors through donations to Advance #901670. As rescue efforts shift to response, UMCOR stands ready to journey with the affected conferences from the chaos of this week’s disaster toward a holistic, multiyear, long-term recovery.”

Roland Fernandes, general secretary of UMCOR and the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, said UMCOR stands with the people in the tornadoes’ paths.

“We grieve alongside those who experienced sudden and deep loss in the aftermath of this weekend’s destructive storms — loss of life, loss of home, loss of community,” he said. “UMCOR remains steadfast in both prayer and support for the many states that are navigating immediate relief efforts and is ready to accompany communities on the long road toward healing.”

Rev. Reed, who with his wife took shelter in a closet in the basement of First United Methodist Church, said that during the time spent there he thought it “might be the last few moments of my life on this earth.” As they emerged from the church after the storm and saw the destruction, they realized they were blessed to be alive and awed by what God had seen them through.

UMCOR’s staff and network of volunteers are committed to helping people like Reed and his family who have lived through this harrowing experience.

Dan Curran, of Curran PR, is a consultant with UMCOR and Global Ministries.