Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Much of the state of Texas has suffered from the effects of Hurricane Harvey. News images have shown devastating losses in communities all along the Texas coast, Houston, and inland areas stretching all the way to Bastrop. In some areas, the rainfall and flooding continue.
Thousands of people have lost their homes, tens of thousands have been displaced, and the damage to property is immeasurable. Our communities will take months, perhaps even years, to rebuild.
Within our Rio Texas Conference, communities such as Rockport, Aransas Pass, Port Aransas, Fulton, Portland, and LaGrange have been especially hard hit. Along with the communities impacted by the flooding, many of our churches have also been damaged.
Recovery efforts have not yet fully begun because crews are still clearing enough debris and power lines to make some areas accessible. As the disaster passes, the recovery begins.
As United Methodists, it is part of our calling to reach out to those who are suffering and in need. Our Disaster Response Team has already begun deploying Early Response Teams to communities in the Coastal Bend under the leadership of Eugene Hileman. They are equipped with flood buckets, hygiene kits, blankets, tools and equipment provided by your generosity. United Methodist early responders are not always the first to arrive, but they are often the last to leave because we are committed to serving as long at takes to rebuild lives, to rebuild homes, to rebuild communities. Because of the scope of this disaster, we will all need to pull together to reach out. We must hold those who have lost so much close to our hearts.
People are asking, "What can I do to help?"
First, we solicit your prayers. Pray for those who grieve, who are disconnected from their families, and who face uncertainty. Pray for first responders, community leaders, police, firefighters, EMT’s, troops, and others. Pray for the thousands of volunteers who will descend upon the Coastal Bend to lend a hand in restoring these communities.
Second, financial generosity is vital when responding to this scale of need. There will be a time and place for specific material donations, but our response teams need the immediate flexibility that financial gifts make possible to purchase needed supplies and materials. Your generous gifts make a difference.
I am issuing a special appeal to the churches of the Rio Texas Conference. I ask that our churches take up a special offering this Sunday and direct it to Rio Texas Conference Disaster Response Fund – Conference ADVANCE #2057.
The dollars given to this fund will go directly to relief and recovery. With your donations, we will partner with The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to sustain this relief effort for the many months ahead. They will allow us to offer immediate relief and to partner with Volunteers in Mission (VIM) and UMCOR for long-term response.
In addition to sharing this appeal in churches, I also ask that you share the appeal via email and social media. Individuals can give online at riotexas.org/give and have their gift applied to their church’s giving toward the Conference Advance.
Also, please review the information below for more ways that you can assist with the recovery effort. We especially need certified Early Responders. If you have not been trained, there are upcoming training opportunities listed here.
Thank you for your desire to help, your willingness to serve, and for your generous response.
Yours in Christ,
Robert Schnase, Bishop
The Rio Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church