Disaster Response Academy Aims to Equip Volunteers When Disaster Strikes

Disaster Response Academy Aims to Equip Volunteers When Disaster Strikes

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Disasters don’t schedule appointments, which is why the team behind the upcoming Disaster Response Academy is making it easier than ever to be prepared when a disaster eventually makes its way to your community.

The Disaster Response Academy is a 4-day event, Jan. 29 – Feb. 1, 2020, that seeks to prepare attendees with all of the information and training they need to assist in the immediate and long-term cleanup process after a disaster strikes.

Taking place at Trinity United Methodist Church in Little Rock, the event is a partnership between the Arkansas Conference Disaster Response and Volunteers in Mission Ministries, as well as the United Methodist Church’s national UMCOR ministry.

“The next disaster will strike at any time. Our goal in presenting this academy is to enhance Disaster Response Ministry by building capacity and capability for response and recovery,” said Janice Mann, co-coordinator for the Arkansas Conference Disaster Response and Volunteers in Mission Ministries.

The Academy will focus on four main areas of disaster recovery, including the local church’s response; early response to disasters; long-term recovery; and the importance of local church, district and conference leadership’s coordination when a disaster occurs.

“Participants will gain awareness of the different aspects of the ministry, be trained in how to respond appropriately and in the most effective ways, and have the opportunity to hear from experts in the field,” said Byron Mann, co-coordinator for the Arkansas Conference Disaster Response and Volunteers in Mission Ministries. “We will worship, network, and fellowship together, all while learning from the best of the best in the field.”

The Manns said that since the 2014 Central Arkansas tornado outbreak that tore through communities in Mayflower and Vilonia, they have had little to no breaks from disaster events, both large and small. In 2019, in addition to tornados and severe storm damage, the Manns were heavily involved in the immediate and longterm response to the historic Arkansas River flood, which devastated communities from Fort Smith to Pendleton.

One of the areas in which the Manns are needing more help is local volunteers. There is usually a shortage of volunteers when it’s time to assist a disaster zone. This is one of the many ways that the Academy can prepare local churches for future disasters.

“We hope and pray that every local church would consider sending at least one participant,” Janice said.

Besides training volunteers, the Manns are hoping that this Academy encourages local churches to start their own disaster response ministry. The more churches involved in some type of disaster response ministry, the easier it will be to mobilize volunteers and response to affected areas.

“Everyone should be more aware of this important ministry, who it helps, how it helps, and how it works in general. We hope and pray every local church will consider disaster response as a part of your church’s ongoing ministry.”

To sign up for the Disaster Response Academy, visit http://bit.ly/disaster-response-academy. You can also find a schedule of events on the sign-up page.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebrations From Around The Conference

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebrations From Around The Conference

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, held every year on the third Monday in January, is a celebration of the life and legacy of the civil rights icon of the same name.

MLK Day was observed for the first time in 1986 after a bill, signed by President Ronald Reagan and proposed by Rep. Katie Hill of Indiana, established the day as a federal holiday in 1983.

United Methodist Churches around the Arkansas Conference are celebrating this holiday, this year on Jan. 20, in different ways. Check out the list below to see where you can find a MLK Day event near you.

Christ of the Hills UMC – Hot Springs Village, AR

Christ of the Hills UMC in Hot Springs Village is hosting a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration service on Sunday, Jan. 19 at 3 p.m. in the Sanctuary. Pastors from Village, Mountainside and Haven UMC’s, as well as the Haven UMC Praise Team, are also participating in this event. All are welcome to join in this celebration. Christ of the Hills is located at 700 Balearic Road in Hot Springs Village, AR.

Highland Valley UMC – Little Rock, AR

Dr. Mark DeYmaz of the Mosaic Church will be here Sunday, Jan. 19 for the 8:30 and 10:50 worship services. He will be preaching on “Shine: Moving From Dreaming To Being.” All are welcome to join us in this time of celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. and Human Relations Sunday

Pulaski Heights UMC – Little Rock, AR

Pulaski Heights will be shuttling groups from their church to the MLK Day Marade in Little Rock on Jan. 20. Anyone who would like to march in the parade can meet at the Lee St. Parking Deck by 8 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 20. They will also be helping with a service project at Shorter College from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Volunteers will help with sorting books for children, community clean up, sewing projects, putting together hygiene kits, and more. Food donations and jacket/coat donations are encouraged.

Is your church celebrating MLK Day this year? Let us know by sending in your event details to cfc@arumc.org. If you have post-event pictures, please send those in as well!

GBHEM Scholarship Applications Now OpenApplication period closes March 5

GBHEM Scholarship Applications Now Open
Application period closes March 5

The fall 2020 application period for scholarships from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry is now open.

GBHEM’s Loans and Scholarships offers more than 70 scholarship programs through one general application. To be elegible for a scholarship, domestic applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Applicant must be an active, full member of The United Methodist Church for at least one year. Membership is determined by the date the applicant was confirmed and took membership vows with a United Methodist church. (Members of other Methodist denominations are not eligible.)
  • Applicants must be pursuing a degree program at an accredited institution within the U.S.
  • High school students may apply if they will be college students in the fall term.
  • Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale.
  • Applicants are required to be full-time students according to their school’s standards for the program for which they are enrolled.
  • A student may receive GBHEM scholarships for up to seven award years maximum. Renewal applicants will not be considered for an eighth academic year for a GBHEM scholarship.

International applicants may also apply. See the eligibility page for full requirements for scholarships. https://www.gbhem.org/loans-scholarships/scholarships/eligibility/

A list of scholarships can also be found here https://www.gbhem.org/loans-scholarships/scholarships/list-of-scholarships/

To apply, visit https://www.gbhem.org/loans-scholarships/scholarships/apply/ and click on the Apply Now button

The application period is open from Jan. 3, 2020 to March 5, 2020.

Q&A w/ Byron and Janice Mann

Q&A w/ Byron and Janice Mann

Byron and Janice Mann

How did you two get started volunteering with Disaster Response and Volunteers in Mission?

Our local church. Two things led us down the VIM/DR path: A mission trip to Mexico (where we got hooked on missions) and our church becoming a Red Cross shelter (where we got hooked on disaster response). Both of these happened in the late 1990s, early 2000s. We also connected with Don Weeks who was the VIM Coordinator at the time. We happened upon an announcement of an UMCOR Academy taking place in Mississippi, but we had to have a recommendation from Don to attend. He gave us the OK and gave us some classes he wanted us to attend while we were there. When we came back, we got wind of a new Disaster Response Committee forming at the conference level. We asked Don if we could sit in on that committee meeting. We left that meeting as Southwest District DR Coordinators. In 2011, the DR Coordinator and Chair of that conference committee had to step down and he and Don recommended us for the conference position. When Don retired in 2012, Byron applied for the VIM position, so now we do both. We absolutely love this ministry!

What is the purpose behind the Conference having a Disaster Response and VIM ministry?

Disaster Response is a direct ministry to persons in need to “alleviate suffering and be a source of help and hope.” When disaster strikes, those affected need help fast AND for the long haul. Disaster Response Ministries provides relief, response, and recovery assistance to individuals, families, and communities affected by a disaster. We lean heavily on UMCOR for training, consultation, and funding and on our other partners for sharing of information and resources. This ministry provides ongoing opportunity to serve and is a means to train and equip volunteers, teams and local churches for disaster response ministry.

United Methodist Volunteers in Mission’s goal is “to promote, encourage, and enable Christians to exemplify Christian Love in Action through short-term mission service locally, nationally and internationally.” This is done through consultation and training for teams and team leaders, by matching volunteers with mission opportunities, and by mobilizing volunteers when needs are identified.

Thinking back to when you first began volunteering, do you have an estimate of how many people you’ve been able to help assist through this ministry?

Oh my, no idea! Byron’s heart is in local missions. He has led so many local (within the state) mission journeys. Any church we have attended or pastored, he brings that passion. Wheelchair ramps, minor home repairs, and those types of projects – we have no idea how many he’s done. Then, add to that, the consultation and training he provides to teams serving out of state and in foreign missions; how would we even begin to number those assisted? In disaster response, starting with that local church opening a shelter during an ice storm, through the 2014 Central Arkansas tornado to the current recovery effort after the Arkansas River flood and flash flooding around the state – we lost count way back.
Who is someone that inspires you in your daily life, and why?

Both of our thoughts went to UMCOR. The staff and consultants and their dedication to local communities and conferences who have been affected by disasters. They not only support us in what we do but they also inspire us in our work, and the friendships we have developed mean the world to us. Our counterparts in other conferences are right there also as are our core team members here in Arkansas.

What are your most essential needs at this time to help your ministry succeed?

For Disaster Response, we need volunteers, local church involvement in disaster response ministry, and engagement when disaster strikes. We hope that every local church will consider disaster response as an ongoing ministry of their church.

For VIM – sharing your stories of mission: local, domestic, international – there’s a place on our website to do so (https://arumc.org/our-ministries/vim-and-dr/volunteers-in-mission/resources/). Your stories inspire others and provide ideas and potential opportunities for others to serve and for more needs to be met.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned through this ministry?

In Disaster Response, the importance and blessing of partners – partners being volunteers, local churches, the conference staff, our counterparts in other conferences, UMCOR, and other response organizations and government on the local and state levels. Those who have been around us know the biggest blessing we get is seeing all the walls come down and everyone there doing the same thing for the same reason after disaster strikes.

Also, the reality that we can’t do everything for everyone affected. We’ve also learned how to be good stewards of the resources we have by prioritizing, vetting, and seeking out the most vulnerable when providing assistance – the last the least and the lost.

Hope for Healing

Hope for Healing

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

As 2019 seems to leave just as quickly as it arrived, I’m left thinking about everything that took place this year and what will inevitably occur in 2020.

This past year was a rough one for many of us in the United Methodist Church. Of course, everyone knows what happened in February in St. Louis, so I’m not going to spend time reopening a wound that has yet to even begin to heal.

Rather than reminisce on the darkness of 2019, I want to look forward to the light of 2020. Or rather, my hope for the light in 2020.

While a vocal group of people sees a split in the church as an inevitability, there are also many people in our church, voices that often don’t get as much media coverage, seeking reconciliation from our past fights and looking for ways that we can stay together, both physically and spiritually.

I have hope that a message of unity and love will break through the division and hate that seems determined to cast a heavy cloud over 2020.

I hope that all of us, no matter which side of the argument we fall on, can remember that, despite our differences and strongly held convictions, we are still sisters and brothers in Christ. We are still called to love one another with the same love that Christ so graciously extends to us.

The night that the final vote occurred in St. Louis, I posted the lyrics to the hymn “Blessed Assurance.” I found comfort in the lyrics, and I said then, as I still believe today, that I sometimes find deeper meaning in hymnals than I do in scripture.

So as I think about 2020, and I hold onto the hope for reconciliation and redemption, another famous hymn comes to mind.

Read the lyrics below, and I hope you’ll join me in praying — and hoping — for a peaceful and compassionate 2020.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

-“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” or
“The Immutable Basis for a Sinner’s Hope” by Edward Mote