"After a series of deadly tornadoes tore through seven Southern and Midwest states on Tuesday, April 29, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) remains in contact with affected United Methodist annual (regional) conferences to ascertain local needs and next steps.
“I’ve been in touch with conference disaster response coordinators in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Louisiana and Iowa,” reported Greg Forrester, UMCOR’s assistant general secretary for U.S. Disaster Response. “A total of 30 tornadoes were reported across these seven states, with the most severe damage in Arkansas and Oklahoma.”
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), at least 19 people died in the storms, 16 of them in Arkansas; some 53,000 people remained without electrical power; and seven shelters had been opened in Arkansas and one in Oklahoma to attend to people displaced by the tornadoes.
The hardest hit towns were Mayflower (pop.: 2,300) and Vilonia (pop.: 3,800) in Arkansas, where a total of 10 of the deaths occurred, and Quapaw (pop.: 900) in Oklahoma, where two more people died and, according to FEMA, about a dozen homes were destroyed.
Bishop Gary E. Mueller of Arkansas met Wednesday morning with his conference disaster response team. He added that in addition to the loss of life and homes, the Vilonia United Methodist Church and parsonage suffered extensive damage.
Bishop Robert Hayes, Jr., of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OKIMC), expressed gratitude for prayers for all who have been affected by the storms. The Rev. David Wilson, district superintendent for the OKIMC, said that Quapaw is home to 10 Native American tribes.
How you can help?
While assessments proceed, Forrester asked for continued prayers for survivors and the efforts of first-responders, as well as for the safety of all those in the path of new storms anticipated across the U.S. midsection later today. Louisiana and Tennessee are in the crosshairs of risk, he said.
“You can help UMCOR respond to this powerful event by keeping all those affected in your prayers; by giving to UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response; and by working with your church community to provide UMCOR relief supplies, especially health kits,” Forrester said.
He reminded volunteers and all people of goodwill to not self-deploy to the affected areas but, rather, to remain attentive to the directions of conference United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) as to when conditions are stable enough and the conferences ready to receive on-the-ground assistance.
We may live in Kentucky but John Wesley said the world is our parish. I live in Ledbetter but God hears the prayers of people from all over the world. So join me as we pray for those who have been affected by the storm and when the time comes may we respond not with just our prayers and our money but with our labor."
The UMCOR Advance for these disasters is: Advance #901670. The most current instructions for Health Kits as posted on the UMCOR web site are listed here:
Health kits provide basic necessities to people who have been forced to leave their homes because of human conflict or natural disaster. Health kits are also used as learning tools in personal hygiene, literacy, nutrition, and cooking classes.
Health Kit Value: $12 per kit
Assembly & Shipping Instructions
Health Kit Materials
· 1 hand towel
- 15" x 25" to 17"x 27";
- Kitchen, cleaning, and microfiber towels not acceptable.
· 1 washcloth
· 1 comb
- Comb needs to be sturdy and at least 8" long;
- No pocket combs or picks please;
- Rattail combs and combs without handles are acceptable.
· 1 metal nail file or nail clippers
- No emery boards or toenail clippers please.
· 1 bath-size soap
- 3 oz. and larger sizes only;
- No Ivory soap due to moisture content;
- Do not remove from original packaging.
· 1 toothbrush
- Adult size only;
- Do not remove from original packaging.
· 6 adhesive bandages
- ¾" to 1"-size;
- Common household Band-Aids.
· 1 plastic bag
- One-gallon size sealable bag only.
· $1.00 to purchase toothpaste
Set the $1.00 for toothpaste aside to be included in a separate envelope. Lay out the hand towel flat on a table. Lay the washcloth flat in the center of the hand towel. Place all remaining items on top of the washcloth. Fold over the sides of the hand towel to cover all of the items. Fold over one end of the hand towel so that it covers all of the items. Grasp the bundle of items tightly and roll over the remainder of the hand towel tightly. Place the tightly rolled bundle in the plastic bag. Remove as much air as possible and seal the bag.
· All items must be new.
· Do not wash any of the items as they will be considered used.
· Please remove all packaging, unless otherwise specified.
· All emergency kits are carefully planned to make them usable in the greatest number of situations. Since strict rules often govern product entry into international countries, it is important that kits contain only the requested items, nothing more.
· Do not include any personal notes, money, or additional material in the kits. These things must be painstakingly removed and will delay the shipment.
· UMCOR is now purchasing toothpaste in bulk to be added to health kits before shipping to ensure that the product does not expire before they are sent. Do not put single dollar bills in each kit. Collect all money for toothpaste and shipping, then place it in a separate envelope and send along with the kit donations.
Packing & Shipping Instructions
· Box Weight: Each packed box cannot exceed 66 pounds.
· Complete 2 packing lists: one for your records and one to put on the shipping box.
· Paste the shipping label / packing list on the outside of each box you send. The shipping list helps the depot to quickly process kits.
· Processing & Shipping Costs: Please enclose an envelope containing at least $1 for each kit you send. This donation enables kits to be sent to areas in need. For Cleaning Buckets, please enclose $1.50.