The following is an update from Susan McGhee, our presbyter for Ohio Valley, about the ongoing work and help being done in Southern Indiana, including ways we can help at this time:
March 4, 2012My Dear Friends,
I am in Seymour in the wee hours of this Sunday morning; last night I met with staff and volunteers from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (including our own Beth Snyder and Eric Moore). Later this morning we head into the areas that have been most heavily hit. Our first stop is Mt Lebanon Presbyterian Church, where I and the folks from PDA will be present for worship. From there our plan is to go to Henryville. The Revs. Jack Cormack and Beth Walden-Fisher were both able to spend some time in that community on Saturday. They met with church members and session members, and offered pastoral care and support. Jack reports that the church has suffered some damage - part of the roof has been blown away and several of the windows are out. He and the clerk of session and others were able to retrieve some of the treasures: communion ware, hand bells, hymnals, church records and office equipment. I am so grateful for their presence there. PDA and I will be the Presbyterian presence there today.
Committee on Ministry Moderator Deborah Fortel and I have been in touch with pastors in our hardest hit areas; there have been a few deaths of people related to our members. Some folks have lost their homes, or have homes that have been severely damaged. Our pastors are doing an amazing job, keeping up with their flock, and checking on one another. Deborah and I are both deeply moved by the compassion and competence that we see all around.
I have received phone calls and emails from our friends at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville; they are ready to leap over the river and help however needed. I have received phone calls and emails from my colleagues in the synod and beyond; they have been a constant source of love and support. I have received phone calls and emails from folks throughout the presbytery; you are standing by.
On my way to Seymour yesterday afternoon, I was able to participate in a conference call sponsored by Indiana VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster). The call included representatives from first-responder agencies, including FEMA and the Red Cross. I was so impressed as I learned about the assistance already being offered on the scene, by people who know their job well. A few things that I need to share from that phone call: 1) These agencies do not need volunteers coming into the community at this time. In fact, it is not possible to get into Henryville unless one can prove residency or has special credentials (which Beth and Jack had). These agencies are able to mobilize volunteers trained in disaster recovery; others attempting to come into the community simply make it harder for those who need to be there to get in. 2) Donations of goods (clothing, water, etc.) are also not needed now, and also can hamper early relief efforts.
I know that you are wondering what you can do to help. Toward that end, I have appointed Elders Mike and Jean Beaver to serve as our Presbytery's Disaster Response Coordinators. They will meet with PDA representatives and me this afternoon, and throughout the week, to receive training and support. We will let you know when and how to be in touch with them. For now, I ask simply for your prayers as they begin this important ministry. PDA volunteers will be present for our Assembly at Martinsville on Thursday; they will bring greetings and will be on hand during the lunch hour.
The time will come when we will need volunteers to help with cleanup, etc - and we will, in time, need donations of certain items. We will let you know - I promise! You Hoosiers are such generous folk, and we know that you will rise to the occasion. So for now, I ask you to do four things (not necessarily in this order): 1) breathe, 2) hug someone you love, 3) pray and pray again, 4) stand by.
In life and in death, and in all the circumstances of life, we belong to God. And we belong to each other. Thanks be to God for these blessed connections.
Peace and all good,
The Rev'd. Susan C. McGhee
The Presbytery of Ohio Valley