Sept. 1, 2016
Dear Hyde Park Family,
Back in 2013, historic flooding of the Little Sioux River in northwest Iowa devastated a small town of 5,000 people called Cherokee, where I lived and served for eight years prior to returning last summer. 200 homes were affected, as waters rushed into basements and main floors, instantly turning contents into a mixture of mud and backed-up sewage.
I learned a lot about the people of Cherokee, Iowa, and about humanity in general. In the face of tragedy, the human spirit rises to the challenge. People tap into an inner fortitude they may not know they had, and they learn to join in solidarity to tackle hardships together. It’s why neighbors stepped out to help their neighbors, and that is what compelled my prior congregation to deploy work teams to help residents muck out their basements, even though those same church members did not have electricity or running water themselves.
I also learned about the swift, generous efficiency of the United Methodist denomination. Within 48 hours after the river crested, a large trailer arrived at the Cherokee Fire Station to drop off dozens and dozens of “flood buckets”: 5-gallon resealable buckets filled with all the supplies needed to begin cleanup and recovery. Within two hours of their arrival, all of the buckets were gone, scooped up by residents and our work teams. And during the following six weeks of sluggish, steady recovery, dozens more buckets continued to trickle in from out of state.
I had often heard about these buckets, but had never really witnessed their power until that year. Yes, they served a practical and timely function, giving people tangible resources when they needed them most. But it was their intangible impact that I had not yet realized.
Those buckets were a sign that they were not alone. Even in the midst of tragedy, there was a denomination that was ready to respond and journey with them. And there were people who cared for them. The buckets were not assembled by some company or packaged by some machine. Each item was fully donated by some United Methodist church member somewhere in the country, hand packed with great care, blessed by prayer and personally deployed to make God’s love real.
In other words, each bucket was a sign that God was with them.
This is why, in the wake of the recent flooding in Louisiana, causing damage that most estimates say exceeds even Hurricane Katrina, I am not surprised by the response of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Already, they have “boots on the ground,” working in partnership with other agencies and churches to help people in crisis.
And I am very pleased that the Bishop’s Office of the Florida Annual Conference, has put forth a challenge for every United Methodist Church in Florida to contribute to a goal of donating 1,850 cleaning buckets for the people of Louisiana.
And that’s why I feel so compelled to extend that challenge to you.
Last Sunday, we provided 50 empty cleaning buckets with lids for folks to pick up and fill with the contents directed by UMCOR (find the list here). By mid-morning, we were out of buckets, and a member of our facilities team went to our local Lowe’s, where the manager sold us buckets and lids for $1.00 apiece in solidarity with the cause. By the end of the morning, nearly 100 buckets were taken.
This Sunday, we will have more buckets for people to pick up, or you can certainly purchase the buckets and lids yourself. We ask that you fill those buckets with the contents that are directed by UMCOR (find the list here) and bring them to the church. We are receiving completed buckets between now and Monday, Sept. 12, so that on Tuesday, Sept. 13, we can deliver them to the semi-truck at First United Methodist Church Lakeland for departure to Louisiana.
And of course, financial contributions are welcome. Make your checks payable to the church and designated for “Flood Relief.” Each cent you contribute goes directly to help a person in need.
Time and again, you have demonstrated yourselves to be a generous, compassionate people. My thanks to you echoes that of Paul to the Christians in Corinth: “Your ministry of this service to God’s people isn’t only fully meeting their needs but it is also multiplying in many expressions of thanksgiving to God.”
Thanks be to God, indeed.
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist