(Left) A view from a Washington Army National Guard helicopter shows the aftermath of the mudslide more than a week after it occurred in Oso, Wash. (Photo by Spc. Matthew Sissel, 122D PAOC). (Right) The 2014 Carlton Complex wildfire, near the Methow River valley, Okanogan County. (Photo by Jason Kriess, SFC, Washington National Guard).

By The Rev. Stan Norman

UMCOR grant of $10,000 is helping with immediate spiritual, physical and financial needs of those impacted by the mudslide through Arlington, Darrington UMCs.

Another UMCOR grant of $10,000 will be used to help wildfire victims through Pateros Community, Methow Valley UMCs.

Question: Is Earth, Wind & Fire an award-winning American band, or the 2014 disaster response season in the Pacific Northwest?

Answer: Yes!

In March, the earth moved and tragedy struck near Oso, Wash. A massive mudslide killed more than forty people and destroyed about 40 homes. Oso is flanked by United Methodist Churches in Arlington and Darrington. The smaller community of Darrington was particularly hard-hit by the mudslide because all of the children who were killed, or who lost family members in the slide, attended Darrington schools. Pastors Deena Jones of Arlington United and Sandi McCaulley of Darrington immediately began to work with other pastors to provide spiritual care to the victims of the slide and to their communities in general. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) provided an emergency grant of $10,000 to help meet the immediate physical and financial needs of those impacted by the mudslide. This money was distributed to the Arlington and Darrington United Methodist Churches.

By the end of May, the Oso Mudslide disaster had moved from the response phase into the relief phase. A Long Term Recovery Organization (LTRO) was established to lead the communities through what is sure to be several years of recovery. Case management is key during disaster recovery. Trained and experienced case managers walk side-by-side with families to help them return to “normal.” Spiritual care for caregivers is also very important during the relief and recovery phases of a disaster. First responders, pastors, chaplains, and others begin to wear out as they pour themselves into helping others. If you responded to this disaster by donating to the Pacific Northwest Conference Disaster Response Fund, this is where you come in! Using a combination of UMCOR funds and Conference funds, United Methodists will meet the long-term unmet needs of the victims of the mudslide for the next several years. We will be there for the long-haul, it’s what we do. Thank you for your generosity!

We barely had time to get through Annual Conference in Puyallup before the fires started in Eastern Washington. The largest wildfire in Washington state history, the Carlton Complex, burned its way north from Pateros and Brewster, Wash. into the Methow Valley, threatening Twisp and Winthrop. The Carlton Complex has burned for a full month and is not expected to be fully contained until this Friday, August 15th. Fortunately, only one life has been lost in this fire and the other wildfires burning in Eastern Washington. However, more than 300 homes have been destroyed, including the United Methodist parsonage in Pateros.

UMCOR came through again with a $10,000 emergency grant and that money will be distributed through the Pateros Community United Methodist Church and the Methow Valley United Methodist Church to provide for the immediate needs of those affected by the wildfires and as seed money for the LTROs to begin case management. By the way, the fire not only took the parsonage at Pateros, it scorched the side of the Pateros church, and came within 50 feet of the church and parsonage at Methow Valley!

We will be using the Conference Disaster Response Fund to provide for the immediate and long-term needs of Pastor Phil Smith and his family who lost their home and all of its contents when the Pateros parsonage was destroyed. We take care of our own. Thank you again for your amazing generosity. United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) Early Response Teams (ERTs) are on standby to help the affected communities clean-up and rebuild.

If the disaster response “rule of tens” is accurate, recovery from these massive wildfires will take almost ten years: 30 days of response, 300 days of relief, 3000 days of recovery.

The Carlton complex fire had been burning for less than ten days when the wind blew through. On July 23rd, a very powerful windstorm clobbered Northeastern Washington and the Idaho Panhandle. Particularly hard-hit was a small mobile home community north of Spokane called Riverside. Forty mobile homes were destroyed by wind damage and falling trees in Riverside. Riverside is a low-income community. One rescue worker was overheard saying, “These people had nothing before the storm, now they have less than nothing.”

United Methodists from Green Bluff Community United Methodist Church are responding through a community service organization of sixteen churches called New Hope Resource Center. Immediate needs such as emergency power, clean-up, temporary shelter, and food are being provided. This disaster will move very quickly through the three phases because winter is coming, and the forty families who lost their mobile homes will need replacement homes in just three months. We have been asked to help with the case management needs in Riverside.

Earth, wind, and fire have spread across the Pacific Northwest, spanning three districts and affecting the lives of thousands. United Methodists have responded with compassion and generosity…and with prayers. With God’s help we’ll get through this, and be stronger churches and communities as a result. What’s next? It’s only August…

The other Earth, Wind & Fire? They’re playing in Woodinville, Wash., on August 23rd.

The Rev. Stan Norman is the UMCOR disaster response team coordinator for the PNWUMC.


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