The Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley, which includes churches in both Tuscaloosa and Birmingham in Alabama, reports on its website that “so far, we are very thankful that we have not heard of any deaths among our members, although we grieve along with all those in our communities who have lost loved ones. We have heard of many members whose homes were damaged, and we have heard of at least one church, Covenant in Tuscaloosa, that was heavily damaged.”
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has sent response teams to the affected regions, including to Mississippi, which also sustained tornado damage, and is sending financial contributions from One Great Hour of Sharing funds.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance reports it has received word of damage to these churches as a result of a series of storms this spring:
– In Tuscaloosa: First Presbyterian; Brown Memorial Presbyterian; Covenant Presbyterian; Korean Presbyterian; and Bethel (Northport);
– In Dellwood, Missouri: Northminster Presbyterian;
– In Mayfield, N.Y.: Mayfield Presbyterian.
Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), spoke in a video on the denomination’s website, encouraging Presbyterians to contribute to the relief efforts through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, which he called “one of the best-run disaster assistance funds anywhere on the planet.” People can make donations online, by calling (800) 872-3283, or by mailing a check to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700. Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700 (include the notation DR000015 on the check to support response to disasters in the United States.)
Parsons also encouraged Presbyterians to consider joining a volunteer work team in the months to come to assist in the rebuilding efforts.
“Down the road there’s going to come an appeal for folks to come down and actually do the work,” because whatever insurance settlements people receive are “never enough to put people’s houses back the way they were,” Parsons said.
“We’ll need some good, experienced, loving, tender, not always skilled labor from loving Presbyterians. I want you to be ready to be part of a work crew from your church to go down there. I’ve done it, our staff has done it, it’s one of the most rewarding experiences you can do in your life. These are our folks. These are your sisters and brothers in Christ who need our help.”
John Harrison, a commissioned lay pastor, preached Sunday at Fairfield Highlands church in Birmingham. He told the congregation that Christians are tested not just in disaster, but in their response to it. He is heartened by what he has seen.
“I have held hands and prayed with a first responder, a battle-hardened veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan as he wept openly, mourning the fact that his team, searching for survivors in one twisted pile of rubble after another, found no one alive,” Harrison said.
“And I have watched as a graduating nursing student, someone who was in my youth group not too many years ago, gave her time and energy to the victims of the storm.
“And I have seen car after car after car line up as armies of volunteers descended on them to unload donations – so much water that the local Wal-Mart sold out, so much food and soap and diapers and batteries that they broke a trailer! And I’ve seen these trailers, seven so far, hauled off directly to the hardest hit communities.”
That was part of Harrison’s answer to the question: “Where is God in all of this?”