Read Craig's recent account of delivering disaster relief supplies on behalf of the Memphis Conference
Rev. Robert Craig, executive director of Reelfoot Rural Ministries in the Memphis Conference, serves as the disaster response coordinator for the Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church, an area that includes the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences.
Ever wonder how disaster relief supplies donated in the Memphis Conference make their way to help survivors?
Every disaster and the resulting need is different. Distribution of donated supplies also depends on supplies on hand at UMCOR depots and warehouses.
UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) is the humanitarian relief and development arm of The United Methodist Church that operates under the auspices of the General Board of Global Ministries.
Rev. Robert Craig, executive director of Reelfoot Rural Ministries in the Memphis Conference, wears another hat as disaster response coordinator for the Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church that includes the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences.
Prior to the Memphis Conference’s organized appeal for supplies (Oct. 27 deadline) after Hurricanes Florence and Michael caused severe damage in the southeast in late September and early October, there were enough supplies already on hand for Craig to make a delivery in mid-October.
Below is Craig’s account of his mid-October trip that illustrates what all goes right (and wrong) on such a delivery mission:
The truck we originally rented on Thursday, Oct. 11, broke its suspension on Friday morning 15 miles from Nashville. A new truck and/or repairs would have taken too long. I opted to rent a trailer and offload supplies to share weight. (When the suspension broke, the load shifted, which required that all buckets be reloaded.)
Great United Methodist volunteers from Smyrna, Tennessee, showed up and helped me reload the trailer and the truck. I was on my way again about 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 12. I spent the night and delivered supplies to the United Methodist Disaster Relief Warehouse in Decatur, Alabama, on Saturday morning, Oct. 13.
While unloading at the warehouse, the Alabama West Florida Conference disaster response coordinator called and said supplies were needed “desperately.” He wanted them that same day (Saturday).
The earliest the warehouse could get a truck to load was Monday, which wasn’t going to work, so I changed out the truck I had (my third truck now). I returned to the warehouse, got loaded and left at 4 p.m.
I found a hotel room that night in Greenville, Alabama, where there was a mandatory curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The hotel helped me launder my clothes. Greenville was as far south as I could go and find a hotel room in the aftermath of the storms.
I arrived at Woodlawn United Methodist Church (UMC) in Panama City Beach, Florida, on Sunday morning, Oct. 14, and unloaded the donated supplies from the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences. Then it was straight back that Sunday to Reelfoot Rural Ministries in northwest Tennessee.
This trip was an incredible blessing for me. In the role of coordination and training, I have not had the opportunity to work with survivors in recent years. Almost immediately after my arrival in the Florida panhandle, I had the good fortune to interact with several survivors of the storm.
In fact, some of the church members working at Woodlawn UMC to distribute materials were greatly impacted personally by the hurricane. Other families pulled into the parking lot while we were still unloading the supplies. One family arrived in their four-wheel drive vehicle. It had a shattered windshield and caved-in hood. They had cut their way out of their community to gather supplies for themselves and their neighbors, many of whom were elderly.
The message from every survivor I encountered was similar. They were all glad to be safe and for their family members' safety. They all realized how low in importance their material possessions were compared to their loved ones' well being. This experience was a powerful reminder of why I first became involved in disaster ministry. This unexpected trip to the coast was a much needed means of God's grace in my life and I am immensely thankful for it.