By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Feb. 7, 2008 – LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS)
United Methodists are helping communities in four states recover from a series of tornadoes that killed at least 57 people in one night.
A rare midwinter storm spawned the tornadoes that struck the U.S. South Feb. 5, flattening homes and businesses. Alabama, Arkansas and Kentucky all suffered fatalities, with Tennessee experiencing the highest death toll at 32, according to news reports.
Bethpage (Tenn.) United Methodist Church is collecting donations to help pay for the funeral of a young mother, Karey Beth Stowell, whose infant was ripped from her arms during the deadly rampage. The infant was found and taken to the hospital and is doing well, according to the Rev. James R. Hewgley. Another family in his congregation lost grandparents in the storm.
The church also is serving as a drop-off site for donations to storm victims. “We have a big parking lot, 22 acres, and we can handle big trucks while many other areas are blocked by debris,” Hewgley said.
Students reach out
Two United Methodist churches in Tennessee were damaged, but Bill Carr, disaster relief coordinator in the Memphis Annual (regional) Conference, said the church was “so blessed.”
Macedonia United Methodist Church in Arlington, Tenn., suffered minor damage, and Andrews Chapel United Methodist Church had moderate damage, Carr said.
Many other denominations were not so lucky, he said, citing Baptist-related Union University in Jackson, Tenn., as one of the places heavily damaged. Students were trapped in collapsed dormitories, but no one was killed.
United Methodist-related Lambuth College in Jackson, Tenn., reached out to students and faculty from Union.
“I want to thank all our faculty, staff and students who have volunteered to help Union,” said R. Fred Zuker, president of Lambuth. “I am especially grateful to those students who prepared rooms and stood by to welcome any Union students who sought refuge on our campus. This effort is indicative of our students’ character and their generosity of spirit.”
The Rev. Thomas Bullock, pastor of Dyer United Methodist Church, and his wife, Betty, were hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator they were using after the storms knocked out electricity. Both were expected to be released from the hospital Feb. 7, Carr said.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is working with the areas affected by the storm and has sent out some emergency grants, said the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR’s domestic disaster coordinator.
Checks for relief may be dropped in church collection plates or mailed directly to UMCOR at P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Write “UMCOR Advance #901670, Super Tuesday Tornadoes” on the memo line of the check.
Credit-card donations may be made by calling (800) 554-8583 or by clicking on any of the “Give Now” links online at http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umcor.
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.