By Rev. Sheila Miranda
One of the most rewarding parts of my Connectional Ministries work is my involvement with UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief). This past week, I participated in the GNW extended Cabinet’s one-day UMCOR training in Boise, Idaho. The event was led by UMCOR’s Training Program Manager, Angela Overstreet, out of the Nashville headquarters. The various roles of cabinet and conference staff were delineated in the morning session, and the afternoon session included hypothetical disaster scenarios across the Greater Northwest Area to practice response procedures. It was impressed upon us that disaster preparedness is critical for an effective response when disasters strike.
UMCOR has a reputation for being “one of the first in and the last out” of disaster situations. While the training represented the work of early disaster relief, Angela was also able to witness the recovery work of the Okanogan Long Term Recovery Group as she traveled to north central Washington for three home dedications on April 28-29. Dana and Kathy Bryson, PNW Disaster Relief Coordinators, were also in attendance; I was privileged to bring greetings on behalf of Bishop Cedrick Bridgeforth.
At the dedications, homeowners were emotional as they recalled their journeys from devastation to renewal. One homeowner said of his new home (which replaced a hexagonal log cabin that took him 19 years to construct), “It’s different, but it is perfect…it is perfect.”
The owner of a 1904 Douglas County grange building which was engulfed in fire, was happy to move into his new home on his property amid wheat fields. Feeling a connection to his land, he mused, “There is something about this piece of dirt.” Barry Hansen, construction manager and member of Conconully UMC, noted that the homeowner was involved throughout the rebuild process, including dealing with septic issues. He said, “Being a part of solving problems helps bond you to a new home.”
The work of the Okanogan Long-Term Recovery Group is nearing completion. It has rebuilt 46 homes since the 2014 fire. This group of homes replaces those destroyed by the fire of 2020 and represents the collaborative efforts of UMCOR, Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Mennonite Disaster Services, and AmeriCorps. Three homes are still to be completed and should be ready for dedication in the fall.
Rev. Sheila Miranda serves as Assistant for Connectional Ministries for the Inland and Seven Rivers Missional Districts of the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.