Thank you to the many people who have responded to Bishop Deb’s appeal for the Flint Water Crisis.
For those of you who are still responding, thank you in advance for your efforts and donations. Keep it coming. Here is a link to how you can donate
Take this link to a previous story from MIConnect on the Flint Water Crisis and Bishop Deb’s visit to Flint.
As we have all been hearing, reading and understanding more about what lead to this crisis, what people are going through in the midst of it and what it will take to truly fix things, it is going to be a situation where our help is going to be needed not just for this short time, but for the long haul.
Long after the spotlight has gone from Flint, long after the news cycle has moved onto the next crisis, long after the politicians and movie stars have moved onto something or somewhere else, Flint is going to need our continued help. When we are truly in ministry with people we need to be in it for the long haul. That is how we truly help people, by staying as long as we are needed. That is how we truly help things to change, by staying around for the long road back from all that surrounds this crisis. It requires fortitude and the willingness to keep at it until things are the way they need to be. Ministry means being with people on the journey, and this means the entire journey no matter how long it takes.
In the book of Exodus, we read the story of how God journeyed with the people of Israel for forty years liberating them from slavery and then teaching them and helping them move toward their arrival in promised land. Jesus journeyed with the disciples for three years and then after his death and resurrection tells us that he is always with us. It is ministry for the long haul and it is about working together to change things from the way they are to the way that they need to be.
In 2014, when I was serving as the District Superintendent in Detroit, we experienced an epic flood of biblical proportions. Seventeen of our United Methodist churches and 19 church parsonages experienced significant water damage. The Michigan Area responded with prayers, and donations and by showing up and helping not just the churches but also the communities. What I learned during that time was how blessed we are by the connection of The United Methodist Church and how responsive you all are when there is a need. I also learned that recovering from a flood takes years and years. Water damage is insidious and especially for people who are already facing economic challenges, the road to recovery is long and arduous. It is now 18 months since that flood hit, and still the need continues for volunteers to assist people with clean up. Rev. Rebecca ( Becky) Wilson, a Deacon and staff member of the Detroit Renaissance District is leading the Northwest Detroit Flood Recovery Project a(known as NwDFRP) and she shared some thoughts with me as I was putting this blog together.
Rev. Becky told me that for many it is hard to imagine still needing assistance from a flood that happened 18 months ago. However for hundreds (perhaps thousands) of Detroit’s residents this is the reality. The NwDFRP has provided Disaster Case Management services to more than 150 households affected by the flood. Through financial support from UMCOR and other creative partnerships, the project is mucking out, sanitizing and rebuilding basements. The flood left homes without working furnaces and hot water heaters, with some residents facing a second winter without heat and hot water. Working with local companies, the NwDFRP faciliatates the installation of boilers, furnaces and hot water heaters.
United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has a reputation of being the “last ones out” after a disaster. Rev. Becky is working closely with UMCOR to extend funding for the project through the fall. She anticipates busy months ahead. Individuals and churches can help by sending volunteers and resources. If you want to help please contact Rev. Becky at Deacon.Beckyw@gmail.com
Rev. Becky also shared about a phone call she received last summer. A woman called the office, which is located in the Ellison Center of Second Grace UMC and said, “I heard that there was lady in a little building on Joy Road helping people, please tell me that’s you.” This elderly widow had a basement still full of wet debris and carpet almost one year after the flood. She asked if her breathing problems might be a result of the mold growing on the walls. Through the project her basement has been restored and so has her hope. She checks in with project staff periodically and shares that her health has improved as a result of the mold being removed. “We are in this for the long haul,” Rev Becky says. “There has not been a large scale recovery effort for the survivors of the August 11, 2014 flood, but the communities of northwest Detroit know that the United Methodist Church is here and committed to this important work.”
The same is true for Flint and the work that is being done there, coordinated by Pete Plum, who like Rev. Becky Wilson is working directly with the community and with the Crossroads District and the local UM churches of Flint.
Last week Ellen Degeneres made an incredible half million dollar donation to Spain Elementary School in Detroit. Spain is one of the many public schools that has no heat, a dirt floor in their gymnasium, no working technology for the students, and significant problems with their roof to name just a few of their challenges. Here is a link to watch this donation being revealed to the school principal, teachers and students.
This donation will go a long way to helping kids to learn, but what it is going to take to really fix our broken public school system is ministry for the long haul. And Detroit is not the only city in our state with broken schools, I only raise it as another example of the need for true ministry that is not limited for a couple of months or a one time donation.
Just yesterday Ellen Degeneres announced a way to assist the City of Flint residents in partnership with Zero Water Filters. Here is a link to her announcement of this effort.
I am writing to you this month about the water crisis in Flint, the deplorable condition of the Detroit Public Schools and the Northwest Detroit Flood Recovery Project because each of these are examples of ministries that need us all in for the long haul. Ministry is an on going relationship that gets all of us from where we are to where we need to be. God reminds us that we are not alone in the journey, God is with us. And God promises to be with us for the long haul. In that same spirit, may we too promise to be on the journey with the people of Flint and Detroit and other places in need for as long as it takes to fully recover.
I trust we are are all in this for the long haul, because that is truly what ministry is all about.
Rev. Melanie Lee Carey
Clergy Assistant to the Bishop, Michigan Area