By Jessica Brodie
ANDERSON—When it comes to people needing something in the Anderson District—whether it’s a new porch for a disabled church member or a fallen tree after a snowstorm—one thing is certain. You’re going to get the help you need.
The Anderson District’s United Methodist Volunteers in Mission team, along with their Disaster Response Team and a well-connected network of churches from one end of the region to the other, do everything they can to step up when a need arises. They partner frequently with groups like the American Red Cross, the Greenville County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster group and various interfaith ministries to reach across church and district lines to help people where they are, no matter the circumstance.
Danny Thompson, district disaster relief coordinator, works hard to cultivate relationships with the heads of many of these groups so the UMVIM, disaster and general church teams can be available to assist when help is needed.
“Recently, there was a fire that dislocated a mother and children, and when the Red Cross responded, they also called Danny,” said the Rev. Susan Leonard-Ray, Anderson District superintendent, citing just one of many examples. “Danny marshaled the resources of United Methodists, and together they worked to get the family back in their home in record time.”
Thompson said people across the district put their all into helping people in need, whether they’ve experienced a fire, a flood or some other catastrophic situation.
“It’s a great feeling,” Thompson said. “Maybe somebody else would probably help them if they knew, but these people (dislocated from the fire), we got them back in that house in a hurry. Every day they were out of that house they were losing money, not working, getting farther behind on their bills.”
He said he and the others who serve consider it a blessing to be able to help others.
“I’d rather be out there helping than anything,” Thompson said. “I feel like that’s what we’re supposed to do.”
The Rev. Joe Durham, vice chair of the Anderson District VIM, said the response effort in the Anderson District has evolved over the more than 15 years he’s been helping.
“It’s a unique operation, a truly cooperative nature—if the Red Cross needs something and they can’t handle it, they call us, and same with other agencies around town,” said Durham, a retired supply pastor serving Bethel UMC, Ruhamah. “If somebody needs assistance, we’re there.”
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new roof or minor repairs or a full-blown home operation, or whether the helpers officially call themselves UMVIM members or not, Durham said.
“If we need help with projects, we put the word out, and if people can’t help physically, they donate money,” Durham said. “It’s just a good demonstration of Christian atmosphere. If Jesus told us to go forth and serve, then all we’ve got to do is say we need something here, and people show up.”
Carrie Anderson, Anderson District UMVIM chair, agrees.
“Wherever the need is, we go—we do the ERT trainings, go to UMCOR at least once a year for a week and pack health kits or what’s needed, in winter they do wood-cutting, they do handicap ramps. And whatever we do, we do it with a smile,” she said. “We have a good time.”
They even respond to international needs. Many journeyed overseas in January to do response work, and they will also head to Belize in June.
They do have a good time helping, Durham said. Some volunteers are in their eighties, while others are in their twenties and thirties, and they all pitch in together to do what is asked.
After all, volunteers say, it’s all about serving God. And as Thompson told the Advocate, God’s hands are in each step of the process as they help people in need. Truly, they try to be God’s hands and feet.