Newsline Special: Hurricane update, Action Alert on DACA

Church of the Brethren Newsline
September 9, 2017

NASA photo of Hurricane Irma, from space. Courtesy of NASA.

“Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (Psalm 33:22).

1) Children’s Disaster Services prepositions team in Florida, in advance of Irma
2) Brethren Disaster Ministries monitoring hurricane situation in US and Caribbean
3) Material Resources ships relief to Texas, seeks urgently needed donations of clean-up buckets
4) How best to help: Advice from Brethren Disaster Ministries

5) Office of Public Witness Action Alert on DACA


Quote of the day:

“Important Announcement: Service is cancelled for Sunday, Sept 10 due to Hurricane Irma. Please stay safe during the storm and help us pass the word onto all church members. The church will be a hurricane shelter starting Saturday at 6pm. Please bring bed, bedding, clothes, food, and medicines with you. Pets are welcome if you bring a way to contain them as well as food.”

— An e-mail from David Smalley, pastor of Sebring (Fla.) Church of the Brethren, where many of the church members also reside at the Palms of Sebring, a Church of the Brethren-related retirement community.

Please be in prayer for Sebring and all 21 of the Atlantic Southeast District congregations located in Florida.


A note to readers: Next week, Newsline will feature a review of Inspiration 2017: National Older Adult Conference (NOAC). In the meantime, find the onsite reporting from NOAC at .


1) Children’s Disaster Services prepositions team in Florida, in advance of Irma

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) volunteers took part in this Red Cross briefing held in Orlando, Fla., on Friday, Sept. 8. The CDS teams are being prepositioned in central Florida in advance of Hurricane Irma, at the request of the Red Cross. Photo by Kathy Fry-Miller.

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has prepositioned volunteers in Florida, in advance of Hurricane Irma, at the request of the American Red Cross. CDS staff have learned that the Red Cross anticipates there will be over 120,000 people in evacuee shelters in Florida.

Meanwhile, CDS volunteers also continue to work in Texas, serving children and families affected by Hurricane Harvey. Before Harvey made landfall on Aug. 25 near Corpus Christi, Texas, teams of CDS volunteers were activated and ready to travel. By early September, about 30 volunteers had already cared for more than 300 children in Texas.

“We’re here in Orlando [Fla.] with a team of seven from Children’s Disaster Services,” reported associate director Kathleen Fry-Miller by e-mail on Friday. “Our CDS team is ready to deploy to a Red Cross evacuation shelter tomorrow [Saturday] or just after Irma passes. All Red Cross workers, including us as partner Red Crossers, need to be sheltering in place by noon tomorrow.  CDS has more volunteers ready to deploy next week.

“We’ll see what the next few days bring! Prayers for families here in Florida,” she wrote.

CDS is a part of Brethren Disaster Ministries. Since 1980 it has met the needs of children by setting up child care centers in shelters and disaster assistance centers across the nation. Specially trained to respond to traumatized children, CDS volunteers provide a calm, safe, and reassuring presence in the midst of the chaos created by disasters.

2) Brethren Disaster Ministries monitoring hurricane situation in US and Caribbean

“Brethren Disaster Ministries staff have been monitoring the situation in the areas already, or soon to be, affected by the hurricanes,” reports Roy Winter, associate executive director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries. Staff are “coordinating response efforts and planning with Church World Service and other church partners.”

Brethren Disaster Ministries has been in contact with Church of the Brethren districts that face the possibility of an impact from Hurricane Irma, to offer prayers and support as the storm approaches.

Winter and other Global Mission staff also have been contacting Brethren in the Caribbean to find out how they have fared following Hurricane Irma’s route through the islands. No news of significant damage to Brethren communities in Puerto Rico, Haiti, or the Dominican Republic has been received so far. “Initial reports are that these [Brethren] areas were not as badly affected as other areas of their countries,” said Winter in an update he shared on Friday.

Staff are maintaining close communication with the Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project site in Marion County, S.C. Fortunately, a full group of volunteers was not on the schedule to work there this coming week.

Monitoring the situation and the needs

“Responding to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and other storms that might develop in this hurricane season, will be a challenge,” Winter wrote in his update.

“While contributing as able to an immediate response (especially through Children’s Disaster Services), Brethren Disaster Ministries will also be supporting the long-term recovery of the most vulnerable in the impacted communities in these affected areas.

“As the communities are planning their recovery, BDM will identify the best ways to support and help meet the needs of survivors.”

Dominican Republic

Global Mission and Services executive Jay Wittmeyer shared a report from mission staff in the Dominican Republic, who said that Hurricane Irma did little damage in the south and central parts of the country where most Brethren churches are located.


Haiti mission workers Ilexene and Michaela Alphonse and their family are back in Miami, Fla., and have reported that they are “fine so far, waiting for Irma.” Ilexene Alphonse wrote that he has been in touch with the Brethren in Haiti, where damage reported so far is in the loss of crops and flooding in Ouanaminthe area.

The only place in Haiti that has not yet been heard from, and which could be of concern, is the island of La Tortue.

Hurricane Harvey

Brethren Disaster Ministries staff continue to maintain contact with Church of the Brethren districts affected by Harvey as well as established partners, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD), and the local VOADS in Texas and Louisiana to monitor the situation on the ground and learn about short- and long-term needs.

As flood waters recede, staff will begin actively looking for partners in Texas and Louisiana to identify ways to have volunteers support clean up and rebuilding efforts.

3) Material Resources ships relief to Texas, seeks urgently needed donations of clean-up buckets

Materials Resources staff prepare shipments for Texas. Photo courtesy of Terry Goodger.

Material Resources staff have put out an urgent call for donations of clean-up buckets for distribution by Church World Service (CWS). The program also has been shipping relief supplies to Texas to aid people who were affected by Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent flooding.

Material Resources is a Church of the Brethren program that warehouses, processes, and ships relief materials on behalf of ecumenical partners including CWS, working out of warehouses at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

Relief shipments

“We are shipping to the hurricane victims in Texas,” reported director Loretta Wolf. The first four truckloads of relief shipments have arrived in Texas or are on their way, she wrote in an e-mail report earlier this week.

Material Resources has shipped 51,000 hygiene kits, 422 clean-up buckets, and 510 school kits to areas of Houston. La Grange has received 72 clean-up buckets. Kingwood has received 300 blankets, 660 hygiene kits, and 6 clean-up buckets.

Today, the program is shipping 300 clean-up buckets, 75 blankets, and 240 hygiene kits to Corpus Christi; and 300 school kits, 1,140 hygiene kits, and 433 clean-up buckets to Taft.

On Monday, the program is preparing to ship 54 clean-up buckets to Houston, Texas, and 25,000 hygiene kits to Arlington, Texas, for prepositioning in preparation for Hurricane Irma.

The total weight of the shipments for Hurricane Harvey relief is 46,497 pounds or more than 23 tons, shipped on 7 trucks. The total weight of relief shipped in preparation for Hurricane Irma is 25,493 pounds.

Urgent need for clean-up buckets

CWS is in urgent need of clean-up buckets, both for the continuing response to Hurricane Harvey and flooding in Texas, and for the anticipated needs in preparation for Hurricane Irma. CWS is adding extra kit depots across the country to receive kit donations.

One depot is at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Another place receiving kit donations is the Shenandoah District office at 1453 Westview School Rd., Weyers Cave, Va., where kit donations will be received from Sept. 19-29.

Financial donations to the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) of the Church of the Brethren will help with the costs of shipping clean-up buckets, kits, and other relief goods. Go to .

For detailed instructions about the contents of CWS kits and clean-up buckets, and how to put them together, go to .

4) How best to help: Advice from Brethren Disaster Ministries

A sample of a hygiene kit distributed to survivors of disasters. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

“Financial donations are best,” said a communication from Brethren Disaster Ministries about how best to help aid those affected by the hurricanes. Also needed are donations of Church World Service (CWS) kits and clean-up buckets that are specifically designed to meet the immediate needs of disaster survivors.

“Please do not send donated clothes and household items,” said the Brethren Disaster Ministries communication. “There is lack of space to store them and response groups must spend time organizing them instead of helping the survivors with their more urgent needs.

“Cash donations are always preferred over material donations. Cash can provide funds needed to meet immediate needs, including purchasing goods and services in disaster-stricken communities, boosting the local economy and lessening the need to transport items from a distance.”

Monetary donations

A Hurricane Irma response fund has been created within the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) of the Church of the Brethren, to allow Brethren Disaster Ministries to provide support to survivors of Hurricane Irma both internationally and in the United States. Brethren Disaster Ministries will work in conjunction with partners and churches in the affected areas to help the most vulnerable in those communities to recover from this overwhelming storm.

Also, donations are still being received to the Hurricane Harvey response. These donations also are received into the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF).

Give donations online at . Send checks by mail to Emergency Disaster Fund, Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma Response, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

Kit and clean-up bucket donations

Individuals, congregations, and districts may consider collecting CWS Gift of the Heart kits, using the instructions at . These kits are urgently needed at this time, and may be delivered or sent to the Material Resources program at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., or to other CWS kit collection depots.

More suggestions for action

— Pray for all those impacted and for all the responders who are serving them.
— Plan a disaster relief fundraiser.
— Register for the waiting list to volunteer for Brethren Disaster Ministries at .
— Attend a Children’s Disaster Services training in order to become a CDS volunteer, able to serve children and families during future disasters.
— Contact National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD), which is taking names of people interested in volunteering. Your information will be shared with organizations when they begin accepting volunteers. Go to .

5) Office of Public Witness Action Alert on DACA

“The biblical tradition regarding the alien guides our response as Church of the Brethren people when we deal with the immigrants in our land…. We live with the hope that we will someday have a community of justice, peace and love. This hope gives us the courage to be faithful to the One who calls us to live out that hope through love for our neighbors and our enemies. We pray for God’s help as we seek to do justice, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with God among peoples of all nations.”

— 1982 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference Statement: “Addressing the Concern of Undocumented Persons and Refugees in the United States”

After this week’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals announcement, many of us are asking how we can support DACA recipients and fight for fair legislation. The end of DACA impacts our friends and family; read one Church of the Brethren DACA story here. We are sad and angry that DACA recipients have to face this uncertainty and fear. The President’s decision allows for a six-month window in which Congress can pass the Dream Act of 2017, which would create a legal path to citizenship for those who qualified for the DACA program. We must use this opportunity to tell Congress how important the Dreamers are to the Church of the Brethren!

The first thing you can do is call your Representative and Senators, and tell them that you would like a clean passage of the Dream Act of 2017. Call 866-961-4293. Please call three times, so that you can be connected with your Representative and both of your Senators.

Sample Script: “I’m your constituent from [City, State]. I support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and strongly oppose President Trump’s announcement to end it. DACA has provided nearly 800,000 immigrant youth the opportunity to work, raise a family, and pursue their dreams. I urge you to support a clean passage of the Dream Act of 2017 (S.1615/H.R.3440) and do everything in your power to protect immigrant youth.”

If you will be in Washington, D.C, we can also set up meetings with your legislators so that you can tell them why you believe in the clean passage of the Dream Act. E-mail us at if you would like to get a meeting on the Hill.

It is also important that you be vocal about your support for the Dream Act of 2017 on social media, using the hashtag #DreamAct, and including your Senators’ and Representative’s handles. Today, many legislators are expected to share DACA stories on the House/Senate floors–you can also tweet your support for their advocacy!

In addition to these calls, meetings, and vocal support of the Dream Act, you can host vigils, organize letter writing parties, and coordinate advocacy trips for your communities. Please continue to pray for and with DACA recipients across the country as they face this time of uncertainty.

In Christ’s peace,

Victoria Bateman
Peacebuilding and Policy Associate
Church of the Brethren, Office of Public Witness
Washington, D.C.

For more information about the public witness ministries of the Church of the Brethren, contact Nathan Hosler, Director, Office of Public Witness:

Nathan Hosler
337 North Carolina Ave SE
Washington, DC 20003

Read one Church of the Brethren member’s DACA story at

Contributors to this Newsline Special include Ilixene Alphonse, Jeff Boshart, Jenn Dorsch, Kathleen Fry-Miller, Terry Goodger, Nathan Hosler, Roy Winter, Jay Wittmeyer, and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Next week, Newsline will feature a review of Inspiration 2017: National Older Adult Conference (NOAC). Please continue to send news tips and submissions to the editor at .

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