The leader of United Methodists in Oklahoma said members of the denomination have been extremely generous in their support of tornado relief efforts.
The Rev. Robert Hayes Jr., bishop of the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference and Indian Missionary Conference, said as of June 19, donations were $1,042,757 to the Oklahoma Conference United Methodist special 2013 May Tornado Relief fund, according to the Oklahoma Conference treasurer's office.
Hayes said donations to United Methodists' international emergency relief and humanitarian aid agency, the United Methodist Committee on Relief known as UMCOR, also have been just as generous. He said on June 20, UMCOR reported $1,332,859 in donations had been received for the organization's U.S. Disaster Response Advance Fund since the May 20 tornado.
“It represents tremendous offering and support on behalf of people around the nation and especially in Oklahoma,” Hayes said.
“We have not only received a record amount in terms of offerings but also a record number of teens are signing up to help in some way in Oklahoma.”
The Oklahoma United Methodist Conference's annual meeting was held in Oklahoma City just days after the May 19 and 20 tornadoes in the metro area and other parts of the state. Hayes said the annual meeting's theme was “Mission Possible,” and delegates acted accordingly by performing service projects at various local agencies, including several that were assisting tornado victims.
Hayes said he toured some of the storm-ravaged areas in Moore and Shawnee and quickly realized that the church must be prepared to provide long-term assistance to individuals and families who lost their homes.
“I talked to residents and prayed with them. Really, television and pictures doesn't do it justice — so many people lost everything,” he said.
“I've told my people that this is a marathon. It is not a sprint. It's going to take some time for us to get people back on their feet. We are here to help them for the long run.”