Bishop Paul L. Leeland


EF-4 is the designation used to describe a storm whose winds reach 200 miles an hour. Yesterday, May 20, 2013, such a storm devastated Oklahoma. This will be an epic disaster, a tornado that at one point was two miles wide, scorched twenty miles in length, and continued for at least 45 minutes.

What has happened is hard to put into words. It is truly an unspeakable, horrific, tragedy. We are once again thrust into a nightmare where the natural forces of nature remind us how vulnerable we really are. The pictures themselves are a shock to our senses, creating a surreal picture of life the day after EF-4.

The exact number of deaths and those who were injured by this storm will be determined by the officials. As of Monday evening, news services report 51 deaths, at least 20 of them children. Now it becomes urgent for trained personnel to get into these areas. Families looking for family, hoping against hope.

In this storm we can see our fears – it is possible to literally lose everything. Nothing is left. Still, we live in anticipation some will be rescued.

Now is the time:
To offer prayers
Offer supplies
Organize aid
Wait for the shock to wear off
Give thanks for those with special training for search, rescue, and recovery
Begin the clean-up of massive debris.

When we are in shock and grief it is difficult to hear the words of God’s Presence and Love. We must act out of Christian compassion first, remembering God is present with us no matter how horrific our circumstances. In time we pray others will see God’s compassion through our spontaneous response. A special account is available for immediate gifts. You may send to our conference office or directly to UMCOR.

Alabama-West Florida Conference
100 Interstate Park, Suite 106
Montgomery, AL 36109
(please label checks for UMCOR Oklahoma disaster)

Or, you may make a direct donation to UMCOR by using this link. 100% of your donation goes to those in need. 

Now, let the Church come forward with deep compassion to manifest the deep love of the God, the God who also suffered and died that we might have life. Our feeble efforts, joined with thousands of others, will emerge as the signs of hope and new life.

One young girl, speaking to MSNBC News Service, said, “I had to hold onto a wall to keep me safe.” Let us send Oklahoma “Walls of Love” through our support.

When we are in shock and grief we cannot find the words that need to be spoken; we have no voice; we cannot pray. This week, many families will gather in our churches, sharing relationships with those who live in Oklahoma. They will look to us as their minister to express the words they need to hear. With no words, no voice, and uncertainty, we allow the Church to pray in our place. Here is my prayer:

“O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home!
Under the shadow of thy throne, still may we dwell secure; sufficient is thine arm alone, and our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood, or earth received her frame, from everlasting, thou art God, to endless years the same.
A thousand ages, in thy sight, are like an evening gone; short as the watch that ends the night, before the rising sun.
Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all who breathe away; they fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.
O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come; be thou our guide while life shall last, and our eternal home.” UMH 117.


Bishop Paul L. Leeland
Alabama-West Florida Conference
The United Methodist Church