Lebanon First continues work in Harrisburg


HARRISBURG -- Since the Feb. 29 tornado tore through the southern Illinois town of Harrisburg, the members of Lebanon First UMC have been part of the recovery and rebuilding effort.

Early after the storm, Lebanon First UMC pastor Rev. Peter J. Wehrly worked in the community as part of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference Spiritual & Emotional Care (SEC) Team, under the direction of Rev. Karen Blank-Ewell, Director of the IGRC office of Pastoral Care & Counseling. The SEC met with storm survivors and spent time with first responders, including the congregation of the Harrisburg First UMC , which served as an important resource in the early days of the storm.
Recovery from any natural disaster takes weeks, months and sometimes years. In October, Lebanon First UMC sent two United Methodist Volunteer in Mission teams to Harrisburg to work on rebuilding homes damaged or destroyed in the tornado.
Both teams had the opportunity to work on Becky’s new home. Both she and her husband were in their house when it was tossed almost 90 feet across the street onto an apartment building. Both were injured and, sadly, he became the eighth fatality from the storm.
Before his participation in the UMVIM team, first-time missioner Jack Rogers had never applied mud to taped sheet rock walls. Jack because an expert quickly when joined up with an UMVIM team from Altoona District, Pennsylvania, to mud and finish the walls in Becky’s home. Then, two weeks later, another team from Lebanon First helped finish siding work.
At another home, the UMVIM team helped do lots of finish work – cabinet installation, hanging blinds and curtains, installing smoke detectors, and more. At still another location, the team helped volunteers from Wisconsin and Illinois paint interior walls. This homeowner and his young family had moved into a rental home just two weeks before the storm hit.  All their belongings in the garage and the house itself were blown away.
Radical hospitality was provided by Dorrisville Baptist Church, with sleeping arrangements and hot showers. Several team members are looking forward to returning to Harrisburg in the near future to see the houses finished and occupied.
More photos and news from the church can be found at the church web site, www.lebanonmethodist.org. Lebanon First UMC is located about 40 miles east of St. Louis, just off Interstate 64, near McKendree University.