Category Archives: Emergency Relief

EPC Disaster Relief Committee Response to the Wildfires in Maui and Hurricane Hilary


Every disaster is a call to prayer.   That is where we start.

At this time, we are unsure of what is the best way to help in Maui or what the needs might be in the western part of the US after the hurricane and earthquake.

There are no EPC churches on Maui, so we are looking for the best avenues to assist the people affected by this tragedy.   The large relief agencies are there now, and we will be reaching out to them to see how we can connect with them and the people working there now providing services to those displaced.

Regarding the West Coast and Hurricane Hilary, we are waiting to hear back from the two EPC Presbyteries there to see what their congregations’ needs are. Once we know that, we can make decisions on how to assist there.

Many of you have emailed asking how your churches can support those in Maui or those that are affected by the West Coast hurricane. As we pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit on how best to use our resources, we would encourage you to give to the EPC Domestic Emergency Relief Fund. You can mark your donations Maui Wildfires or Hurricane Hilary if you desire.   You can give thru this link: or thru the QR Code below.

We will keep you informed as we move forward.  Please join us in prayer for all of those whose lives have been torn apart by these disasters.

World Outreach to use three-prong approach for disaster relief donations following Turkey/Syria earthquake 


A destroyed building leans on a house in the Turkish seaport city of Samandag, which in New Testament times was the port for Antioch and the place from which the Apostle Paul launched his first voyage to Tarsus. (photo credit: AP/Emrah Gurel)

Following a series of devastating earthquakes in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria in February, donations to the EPC’s International Disaster Relief Fund will be distributed among global workers in the region and ministry partners in both countries.

Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of EPC World Outreach, said the three avenues for disbursements are based on long-standing ministry partnerships.

“Our global workers in Turkey have been diligently assessing ways for us to engage,” de Guia said. “God is using the relationships they have built over the years for His glory and for the relief of many, many hurting people.”

Donations also will be sent to World Outreach ministry partners Timothy Two Project International and The Outreach Foundation.

“Timothy Two is an Approved Mission Agency of the EPC, and their international director Steve Curtis also co-chairs the Commission on Evangelism and Missions for the World Reformed Fellowship,” de Guia said. “The Outreach Foundation has a network of churches in Syria and have the relationships to help in areas that are hard for outsiders to get to. Our confidence in these two organizations could not be higher for reaching those affected by the earthquake with both physical needs and with the saving knowledge of the gospel.”

Mike Kuhn, Director of EPC World Outreach’s International Theological Education Network (ITEN), has worked in Syria with The Outreach Foundation.

“I can attest that their relationship with the historic Presbyterian churches of Syria is deep and authentic,” Kuhn said. “I have personally met Pastor Ibrahim Nseir, the pastor of the Evangelical Church of Aleppo, who is overseeing the distribution of these donations. This relationship with Pastor Ibrahim allows the body of Christ to assist believers and others in a place where very little aid is getting through in the aftermath of devastating earthquakes.”

Secure online donations can be made at, which also includes instructions for donating by check and text-to-give.

As of February 23, government officials have placed the death toll at more than 47,000 with more than 164,000 structures collapsed or damaged to the point that they need to be demolished.

World Outreach receiving funds for Turkey/Syria earthquake relief as global workers assess best means of impact


As rescue operations continue in southern Turkey two weeks after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake shook the region, EPC World Outreach is developing plans to assist with long-term recovery and ministry efforts. More than 46,000 people are reported dead in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, and officials say that number is likely to rise. More than 84,000 buildings are severely damaged, need urgent demolition, or have collapsed.

Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of World Outreach, said a global worker couple in Turkey several hundred miles north of the devastated region is exploring avenues for relief, including setting up relief teams.

“We have World Outreach missionaries on the ground in Turkey who are currently assessing specific ways for us to engage there,” de Guia said. “We have partner contacts in Syria as well and hope to provide details on these efforts soon.”

He added that donations to the EPC’s International Disaster Relief Fund will be directed toward earthquake aid efforts. Secure online donations can be made at, which also includes instructions for donating by check and text-to-give.

“I have received many phone calls and emails asking how the EPC was helping with this disaster,” de Guia said. “I am grateful for how God’s love is so evident in our people that they want to help people who are hurting in ways most of cannot imagine.”

Fire, storm ravage World Outreach ministry partner EduNations schools


The EPC’s World Outreach partner in Sierra Leone, EduNations, experienced two disasters in the past two weeks. EduNations builds and operates schools in under-resourced communities in the largely impoverished west African nation.

On February 2, a dormitory building in their Senior Secondary School in Rokassa was destroyed by fire. The blaze was contained to one building, and no injuries were reported.

On January 24, a storm in the village of Mayatta tore the roof off a building that housed teacher’s offices, staff room, and classrooms for grades 4, 5, and 6. Books, supplies, and furniture were ruined by wind and rain.

EduNations placed the cost to rebuild the damaged structures and replace the lost contents at $50,833:

  • Rokassa dormitory reconstruction: $34,579
  • Rokassa dormitory furniture: $6,658
  • Rokassa student and teacher clothes and belongings: $4,896
  • Mayatta Primary School reconstruction: $4,700

“Thankfully, nobody was injured in the fire, but the damage was catastrophic and left the building demolished and completely destroyed all of the belongings of the 39 staff and students who lived in that dormitory,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk and Founder of EduNations. “In Mayatta, the principal and teachers did their best to rush as many academic and teaching materials to another building as soon as they could, but many books, school and office supplies, and furniture were gravely affected.”

The EPC’s International Disaster Relief Fund is accepting contributions to help EduNations rebuild. Secure online donations can be made at, which also includes instructions for donating by check and text-to-give.

“As we have seen in recent months with Hurricane Ian and the tornado in Selma, Ala., the generosity of the EPC when disaster strikes is one of our hallmarks,” Weaver said. “Now it’s our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone who find themselves in dire circumstances.”

On January 24, a storm in the village of Mayatta, Sierra Leone, tore the roof off a building that housed teacher’s offices and classrooms for grades 4, 5, and 6 at the EduNations Hope Academy Primary School.

Tornado strikes Selma, Ala.; EPC congregation affected


A large tornado descends on Selma, Ala., in this still image from a storm chaser video. Photo courtesy of the Selma Sun.

A tornado described by the National Weather Service as “large and dangerous” tracked across Selma, Ala., on January 12. The tornado was part of a larger outbreak across the South.

Steve Burton, Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Selma, reported minor damage to the church property, but “complete devastation” in residential areas approximately 100 yards away. He added that several members of the congregation have lost their homes, though his house was not damaged.

In an email immediately after the storm to Ken Van Kampen, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Central South, Burton noted that a school with 360 students was near the church. At the time he sent the email, he was not able to access the area but said the school was “an utmost priority” for him and others and he would help in any way he could.

“Pray for the emergency workers in the immediate hours ahead and the clean-up work in the days to come,” Van Kampen said. “Pray that every parent in town will be reunited with their children this afternoon and that all displaced families will find their physical needs met today, as well as their spiritual and emotional needs in the future. Finally, pray for Cornerstone EPC and the churches in Selma as they minister in very practical ways in the name of our Lord.”

The EPC Domestic Emergency Relief Fund is accepting donations to assist in disaster areas with identified needs. To contribute, go to


Hurricane relief, small church ministry the topics of “In All Things” podcast episode 49 with Bill Crawford


Bill Crawford, Pastor of the First Presbyterian churches in Thibodaux and Houma, La., is the guest for episode 49 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Crawford describe his call to small church ministry and his 21 years in south Louisiana, including some of the challenges and opportunities for the small church.

Crawford also discusses his experience with disaster relief beginning with back-to-back hurricanes his first year in Thibodaux in 2001, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Hurricane Ida in 2021, and how he brought that experience to Fort Myers, Fla., following Hurricane Ian in September 2022. Weaver also shares how listeners can contribute to relief efforts by donating to the EPC’s Emergency Relief Fund at

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at

Fort Myers pastors provide Hurricane Ian update, donations sought for EPC Emergency Relief Fund


The pastors of the two EPC churches in Fort Myers, Fla., are reporting that Hurricane Ian had a devastating impact on their congregations. The storm came ashore in southwest Florida September 28 with 150 mph winds.

“Overall, it’s just a disaster zone,” said Mike Jones, Associate Pastor of New Hope Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers. “The further south and west the more profound the destruction. The further east, with the exception of the flooding it’s not as noticeable.”

Both Jones and Paul de Jong, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, reported at least 25 families in their respective congregations lost everything.

“One of our members was rescued at 5:00 a.m. by Miami EMS to get him out of the attic with his wife, son, and 80-year-old mother-in-law,” Jones said, adding that the homes of at least two New Hope staff members are “a total loss.”

The EPC Domestic Emergency Relief Fund is accepting donations to assist EPC churches in these and other disaster areas with identified needs. To contribute, see

Hurricane Ian blasts Fort Myers, Fla., EPC congregations


Members of the two EPC congregations nearest the Florida landfall of Hurricane Ian suffered significant effects from the near-category 5 storm.

“Many of our congregation have suffered severe and total loss of home, cars, and property,” Mike Jones, Associate Pastor of New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, said by email on September 29. “At this point, I am not aware of any loss of life or health, but I know some were evacuated by boat at 5:00 a.m. (Thursday).”

He also noted that there was no power, water, or internet and most of the roads in his neighborhood were “impassable.”

Paul de Jong, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, reported on September 30 that “everyone appears to be safe and accounted for. But with no power and spotty cell service I haven’t been able to contact everyone—only maybe 10 percent of our congregants.”

Flood waters rose to just below the light switches in the home of a widowed member of First Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers before receding. (Photo courtesy of Paul de Jong)

“One who I did talk to had several feet of water in their home,” de Jong said. “Another elderly lady who lives by herself had 5 feet of water in her house. Her piano ended up upside down, and her refrigerator was in her living room. So for many people, they lost all their worldly possessions and their homes will unlivable for months.”

He reported only minor damage to the church property.

“The church has a few broken windows, a few leaks here and there, and the steeple will need some TLC,” he said, noting that the storm surge stopped about 200 yards from the building. “The church sits in a flood zone, but it’s very well built by incredibly faithful Christians in the 1950s who recognized that one day a hurricane would come.”

He added that though the church building was not an official shelter, “quite a few homeless people were knocking on the door as the storm approached. We absolutely wouldn’t turn them away, so we let them in, fed them, and took care of them as best as we could. We held a brief worship service and of course I spoke on God being our shelter in the storm. One of the men said we gave him the best meal he had had in a long time, and I hope we were able to minister him spiritually as well. My biggest job was to try to keep people’s spirits up because you could just feel the anxiety.”

First Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers suffered several broken windows. (Photo courtesy of Paul de Jong)

Both de Jong and Jones said their homes received only minor damage, and the New Hope campus “was spared any real damage,” Jones said.

“In my neighborhood, every home sustained some damage—some major and some minor,” de Jong said. “Our house has damage but nothing that can’t be fixed.”

He added that both First and New Hope plan to hold worship services on Sunday.

“Though without power for the sound system I will have to project like Spurgeon back in the day,” de Jong quipped.

Damage reports from other Florida pastors

Elsewhere across Florida, EPC churches were largely spared significant effects during Ian’s slow trek northeast.

“All is well here in Tampa,” said Mark Farrell, Pastor of Tampa Covenant Church on September 29. “The church is intact, with just a few felled tree branches and accumulated water in the parking lot. Thanking God for His grace on our churches at this time. May He continue to do so as we all recover.”

David Swanson, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, said “the First Pres buildings are all good—and our staff has fared well.”

Robert Olszewski, Pastor of GracePoint Church in Plant City, reported that some of the members of his congregation suffered minor damage and power outages.

“We are reaching out to folks in our community who need help and providing a hot meal today at the church,” he said by email on September 29.

Doug Walker, Pastor of River City Church in DeBary, reported minor damage to the church property. “And it appears our parishioners are doing OK,” he said by email.

Dillon Thornton, Pastor of Faith Community Church in Seminole, said his congregation “weathered the storm well. Our church campus and our members suffered only minor damage.”

Greg Gunn, Lead Pastor at Providence Church in Spring Hill, said “all is well at Providence Church and with the flock. We are praying for our friends in Ft. Myers.”

After leaving Florida as a tropical storm late Thursday and entering the Atlantic Ocean north of Cape Canaveral, Ian regained hurricane strength with sustained winds of 75 m.p.h. A hurricane warning is in effect for coastal South Carolina. Ian’s storm surge is forecast to bring five feet of water into coastal areas in Georgia and the Carolinas. As it moves north across South Carolina and into North Carolina and Virginia, rainfall of up to eight inches could bring flooding to inland areas.

The EPC Domestic Emergency Relief Fund is accepting donations to assist EPC churches in these and other disaster areas with identified needs. To contribute, see

Boats carried by Hurricane Ian’s storm surge were stranded on dry land a few blocks from First Presbyterian Church in downtown Fort Myers.

Prayer requested as Hurricane Ian approaches Florida


The projected path of Hurricane Ian, with the locations of EPC churches in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

Hurricane Ian neared Category 5 status with sustained winds of 155 mph on Wednesday morning, September 28, as it bears down on Florida. At 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, the center of the storm was located about 75 miles southwest of Fort Myers, home of two EPC congregations—First Presbyterian Church (Paul de Jong, Pastor) and New Hope Presbyterian Church (Mike Jones, Pastor).

“Please pray for our churches and communities in Florida as Ian approaches,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “We do not have any negative reports so far, but of course the worst is yet to come. Pray also for the staff of the Office of the General Assembly and their families, as Orlando is directly in the projected path of the storm.”

Other churches potentially in the path of Ian’s effects include Community Presbyterian Church in Clewiston (William Slager, Pastor); Faith Presbyterian Church in Brooksville (Joe Tolin, Pastor); Faith Presbyterian Church in Seminole (Dillon Thornton, Pastor); First Presbyterian Church in Orlando (David Swanson, Pastor); GracePoint in Plant City (Robert Olszewski, Pastor); Nación Santa in Haines City (Luis Quiñones, Pastor); New Covenant EPC in Pompano Beach (Adam Greenfield, Pastor); Providence Church in Spring Hill (Greg Gunn, Pastor); River City Church in DeBary (Doug Walker, Pastor); Seaside Church in Vilano Beach (Brady Haynes, Pastor); and Tampa Covenant Church in Tampa (Mark Farrell, Pastor).

Hurricane Ian is projected to cut northeast through Florida, emerge in the Atlantic off the northeast Florida coast near Jacksonville, then make landfall again in southeast Georgia or South Carolina and move north.

The EPC Domestic Emergency Relief Fund is accepting donations to assist churches in disaster areas with identified needs. To contribute, go to

Hurricane Fiona slams Puerto Rico, EPC churches spared major damage


Hurricane Fiona, which made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 18, delivered flooding rains and an island-wide power outage. While two deaths on the island are attributed to the storm, the EPC churches on the island experienced no casualties. Those congregations are Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster (Westminster Presbyterian Church) in Bayamón, Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica en Añasco (Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Añasco), and Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica Mayagüez (Mayagüez Evangelical Presbyterian Church).

By September 22, power had been restored to about two-thirds of the U.S. territory.

“Our church in Bayamón is up and running,” Enid Flores, Westminster Ruling Elder said by email on September 22. “Añasco has no power as of yesterday, but they were good with no casualties. Mayagüez has been cleaning the falling trees which affected some houses, streets, and the Retreat Center, but they are in good hands and their building has power and water.”

Flores reported that power is still out in her area of Puerto Rico’s capital city of San Juan, but water service had been restored.

“The devastation is pretty serious at the south and center of the island,” she said. “But in God we trust, and I know He has a purpose.”

Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk, asked “our entire EPC family to pray for our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters as they minister to their communities in the aftermath of Fiona, even as they face their own recovery.”

The EPC Domestic Emergency Relief Fund is accepting donations to assist churches in disaster areas with identified needs. To contribute, go to

International Disaster Relief Fund receives $437,000 to date


As of Thursday, May 5, $437,481 has been donated to the EPC’s International Disaster Relief Fund. This amount includes two separate gifts of $50,000 each and nine additional donations of $10,000 or more.

“I should never be surprised at the generosity of the EPC when people are in need,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “Our churches and church members have demonstrated God’s love over and over again when the need is the greatest.”

The fund was launched on March 1 in response to the crisis in Ukraine, with contributions to the fund currently being sent to EPC partners in Eastern Europe that are helping with refugee efforts.

Bruce Anderson, Director of the International Theological Education Network of EPC World Outreach, said donations are meeting humanitarian needs, including “tons and tons of food supplies for people who are running out of food. They have no access and are even running out of water.”

He added that some of the money was used to distribute Bibles, Christian literature, trauma kits and medicine, as well as purchasing two vehicles being used for evacuation efforts.

Bruce Anderson

“Our friends have distributed 1 million prayer, Scripture, and gospel booklets that were printed up in the Ukrainian language and distributed inside Ukraine for people who are broken and crying out to God,” he said. “Many of them are not yet followers of the Lord but are turning toward Him.”

Anderson reported that $115,000 in donations recently wired arrived “just in time.”

“Our partner in Poland sent me a text message in which he told me that they had 20 tons of food, medicine, and essential items ready for shipping, but another partner had not sent them the money for the transportation cost. They feel the urgency, right? They know people are dying and are being traumatized, and they are going to send the supplies without having money,” Anderson said.

“So his text says, ‘we prayed this morning about funds NOW—N.O.W. capitals—for this transportation. After the prayer, I opened the account and received the EPC gift for Ukraine. God is great! Praise the Lord for His timing!’”

Anderson noted that donations are not only helping provide material assistance, but also arrived in “God’s time” for those ministry partners “to know, as he said to me, that God is with us and the EPC is with us and we are not alone.”

Click here to donate to the International Disaster Relief Fund.

The purpose of the Fund is to help relieve suffering when needs arise round the world that are outside the scope of the domestic EPC Emergency Relief Fund, which is used for situations in North America.

“In All Things” podcast episode 22 describes EPC Ukraine relief efforts with Bruce Anderson


Episode 22 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Bruce Anderson, Founder and Coordinator of the International Theological Education Network (ITEN) of EPC World Outreach. This week, host Dean Weaver and Anderson discuss how relationships built over more than two decades of ministry in Eastern Europe are providing avenues for donations to the EPC’s International Disaster Relief Fund to be put to immediate use helping people suffering in the war in Ukraine.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at

International Disaster Relief Fund launched as Ukraine crisis widens


The EPC has launched an international disaster relief fund to help relieve suffering when needs arise round the world that are outside the scope of the domestic EPC Emergency Relief Fund, used for situations in North America.

“The crisis in Ukraine is dire, and we are called to help as we are able,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “Our existing relief fund is not set up for this type of need. This new fund will provide a way for people to give when disaster strikes in areas where we work but where we don’t have EPC churches.”

Weaver noted that donations to the fund will be forwarded to EPC World Outreach workers “on the ground” in affected areas, international ministry partners, or to appropriate other agencies and organizations at the discretion of EPC leadership.

“The need right now is almost unfathomable with the mass migration of displaced people fleeing Ukraine,” said Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of EPC World Outreach. “Women and children are leaving the country with little more than the clothes on their backs, while the men are required to stay behind and fight. It’s heartbreaking to think that for some of them it is their last goodbye.”

Click here to donate to the International Disaster Relief Fund.

Contributions are tax-deductible, and donations that exceed directly related disbursements will be held for other international humanitarian disaster relief situations.

Thank you for providing help to those in need.

EPC congregation suffers effects from quad-state tornado outbreak


The Dresden , Tenn., Fire Department suffered significant damage from the December 10-11 tornado outbreak. In the background is the damaged Dresden Cumberland Presbyterian Church. (Photo credit: Dresden Enterprise)

The deadly December 10-11 tornado outbreak affected at least one EPC congregation. Paul Tucker, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Greenfield, Tenn., reported on December 13 that a family in the church who lives in Dresden, Tenn., suffered “a total loss.”

“They survived in a stairwell closet,” Tucker said by email. “That’s all that I know of at this time. Dresden is our county seat, so we know many are affected.”

The Dresden Enterprise reported that the downtown area received significant damage, including total losses to City Hall and the Fire Department and Police Department buildings. Dresden is about 12 miles northeast of Greenfield, in northwestern Tennessee approximately 15 miles south of the Kentucky state line.

Other EPC churches in the affected area reported no effects from the storm.

“Though we were under a tornado watch here in southern Illinois, were passed by,” said David Fischler, Pastor of First Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Anna, Ill..

Mike Wey, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Blytheville, Ark., reported no damage to the church property or any homes of the congregation. Blytheville is about 30 miles west of the Monette (Ark.) Manor nursing home, which suffered a roof collapse and the death of one resident due to the storm.

“Thanks for checking in on us,” Wey said. “Everyone in my congregation is fine. Our church is OK too.”

Several other EPC churches in the region have been contacted, but as of December 15 have not responded to requests for information. We will update this story as details emerge.

Secure online donations to help EPC churches in the affected area with identified needs can be made at, which also includes instructions for donating by check and text-to-give.

Hurricane Ida relief continues; EPC leaders survey recovery efforts


Surveying recovery efforts in Thibodaux, La., on September 13 are (left to right) Whitney Alexander, Brandon Queen, Dean Weaver, and Bill Crawford.

As recovery continues in South Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Ida’s destructive wind, rain, and storm surge, EPC Stated Clerk Weaver traveled to Thibodaux, La., to see how donations to the EPC Emergency Relief Fund are being put to work.

He joined Bill Crawford, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Thibodaux and First Presbyterian Church of Houma; Brandon Queen, Ruling Elder for the Thibodaux congregation; and Whitney Alexander, Associate Pastor of Missions for First Presbyterian Church of Baton Rouge, La., to survey relief efforts.

“In the past three weeks we served over 550 people directly with material support that Presbyterians from all over the Gulf region provided.” Crawford said. “We’ve given out $3,000 to people in need thanks to generous giving from the EPC, churches in our Presbytery, and private individuals.”

Queen said some of the funds were used to purchase generators and portable air conditioning units.

“We provided a generator for one lady whose unit was stolen, and for another elderly woman who lives in a more damaged area of the parish,” said Queen, who serves as a Detective with the LaFourche Parish Sheriff’s Office. “Helping others is what we are called to do—serving the less fortunate.”

He said generators also were provided to other parish deputies and staff so they can continue to serve the community. Weaver noted the importance of assisting first responders so they can better serve their communities.

“I want to help the people that are helping others,” he said.

The homes of two widows from Crawford’s congregations are a total loss.

Crawford said that between his two congregations, five households—including several widows—experienced “total loss.”

“Pray for these households,” Crawford said. “Our initial focus is to get them as far forward as we can carry them. We begin by packing what remains, throwing the rest to the street, and tearing the interior to the studs. It’s a brutal process for the homeowner, but a reminder of the call to support the widows of the church. We are trying to help the most vulnerable first, but we hope to help others as well. We’ve all suffered damage and loss, but many have suffered more.”

He added that relief teams from Houma, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge have “done significant recovery work” in three homes.

“We have been able to move from relief to recovery by working through volunteer teams from all over the Gulf Coast and Baton Rouge,” he said. “These have been day trips where teams drive in, work 4-6 hours, and then drive home. Next week we are hoping to host our first multi-day volunteer team.”

“The work of the EPC has been significant,” he added. “My car is in the shop indefinitely due to the storm, so they purchased a truck so I can lead teams. The Presbytery has sent thousands of dollars of relief in the form of supplies and cash. First Presbyterian Church of Baton Rouge has done the same, along with sending logistical, planning, and personal support. Whitney Alexander has been down here at least a dozen times. We are coordinating with churches in the Presbytery to help rebuild homes and restart lives. We thank God for their support.”

Crawford said he expects the work to continue at least through the rest of this year.

“As we move forward into the mission field there will be opportunities for much of next year,” he noted.

Secure online donations to help with recovery efforts can be made at, which also includes instructions for donating by check and text-to-give.

On September 12, Weaver delivered a message of encouragement from Psalm 41 to the combined Thibodaux and Houma congregations.

As Louisiana continues to recover from Hurricane Ida, Hurricane Nicholas brought additional rain and storm surge to the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coasts in mid-September. EPC congregations were largely unaffected by that storm.

“Compared to what Bill Crawford has been going through in Thibodaux, Nicholas is nothing,” said Alan Trafford, Pastor of Covenant Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Lake Jackson, Texas. “The church is unscathed except for a few tree limbs. Neighbors were helping one another, and by lunchtime some of the more intrepid were mowing their lawns.”

Hurricane Ida leaves communities, EPC churches in state of ‘relief, recovery, rebuild’


by Bill Crawford
Pastor, First Presbyterian Churches of Houma, La., and Thibodaux, La.

Bill Crawford

It’s been an amazing, intense, depressing, and glorious two weeks. Sunday, August 29, will sit in a long history of devastating storms as one of the most catastrophic storms ever recorded. I know as my family and I watched from the windows of First Presbyterian Church of Thibodaux. I could see the power of the storm, but I had no concept of the scope. As we woke up and walked out on the streets of Thibodaux it was like people walking into Oz. We discovered that the loud noise we heard in the night was the collapse of a brick building downtown. Eventually we traveled home to find our home surrounded by broken trees but mostly intact.

It was typical of Thibodaux that we immediately started clearing trees. We spent an hour cutting a hole through my neighbor’s driveway so he could evacuate. That began the slow process of coming to grip with the truth that it wasn’t just us. Thibodaux and Houma are at the heart of a storm that left a trail of power outages from Morgan City—35 miles west of us—to Mobile, Ala.—200 miles east of us.

Yet, to our amazement the assistance began to roll in from those who were also without power. I can’t mention every church and person who dove in and helped us, but First Presbyterian Church of Baton Rouge—in the person of TE Whitney Alexander—has been steadfast. We know he represents the whole staff and congregation.

The churches of the entire Gulf Coast have been amazing. Help poured in from Houston; Monroe, Covington, and New Orleans, La.; a nonprofit called Advancing the Call Together (ACT) from Ohio; the EPC Office of the General Assembly in Orlando; and from individuals from several states outside Louisiana. Pastors came with lay people like Korey Duncan organizing trips, and Nathan Edwards crawling in the dirt to fix our pipes. Will Shirley, Parks Lanier, and others came representing so many congregations. We were blessed to see brothers and sisters in the Methodist and even Catholic believers. Our cup runs over.

Damage from Hurricane Ida in Thibodaux, La. (Photo courtesy of Bill Crawford)

The last two weeks have been a joint effort of those above, a small group of volunteers from First Presbyterian Church in Thibodaux, community leaders, and—simply put—personal friends old and new. We have seen God move through the generosity of the Presbytery, local people, friends, family, and strangers from across the country.

Many individuals and congregations have made contributions for us to make sure we could meet expenses and meet needs. Thank you! By your gifts we’ve been able to do some amazing things.

We’ve paid to tarp three homes that had no available person to do it. Through a food pantry at First Presbyterian Church of Thibodaux (FPCT) we have served 150 distinct households representing 554 people—in just the first 10 days after the storm. With the work of ACT we have helped serve 1,500 hot meals in Point Aux Chene (about an hour south of Thibodaux in the bayou)—where with your donations we set up a satellite relief warehouse larger than the one in Thibodaux. We’ve given food, water, and gasoline to hundreds of residents in the Point Aux Chene area, and built connections with the Dardar Indians and the local Fire Department.

I have to share one heartbreaking story. One of our deacons has an adult son with special needs. We discovered one of her son’s friends, who also has special needs, a few days ago. He was home alone with his dog, where he rode out the storm in a closet because his caretakers had abandoned him. Our deacon is currently housing both young men in her two-bedroom home, and we are providing some funds so she can buy enough groceries.

In addition to financial support, volunteers have helped clean out two houses and moved members’ furniture into First Presbyterian Church of Houma. The church facility is currently closed due to its own damage and loss of power and water, so we are using it as temporary storage.

Today (Monday, September 13) we are helping two widows pack up anything salvageable before we rip their homes to the studs. We are in a race against time with Tropical Storm Nicholas bearing down on us with the potential for heavy rain over the next few days.

Relief, Recovery, Rebuild

So what is next? The three Rs of a disaster are Relief (meet the basic needs of daily survival), Recovery (save the valuables that cannot be replaced and mitigate further damage), and Rebuild (help people rebuild their lives).

Damage from Hurricane Ida is providing an almost unlimited avenue for ministry in South Louisiana. (Photo courtesy of Bill Crawford)

We are wrapping up the relief phase, which I have never seen happen so quickly. We have more than enough water. We have more than enough food (although hot food is a value). Gasoline has gone from a one-hour wait to almost no lines in Thibodaux. But further south, those down the bayou are catching up. By your gifts we have delivered more than 200 gallons of gas into Point Aux Chene. We have used about that in Houma and Thibodaux.

Recovery is going to be a heavy lift. As we say, “We’re all in the pot.” My home is still without power, and I am living at my neighbor’s house. I put the cook team in my house this week thanks to a generator generously provided from folks in west Louisiana. I might move home next week. But literally everyone has damage. We have only two members in the two congregations who have power. Several moved home, their generators failed, and they’ve moved back out. The damage is just astounding. I can drive for three hours in one direction without leaving this zone. As I go south it just gets worse and worse.

As you try to help us, please be patient. We can likely only handle one group at a time for now. Saturdays may be the best time, but we can’t handle all of you at once! There’s plenty of work—we’re literally surrounded by it—but knowing where to point you takes time and planning. It’s a 50-mile congregational parish and we’re all in the pot!

Further out is the next phase to help rebuild several homes. We will need skilled labor for that work. It will have to be a collaborative effort and will require an entrepreneurial attitude and an adventurous spirit.

I don’t even know what else is going on in the world, but for the last two weeks we’ve been living in the eye of the storm. We are grateful that the Eye of the Lord is on the sparrow and that He watches us to the point that He knows the hairs of our heads!

This is a long report, but it is written out of a sense of amazement and joy. There is so much work to do; so many stories to tell. Each day full and each night restful. Clarity comes in the storm. What matters most is made crystal clear. But clarity comes and grows each day as we experience relief, recovery, and are rebuilt by the Holy Spirit.

God bless you all—we love you and we thank you.

TE Bill Crawford

Secure online donations to help with recovery efforts can be made at, which also includes instructions for donating by check and text-to-give.

Louisiana EPC church members suffer ‘total loss’ from Hurricane Ida


Hurricane Ida left downtown Thibodaux, La., strewn with bricks and rubble. (photo courtesy of Bill Crawford)

Reports of damage to EPC church buildings and congregation members’ homes resulting from Hurricane Ida continue to emerge in the days following the storm’s August 29 landfall in Louisiana.

Bill Crawford, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Thibodaux, La., said several families in the congregation suffered “total losses.”

“One of our losses is just crippling,” he said. “She in her 50s, uninsured, and her husband died in December. Another family lives out in the bayou and it’s really bad.”

Crawford reported that he and his family were staying in the home of a church member who had evacuated and has a generator.

“My home has two trees that have fallen over the fence and are hanging on the neighbor’s power line, so I’m leaving them alone,” he said. “My roof has shingles missing everywhere, the garage roof is leaking, and the tarp I put over the damage is leaking. Thankfully it’s only over the garage, and so many people here are dealing with much worse. Some of these folks are just beside themselves trying to figure out what’s next.”

This home of a church member suffered significant damage. (photo courtesy of Bill Crawford)

Crawford said the church building escaped major damage.

“Structurally, the church building in Thibodaux is sound. The building has always had leaking issues, but they have been mitigated and we are good there,” he reported, adding that he and his family are using the church as a makeshift relief center.

“We are set up for relief and giving out supplies in the dark—but what’s how we roll around here,” he said. “For now it’s me and my family because the members of the church are dealing with stuff too. We have received an initial load of supplies from the Presbytery, and even though we are not advertising we’ve had about 30 households come through and pick up bottled water, tarps, and other things.”

Crawford also serves as Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Houma, La., about 15 miles south of Thibodaux.

Bill Crawford

“The ridge cap blew off the roof of the church building on Houma, and there are leaks all over,” he said. “Bricks are on the roof, but they are not our bricks. If I can’t get the insurance folks over I’ll have to figure something out. As for our members, everyone is just coping. For the most part, people either evacuated or are in serious trouble. The big problem we are going to face is mildew—this is South Louisiana, so we are literally in a swamp.”

He said one family who lives in a trailer home “has a hole in their roof and no tarp” while another was “completely flooded when water overtopped the levee. Another family lost everything—they are in Florida now.”

The courtyard entrance for First Presbyterian Church in Houma was littered with roofing shingles and other debris. (photo courtesy of Bill Crawford)

Amid the devastation, Crawford noted that the area is “one of the most churched places in America. There are so many good Christians here jumping in to help—we are blessed.”

Northeast flooding

The news is better in the Presbytery of the East, where the remnants of Ida delivered heavy rains, flooding, and tornadoes across a wide area of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.

Glenn Marshall, Pastor of Park Avenue Community Church in Somerdale, N.J., said his congregation escaped significant damage.

“We are all fine,” Marshall reported. “We had storms all around us. One family who lives in Mantua Township had a tornado close to them, but they are thankfully unscathed.”

Mantua Township is about 4 miles from Mullica Hill, N.J., where a confirmed EF-3 tornado with 150 mph top winds destroyed numerous houses on September 1.

About 80 miles north in Kearny, N.J., Pastor Valdir Reis said the Closer to God Evangelical Presbyterian Church building’s basement flooded, but the members of the congregation fared well.

“Thankfully, so far no one has reported any loss or anything serious following the storm,” Reis reported by email on September 3. “There were members with minor leaks but that was all taken care of and everyone is healthy as far as we know.”

In the northern portion of Brooklyn, N.Y., Pastor Jamison Galt said many parishioners of Resurrection Clinton Hill had flooded basements, “but nothing worse. We are grateful.”

About 5 miles south, Brian Steadman said parishioners of his congregation had their homes elevated as part of their recovery from Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge in 2012, and only experienced minor issues. Steadman is Pastor of Resurrection Park Slope in Brooklyn.

Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk, said he has been in contact with church and Presbytery leaders across the affected areas.

“Several churches in the Presbytery of the Gulf South are coordinating relief efforts and work teams,” Weaver said. “As they assess the situation and start to be able to host volunteers, we will get that information out. In the meantime, we are accepting donations to the EPC Emergency Relief Fund to help with immediate needs. We’ve been told the most pressing items are fuel, tarps, bottled water, and Gatorade.”

Secure online donations can be made at, which also includes instructions for donating by check and text-to-give.

Back in Louisiana, Crawford said they would continue to distribute relief supplies as they are delivered and looks forward to hosting work teams as soon as they can.

“At this point, we are just chugging along and accomplishing tasks,” he said. “We are a really small congregation and it’s a bit overwhelming. I can’t imagine how those with a large group are keeping up with everyone. Just knowing our EPC friends are praying for us and that they care is a huge comfort.”

Prayers requested for Louisiana as Hurricane Ida approaches


As Hurricane Ida approaches Louisiana with 150 mph winds, please join EPC leadership in prayer for those in its path. Several EPC churches in Louisiana are in the path of the storm:

  • First Presbyterian Church in Thibodeaux (Pastor: Bill Crawford)
  • First Presbyterian Church in Houma (Pastor: Bill Crawford)
  • Woodland Church in New Orleans (Pastor: Joseph McDaniels)
  • Church of the Resurrection in New Orleans (Pastor: Ben Cunningham)
  • New Covenant EPC in Mandeville (Pastor: Hunter Gray)
  • Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington (Pastor: Jason Wood)
  • River Community Church in Prairieville (without a Pastor, but Whitney Alexander is Moderator of Session).
  • First Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge (Pastor: Gerrit Dawson).

Pray that God’s grace and protective hand will sustain those who have not been able to evacuate. Pray also for each of these Pastors and their staff and leaders as they care for their congregations and communities today and in the days to come.

Louisiana, Texas brace for Hurricane Delta as EPC churches continue cleanup effort from Hurricane Laura


Blue tarps on homes in Lake Charles, La., indicate the extent of damage left by Hurricane Laura as Hurricane Delta takes aim at the region. (photo credit: Erik Stratton,

As Hurricane Delta bears down on the northern Gulf Coast, volunteers from numerous EPC churches expect to ramp up their ongoing recovery efforts since Hurricane Laura swept through southwest Louisiana in late August. Delta is expected to strengthen by the time it makes landfall on October 9.

Members of First Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge, La., and First Presbyterian Church in Ocean Springs, Miss., have traveled to the heaviest-hit areas in the weeks since the category 4 storm made landfall August 27, causing extensive damage in Lake Charles and the surrounding area. Additional damage from Delta could further complicate what is a serious situation, according to relief effort leaders for the EPC’s Presbytery of the Gulf South.

Whitney Alexander

Whitney Alexander, Associate Pastor of Missions for First Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge, said recovery efforts have focused largely on removing debris from wind damage and flooding. Alexander and Kory Duncan, Associate Pastor of Missions at First Presbyterian Church in Ocean Springs, are coordinating EPC relief efforts in the region.

“The wind damage was unbelievable,” Alexander said. “More than 50 percent of trees have been knocked over or damaged for the entire western side of Louisiana. Thousands of power lines were snapped or leaning over, with 80,000-plus roofs in these three communities damaged or destroyed. In some cases, the entire home has been leveled by trees falling.”

He noted that relief efforts were underway quickly after the storm moved out of the area. Members of First Presbyterian Church in Vicksburg, Miss., joined the teams from Baton Rouge and Ocean Springs with chainsaws and other tools in Alexandria, La., on September 4 and 5. The groups removed limbs from homes of members of Grace Presbyterian Church in Alexandria—approximately 100 miles north-northeast of Lake Charles and the nearest EPC congregation to Laura’s path of destruction. The following weekend, another group of 15 volunteers continued debris cleanup work in Alexandria.

Teams from Baton Rouge have continued to work in Lake Charles on Wednesdays and Saturdays, sawing downed trees and moving the debris to the curb.

“I just returned from my 12th trip,” Alexander said.

Kory Duncan (left) and volunteers from First Presbyterian Church in Ocean Springs, Miss., drove four hours to Alexandria, La., to help cleanup efforts following Hurricane Laura. (photo credit: Kory Duncan)

Duncan said students from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge joined the church teams to help clear debris in Alexandria.

“When trees fall in your yard, your insurance will cover it to get it off your house or to get it off your driveway or to get it off of any outbuildings, but the stuff that’s just lying in your yard, it’s on you,” Duncan said. “We spent an entire day working with a 90-year-old man. He was working when we got there and was working when we left—the whole time on one tree that had fallen that was probably 40 inches in diameter. We helped him—and we helped him a lot—but he still had more to do when we left.”

Alexander said he is praying there are no more injuries or property damage with Hurricane Delta.

“People are desperate,” he said. “My job is to continue loving people—that’s what I do. I’m going to continue to go to Lake Charles for a long time. We don’t need resources. We just need prayers. The supplies will be tripled and quadrupled. I’ll be there until next March, that’s how bad it is.”

He added that the 80,000 damaged and destroyed homes in the region will be rebuilt, but it will likely take several years.

“My heart hurts for those people,” Alexander said. “We’ve been through this in 2005, 2008, and 2016. Baton Rouge has been through it. I know how hard it is for these people. Gratefully, the Lord has spared us in Baton Rouge this time.”

He said his prayer for Hurricane Delta—the 25th named hurricane of the Atlantic season—is that “somehow the Holy Spirit and His mighty strength can dissipate that storm from 100 mph to like 50 when it gets on land. We know it is going to hit somebody, but we don’t want it to slam in as the last one did. The last one just annihilated everything.”

Duncan said his prayer is for more EPC churches to organize together or with other groups to train and prepare in advance to respond to future disasters.

“Thank goodness for organizations here and for the church,” Alexander said. “Without the church, I promise you they wouldn’t be this far in recovery efforts.”

by Tim Yarbrough
EPConnection correspondent

Emergency fund launched for Beirut explosion relief


BeirutExplosionReliefFundThe EPC has launched an emergency relief fund to help relieve suffering caused by a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4. The blast killed more than 180 people and injured an additional 6,000. An estimated 300,000 people were left homeless.

Donations to the fund will be sent to the Church of the Nazarene in Beirut and other key ministry partners of EPC World Outreach.

“The Nazarene Church in Lebanon has a long history of work among Lebanon’s poor and refugees, and is very well-positioned to provide emergency help in Christ’s name to victims of the blast,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “Many of our Nazarene brothers and sisters there were sharing their meager resources with refugees even before the explosion. Our gifts will be a great encouragement to their faithful and generous outreach, as well as our other partners in Lebanon.”

Click here to donate to the Beirut Explosion Relief Fund. Thank you for providing help to those in need.

California EPC churches minister amid wildfire destruction


The LNU Lightning Complex fire burns vegetation near Vacaville, Calif., on August 19. (photo credit: Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

A wildfire sparked by lightning in northern California has destroyed the property of a Ruling Elder of Covenant Community Church in Vacaville, Calif.


Julia Leeth

“It has been a very long few days for the residents of Vacaville and surrounding areas,” Julia Leeth, pastor of Covenant Community Church, said by email on August 20. “One of our elders lost their home, barns, and cottage. It’s complete devastation.”

As of August 20, the LNU Lightning Complex Fire has burned more than 131,000 acres and forced thousands of residents in Solano, Sonoma, Napa, Lake, and Yolo counties to evacuate. Authorities are reporting that more than 100 structures have been destroyed, with an additional 30,000 threatened.

“Many of our congregants have been evacuated, but everyone has a place to stay,” Leeth added. “Our church property is intact, and we opened our parking lot and facilities for those who needed it. We are receiving donations to help the family who lost their home. But He is good, and we are hanging in there.”

About 90 miles northeast of Vacaville, the Jones fire forced 16 families of Sierra Presbyterian Church in Nevada City, Calif., to evacuate, said Pastor Mike Griffin.


Mike Griffin

“The church property is fine so far, and is not in the evacuation area,” Griffin wrote by email on August 19. “We have made sure that church members have found a place to stay who needed to be evacuated. We also have a few families staying in travel trailers or RVs on the church campus.”

Griffin noted that members of the congregation had set up a lemonade stand to serve first responders who are attending to the Jones fire.

EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah said he was grateful that the damage was not greater.

“I am inspired by our churches in these fire-prone areas who so many times have put aside their own needs to minister to their communities,” he said. “I also am grateful that because of the generosity of the EPC we have a healthy balance in our Emergency Relief Fund should it be needed.”


Members of Sierra Presbyterian Church in Nevada City, Calif., set up a lemonade stand to serve first responders attending to the Jones fire, which as of August 20 has charred nearly 1,000 acres in Nevada County, Calif. (photo courtesy of Mike Griffin)

Church sewing groups answer call for masks for Michigan COVID-19 hotspot


Hamtramck, Mich., is an area that was hit hard by COVID-19. About five miles from downtown Detroit, 42 percent of Hamtramck’s 22,000 residents are foreign-born—giving Hamtramck the largest percentage of immigrants in the state and a longtime focus of EPC World Outreach efforts among Muslims in the United States.

Between January and March, as many as 300 families moved to Hamtramck from Bangladesh to join relatives. The March coronavirus outbreak and subsequent shelter-in-place orders isolated these immigrants in unfamiliar surroundings, in some cases even from relatives. So when a World Outreach global worker in the area put out an urgent request in April for masks to share with the Bangladeshi and Yemeni families in their neighborhood, women in sewing groups at two EPC churches jumped into action.


Paula Creamer

Paula Creamer, a Ruling Elder for Grace Community Church in Falcon, Colo., responded to the need after seeing it posted on the EPC Women’s Resource Council’s Facebook page.

“We have a women’s sewing group at the church called Stitchers of Grace,” Creamer said. “It actually started about seven years ago in response to a need for pillowcases at a local homeless shelter. We sew pillowcases every year now for the Salvation Army and the shelters.”

When COVID-19 hit Colorado and local paramedic, fire, and police departments requested mask donations, Stitchers of Grace stepped up to help. They were joined by two other women’s sewing groups in the Colorado Springs area: The Black Forest Craft Guild and Falcon Stitchers. The three groups were familiar with one another, having met at the annual craft show that is held at Grace Community Church each holiday season.

“Between the three groups, we have about 20 women who have given their time and efforts over the last few weeks to sew almost 9,000 masks,” Creamer said. “We have given them out to rescue workers, shelters, clinics, and hospitals. We already knew how to make them when the request came from Hamtramck. So, of course, we said we could help.”

Meanwhile, across the country in Findlay, Ohio, a group of women from Gateway Church also was rallying to sew masks for Hamtramck.

“The request came from one of our mission partners,” said Cody Ohnmeiss, who serves as Gateway’s Go Local Director. “We were already partnered with that area of Michigan and wanted to help in any way that we could.”

So he called Sandra Tietje, who leads a ministry team called Sew, Quilt, Share. When Ohnmeiss told her they needed 500 masks, her response was, “That’s a big number!”

But she knew that God would provide, as He always does. The group had already been sewing masks for local hospitals and nursing home facilities. In the previous month, they had distributed more than 2,000 masks—all made from materials they already had on hand or had been donated from local fabric shops.

“God knew that this moment was coming and what would be needed, and He had already laid the foundation so that this could happen,” Tietje said. “There were many, many hands involved in this process, and God is the one who has done it.”

The women’s group launched in 2003 when a few ladies from the church felt like God was calling them to start a sewing ministry as part of the church’s outreach ministries.

“We have a strong missional history at Gateway,” Tietje said. “I have a photo of my grandmother working on a quilt with her Ladies Missionary Society back in 1967. I’m actually in the photo, too—underneath the quilt! We grew up watching our mothers hold bake sales and sew things to raise money for missions. This is our heritage.”

Every month, people meet at the church to cut fabric and put kits together to distribute to women who want to participate in the sewing projects. Ohnmeiss serves as the runner, dropping off and picking up projects throughout the city.

“One of the beautiful things about sewing is that if you have a passion for it and you meet someone else that has a passion for it as well, it breaks down the barriers that divide,” Tietje said. “This is a fun, non-threatening outreach to our friends. There are ladies who have started coming to our church because of friendship evangelism through the sewing group.”

Creamer has seen the same thing at Grace Community Church.

“Some of the women have started praying together and a few have even been attending the Tuesday Women’s Bible Study,” she said. “This latest project—the masks for frontline workers—has connected us more deeply with the community. We’ve even had grocery stores providing us with twist ties from the produce section to make the nosepiece on the masks.”

Creamer knows firsthand what a blessing these masks have been. Her husband is an essential government employee, and she is a nurse in a local hospital.

Ohnmeiss noted that a perhaps-unexpected blessing from the effort was watching how God brought many different people together to serve those who are in need.

“One of our pastors made it a family project,” he said. “He and his girls had never sewed a mask before, but they put in a day’s effort and came out with masks to send to Michigan. It was beautiful to watch.”

All of the masks produced by the church groups have been sent to Hamtramck. Between the two churches, they were able to provide even more than the 500 that were originally requested.

Tietje understands firsthand how important it is to come together in this unprecedented time and be there for one another. Her father-in-law passed away in May, and they were unable to be with him in the nursing home when he was sick or give him the kind of funeral that they would have liked. While the experience was difficult, it also gave her a greater empathy for those who were suffering and a passion to get even more masks to those in need.

“God always lays the groundwork before something like this happens,” she said. “He knew the pandemic was coming long before we did, and was aware of every little need. He brought our sewing group together for such a time as this. What a joy and privilege to play a small part in His plan.”

By Kiki Schleiff Cherry
EPConnection correspondent

May Jeremiah Journal offers encouragement during pandemic


In the May 2020 edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah offers encouragement during the coronavirus pandemic. He also describes some ways the Office of the General Assembly is serving and resourcing EPC churches and pastors during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at Each month’s update also is posted to EPConnection and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For a transcript of this month’s edition in printable pdf format, click here.

EPC churches minister to members, communities affected by Easter tornado outbreak


An EF3 tornado destroyed the area of East Brainerd Road in Chattanooga, Tenn., on April 13, only a few miles from the EPC’s Brainerd Presbyterian Church. Photo courtesy of Hamilton County Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security, Emergency Medical Services and Field Services.

One week after a series of tornados raked the southeastern United States, EPC churches are helping members of their churches and communities affected by the storms.

Michael Allen, Pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Laurel, Miss., said several members of the congregation worked on Monday following the Sunday night storms to cut fallen trees off the home of Westminster’s nursery director, Gail Smith.


Michael Allen

“We put her and her family in a hotel for a few days and will be helping her move into our mission house until she can get her home repaired,” Allen said. “She will need a new roof and possibly other structural repairs.”

In addition to Smith, Allen said one of the teachers in Westminster’s Laurel Christian School “lost everything,” and some other church members were “mildly affected” but not displaced.

Allen reported “indescribable devastation” in the area around Laurel, in southeastern Mississippi.

“The damage is over a mile wide of complete ruin and it goes for miles,” he said. “There will be lots of work to do but it looks like everybody is getting involved and helping out.”

The only known damage to an EPC church property from the Easter storm system was Brainerd Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., which Dane Deatherage serves as pastor. He said that downed trees and power lines prevented him from getting to the church campus quickly, even though he only lives about a half mile away.


Dane Deatherage

“We have a few very minor repairs to do,” he reported. “We have some small damage to a portico, and several trees down. None of the trees, however, damaged our building.”

Deatherage said none of the congregation’s members were injured, though four families have been displaced.

“One neighborhood was hit really bad, and we have several families with substantially damaged homes and property—lost roofs, trees on their homes,” he said. “The devastation is heartbreaking, but we hope for Jesus to use us to display His grace and glory. We are thankful that God protected us, and we are praying for our neighbors who have had major home damage, injuries, and have lost loved ones.”

Pastors in Monroe, La.; Meridian, Miss.; and the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic reported varying levels of local damage, but no injuries or harm to any EPC church property or members’ homes.

John Mabray, Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Monroe, reported via text message that the hardest-hit area of the city was on the east side, including the airport.

“It hit in an area pretty far from us, the church, and most of our members,” Mabray said. “I do not know of any church members who suffered damage.”

Rhett Payne, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Meridian Miss., said by text message that Meridian—about 60 miles northeast of Laurel—was spared a direct hit from the tornados.

“We had them all around us, but nothing in Meridian,” he said.

Further east in the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, Stated Clerk Ron Horgan said he was not aware of any EPC churches that were impacted, despite heavy local damage in parts of North Carolina and South Carolina.

“We haven’t heard of any storm damage from our churches,” Horgan said by email.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said a disbursement from the EPC’s Emergency Relief Fund was made within three hours of a request for assistance.

“I am grateful that we have a very healthy balance due to the generosity of our churches and thousands of individuals in previous disaster situations,” Jeremiah said. “These funds are available for churches to repair damage to their property, but also as they identify needs among their members and their communities. We want to do everything we can to help our churches minister in Jesus’ name when the need is the greatest.”

Throughout the April 12-13 outbreak, 132 tornadoes touched down across 10 states, inflicting widespread and locally catastrophic damage. The strongest tornados occurred in southern Mississippi, several of which produced estimated winds of nearly 200 m.p.h. and reached widths of more than two miles. With a total of 32 tornado-related fatalities, it was the deadliest tornado outbreak since April 2014. Relief efforts were complicated by social distancing requirements amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

CARES Act provides benefits for churches during coronavirus crisis


CaresActCapitolOn March 27, President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The legislation provides many benefits to individuals and churches. The purpose of this article is to provide information solely about how EPC churches may apply for federally guaranteed loans during the COVID-19 crisis. A subsequent article will address individual benefits.

“Please note that this is our best understanding of the CARES Act on March 30,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “The implementation of this program hasn’t been finalized yet, so we will continue to monitor developments related to the CARES Act as they occur and provide updates as quickly as possible.”

Q: How can my church benefit from the CARES Act?

A: The CARES Act allows for any 501(c)(3) organization with 500 or fewer employees that has been substantially affected by COVID-19 to borrow under the Small Business Administration (SBA) 7(a) program—the Paycheck Protection Program Loan. The EPC is a 501(c)(3) organization, which means all EPC churches enjoy this status.

Q: Why are EPC churches eligible for this loan program?

A: The purpose of these loans is to help small businesses to keep their workers employed and compensated through the COVID-19 crisis. This program incentivizes employers to keep their employees instead of laying them off and shutting down their businesses.

Q: When will the SBA begin taking applications for Paycheck Protection Program loans?

A: On March 29, Larry Kudlow, Director of the United States National Economic Council, announced that the SBA would begin taking applications on Friday, April 3. This date may change given the fluidity of the impact of COVID-19.

Q: What is the duration of the Paycheck Protection Program?

A: The Paycheck Protection Program covers the period beginning February 15, 2020 and ending on June 30, 2020 (the “Covered Period”).

Q: What is the loan amount a church may apply for?

A: That amount is determined by the church’s payroll and related employee expenses for the period February 15 through June 30, 2020.

Q: How much can a church or ministry borrow?

A: The amount that may be borrowed is the total average monthly payroll costs for the preceding 12 months (March 2019 through February 2020), multiplied by a factor of 2.5. For example, if the average payroll costs for the preceding twelve months were $20,000, the maximum amount of the loan would be $20,000 times 2.5 for a total of $50,000. The maximum amount available for a Payroll Protection Loan is $10,000,000.

Q: What costs are considered payroll costs?

A: Salary or wages, payments of a cash tip, vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave, health benefits, retirement benefits, and state and local taxes.

Q: Is there a salary maximum that the loan can cover?

A: Yes. Salary expenses above $100,000 per employee are not eligible for consideration as payroll costs. Loan proceeds may not be used to pay salaries above $100,000 per employee.

Q: Is the pastor’s housing allowance included in the computation of payroll costs?

A: The SBA needs to issue guidance on how housing allowance will factor into the payroll cost calculations.

Q: Are there any other ways in which this loan may be used?

A: The loan proceeds may also be used to pay mortgage interest (not principal) payments, rent payments, utilities, or interest on other loans outstanding at the time of the pandemic. As stated above, the total amount of the loan can be up to 2.5 times the average monthly payroll costs for the one-year period preceding the date of the loan. However, the only amount eligible for forgiveness is the total spent during the eight-week period beginning on the date of the loan on payroll costs including benefits (except for staff with salaries over $100,000), mortgage interest payments (not principal), rent, and utilities.

Q: How will the church need to document how its Paycheck Protection Program loan is used?

A: The church is required to make a “good faith certification” that the loan is necessary due to economic conditions caused by COVID-19. The church will need to demonstrate that the loan was used to retain employees, maintain payroll, and pay rent and utilities.

Q: How soon must the church, ministry, or pastor repay the loan?

A: A Paycheck Protection Program loan may include a term of up to 10 years from the date of application.

Q: What is the interest rate for a Paycheck Protection Program loan?

A: The maximum interest rate for this loan is 4 percent per year.

Q: May payments under the loan be deferred?

A: Yes, for a period not less than six months but not to exceed more than one year from the date of the loan.

Q: May all or part of the Paycheck Protection Program loan be forgiven?

A: Yes, the program is designed to encourage employers to retain employees and loan forgiveness is a key feature of these loans. A church under a covered loan can have all or a portion of the principal of the loan forgiven in an amount equal to payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent, or utility costs during the eight-week period following the origination of the loan. The forgiven amount, however, may be reduced based on a formula that compares the ministry’s employment in prior pre-COVID periods with the number of employees and each employee’s wage or salary in the eight-week period following the origination of the loan.

Q: How does my church apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan?

A: Churches will apply for this loan through an approved SBA lender, which includes most local banks.

Q: What can the church do immediately to prepare to apply for a loan?

  • Confirm the church’s bank is an approved SBA lender. If it is, inform it that the church wants to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan ASAP. Ask the bank to provide the church with loan document documentation requirements. The bank will assist the church in completing the application.
  • Take whatever action is required for the church to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan (Session and/or congregational approval). Depending on local social distancing or meeting limitation regulations, this meeting may need to be virtual.
  • Ensure the church’s 2019 financial statements are complete and first quarter 2020 financial statements are prepared ASAP.


Information is gleaned with appreciation from Batts, Morrison, Wales & Lee (the audit firm of the EPC), the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), Horizons Stewardship, and Baptist Press of the Southern Baptist Convention, which utilized a Q&A approach in its report.