The disaster response has wound down, but it has been wonderful. Columbia Falls United Methodist Church was the command center for the response. This is their closing report:
The high plains of the Rocky Mountain front are often the site of extreme weather conditions. As the winter of 2017-2018 blew into something extraordinary the snow continued to fall, the blizzards closed roads, and many of the people of the Blackfeet Nation became cut off from food and supplies. When Pastor Calvin Hill of the Blackfeet United Methodist Parish (BUMP) in Browning called for help, he contacted Pastor Dawn Skerritt of the Columbia Falls United Methodist Church (CFUMC). As Disaster Response Coordinator for the Yellowstone Conference of The United Methodist Church, Pastor Skerritt in turn contacted the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), an international organization. This brought immediate funds into play which started the relief effort in Browning and the Blackfeet Reservation.
An incident command center was set up at the church in Columbia Falls, and a local, community effort began. The response to the call for help was more than anyone could have anticipated. Volunteers staffed the command center. Food, supplies and monetary donations started pouring in from individuals, service organizations and other churches. More volunteers stepped up to drive the supplies to Browning. Others traveled across the mountains to assist the effort there, including cooking for volunteers, radio dispatching for the Blackfeet Tribe, cutting firewood and repacking supplies.
The response to the call for help through CFUMC became an effort that encompassed all of Northwest Montana. It became an example of how people come together to help others in their time of need. It became more than one church helping another church of the same denomination. It became an outpouring of love that grew into something bigger than any one individual, organization or church could have accomplished.
As the pile of boxes of food and supplies was staged at CFUMC awaiting transport to Browning, it grew larger and expanded into the sanctuary. One church member was heard to comment, “This is what ‘church’ should look like!”
Thank you to all who had a part in making “church” into a caring community for the people of the Blackfeet Nation.