What’s in a name? Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne are common names that now have a new meaning for many people in the US and Caribbean. The two-month barrage of hurricanes and tornadoes triggered one of the nation’s largest responses. The hurricanes that hit southeastern US with high winds caused heavy flooding in the extended Ohio River Valley, and spawned tornadoes as far as Delaware in the northeast. While recovery continues, over 15,000 are living in temporary FEMA house trailers and 2,000 victims are still waiting for FEMA support with as many as 100 new applicants each day.
One average person or church does make the difference in disaster response. Before the first hurricane hit land in Florida, volunteers were already loading Crisis Care Kits from Jim Cummin’s donated Cocoa Beach warehouse to be delivered to churches near the predicted landfall path of the hurricane. Pastors were preparing their churches to be used as “temporary shelters” for the estimated three million people that would be asked to evacuate. Others were stocking “their church shelves” with extra food and supplies. Little did they know there would be four hurricanes within two months. Nor did churches at Lake Wales and Haines City realize they would be in the path of three hurricanes.
The stories of average churches and volunteers making the difference are endless. They found that the power of presence alone, in time of need, speaks louder than words.
The Wiscasset, Maine church rallied the entire community twice, to assist with truck loads of donated supplies for southern Florida. While they were loading one truck, an unchurched volunteer college student was led to the Lord through the witness of Pastor Wally Staples and his people.
Before Hurricane Ivan hit Monroeville, Alabama, Pastor Freddie Lindsey had already driven a truck load of bottled water to Florida. The local newspaper ran a lead article challenging the community to assist the church in sending their planned second, and hopefully third truck load of bottled water even though they themselves had just been hit by a hurricane. A few miles away, Dothan, Alabama Pastor Mark Berry found a “donated warehouse” to receive supplies. With the help of Florida Panhandle’s pastors and people, support was given throughout the southeast. A Dodge City, Kansas newspaper ran a story about Stephen Klassen’s huge truck with a banner that read, “Florida’s Disaster Relief - Church of the Nazarene”, encouraging the people to bring donated goods to his truck parked at the WALMART. After driving hundreds of miles to Florida with the help of Richard McVay, there were tears and smiles of hope from the weary hurricane flood victims when the truck arrived. This rural area had 200 miles of flooded, closed roads and no electricity or plumbing. This was their first support in six weeks.The big banner on the side of the truck said it all. Your church was there as the people came in boats, vintage automobiles and hip boots. When the County Commissioner came, he asked NDR representative Rev. Don May to come back and meet with the people, using the Bible as a basis of hope for the future.
FEMA parked their huge mobile office on Winter Haven First Haitian’ Nazarene Church’s property to register the hundreds of people who needed financial support and food. The church doors and the worship altar were also open to the public. When NCM coordinator Dan Soliday visited this area, he was encouraged to see that average sized churches were making such an impact in their communities.
In Sebastian, Florida, on the Church at the Cross’ property, three of FEMA’s donated mobile trailer homes are still being used as temporary housing for those who without shelter. Although Pastor John Vacchiano and his people are rebuilding their own devastated church building, they are also making a difference in other lives. Punta Gorda, Florida’s Pastor John Denby joined many other families and churches, using donated trailers for temporary housing until their homes could be repaired and their churches rebuilt. The Alabama North District joined others in offering support by sending a truck loaded with building supplies that couldn’t be purchased in Florida due to supply and demand problems.
Because NDR is a part of the National Volunteer Agencies Active in Disaster (NVOAD), which includes major faith groups and national agencies, it is a witness to read in their national news release that Okeechobee, Florida’s Church of the Nazarene is hosting weekly recovery agency meetings. It reminds us again, one church can make the difference, even among national agencies. Now, Pastor Jim Hudson is known as the “chaplain of the city”.
In the midst of waist high flood waters in Powhatan, Ohio’s Nazarene church, Pastor Don Lawson used his church in “support feeding”. The community joined in serving 600-700 meals a week to victims in need. A few miles away in Shadyside, Ohio, the people continued their support for needs through Pastor Dennis Hancock, who is a volunteer Chaplain for Emergency Services in the Southeastern Ohio Disaster Network, reaching out to 7,323 homes affected in their area.
Making a difference in one life? As stated earlier in Monroeville, Alabama, while his church was reaching out, Pastor Lindsey was called upon to assist in saving the life of a 22-month old baby that had fallen in an old abandoned well in Frisco City. It took thirteen hours to save her due to extremely dangerous conditions. The Alabama House of Representatives joined with the American Red Cross and several city/county organizations, individually honoring him for his efforts in rescuing Da’Jour McMillian. The newspaper headlined the story “Individuals can make a difference” . And so can you. This is what Nazarene Disaster Response is all about...bringing hope and life. You, too, can be a ready response.
J. V. Morsch
Field Director, Nazarene Disaster Response