Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Faith Works 9-03-05
Jeff Gill

Are local churches doing anything for relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina?
That's an important question, and the amazing thing is that the answer is yes.
First, many churches have relief agencies they support through the year that are part of the first "boots on the ground" response, of money and material and sometimes trained personnel. Catholic Relief Services, all of the One Great Hour of Sharing or Week of Compassion related Protestant groups, Lutheran Disaster Response, Latter Day Saints’ Relief Society, and the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board’s disaster relief teams.
And the Salvation Army is a church first, a social service agency second; you know they have fleets of trained responders and equipment on the way.
Almost any faith community in Licking County has direct ties to work that is already begun in and around New Orleans and from there to Mobile.
Now, are there people from Licking County heading to the Gulf Coast? As soon as we hear about anyone doing so, the Advocate will be ready to tell their story. But most emergency services folk are saying quickly and firmly: wait. If you aren’t well trained and have a specialty task you’ve been asked to provide, you could end up being part of the problem, not any kind of solution.
Where church folk from many different backgrounds and traditions often are most important in disaster relief is long after the story is capped by national media, and the FEMA trucks have rumbled off to the next crisis. The basic clean-up, the low end rebuilding, and human reconstruction: that’s where the large accumulation of small simple steps is crucial, and that’s often where we in Ohio can be the real heroes.
Local UCC churches know that a major mission program of their Ohio Conference churches is called "Back Bay Mission" in Biloxi, MS, and I’ve heard people tell me about returning in recent years from work trips where they were still repairing home damage from Hurricane Camille – you know, the one they keep mentioning as the last worst storm through this area, and it was decades ago.
I have a feeling that UCCers and other church groups will be doing carpentry and clean up and counseling in the wake of Hurricane Katrina for decades to come as well; tell us those stories, too, in the months ahead.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; if you have participated in any disaster relief efforts through your faith community, send your story to disciple@voyager.net.

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