The Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, though it has fewer than 300 churches in the U.S. and almost none in the deep south, responded heroically during August and September, 2005, to the upheaval caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Grace Brethren people from Richmond, Virginia, to Ripon, California, gave money, sent relief supplies, and took time off work to live in tents, man chainsaws, and minister to the displaced and disoriented. And there were probably many more individual and church responses that have not come to our attention.
Dozens of detailed reports are available online in the August and September archives of the editor’s blog at www.fgbc-world.blogspot.com. They will not be detailed here.
The very first response was GBNAM’s Tim Boal announcing that funds for relief could be channeled through GBNAM, which would forward them to an approved agency for disposition.
Then the call came from Dan O’Deens to Dave Guiles at GBIM (see separate article) and the Fellowship really sprang into action. A First Responders Advance Team, led by Guiles, took off immediately for Shreveport, Louisiana, to meet with O’Deens and determine how to help. Immediately thereafter a team of 14 natorg and church leaders from a variety of sources-including heavy involvement by Grace College and Seminary-rushed to help O’Deens with his management needs.
Other stories started coming in. Jim Brown and several teams from the Goshen, Indiana, church took chainsaws and went south to Mobile. A couple from the Goldendale, Washington, church volunteered the use of a second home they were not occupying.
Wooster, Ohio, collected semi-rigs full of supplies and took them south to the Biloxi area. East Side Columbus teamed with a church in Houston to provide food for evacuees. Terry Hofecker, pastor of Northwest Chapel in Dublin, Ohio, went into the heart of New Orleans in his role as law enforcement chaplain, and his reports and photos were some of the most heart-rending to come back.
The Raleigh, North Carolina, church mobilized people to go south, as did Penn Valley in Telford, Pennsylvania. BMH sent bundles of its “Life’s Most Important Question” tract with those who might have opportunity to share the love of Christ. Grace College held a basketball benefit that raised $2,500 to help send students and staff south to help. GBNAM career missionary Chuck Davis spent three weeks managing two shelters in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church was the first-to our knowledge-to link with a sister congregation in Gulfport to provide long-term encouragement and help. Others are signing up through the SBC “Adopt-a-church” program. Peter Smith of Hope Valley Community Church in Red Hill, Pennsylvania, put together a multi-church group to clear debris and help clean up from the devastation.
GBNAM’s Ron Boehm became the central “prayer point,” posting prayer requests as reports and needs filtered in. Kathy Allison in the GBNAM Winona Lake office posted regular updates. Tom Avey’s Fellowship Coordinator’s office fed stories and eyewitness accounts to the BMH blog, and to websites at GBNAM, GBIM, and CE National.
Recognizing that the Fellowship’s response could have been even better coordinated with more advance planning, the First Responders Advance Team is holding meetings to establish protocols and accomplish some task force work to set up procedures to be followed when the next disaster strikes.
More than $75,000 has been given by Grace Brethren churches and people for the hurricane relief effort. Some of that funding is available to assist in future trips and relief efforts-contact Tom Avey at www.fgbc.org for details.
FGBC World will continue to report stories as activity now shifts from crisis-response to long-term assistance.