In the aftermath of tornadoes that tore across the Great Plains and the South this spring, whole communities lie in ruins, and removing the debris is just the first, easiest step in the rebuilding process. For Christ the King PCA in Joplin, Mo., and presbytery-wide relief efforts in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., the task now is to help residents rebuild their lives.
To date, Christ the King’s (CTK) tornado relief work has focused on building Sheds of Hope. Church members and out-of-town relief crews purchase sheds from Lowe’s and assemble them for families in the community. Once the sheds are built, women from the church paint and decorate them.
CTK pastor Reed Dunn said building sheds is intensely practical. “There is no extra storage in the area,” he said. “After the cleanup, [residents] have a permanent storage shed. It’s a lasting ministry to these people.”
Dunn said building Sheds of Hope gives the church a way to befriend community members and hear their stories. “The job of the church is to care for people and restore people, so this is where the church is at her very best … reaching out to people and getting into their lives,” he said.
CTK is currently planning a strategy for helping families with long-term needs. “The biggest thing we really need is prayer because there is just so much,” said Dunn. “Lives need to be restored and changed. Our church needs to be restored and changed in the process of sanctification through this. “
“Overwhelming Need” in Alabama
As in Joplin, the prayers, assistance, and financial support of the denomination have blessed the Evangel Presbytery relief efforts in and around Birmingham. Rev. Chris Thompson, pastor of mercy at Briarwood PCA in Birmingham, said he was overwhelmed by how many churches around the country contacted the presbytery about offering assistance. “It was so neat to see the body of Christ work so hard together, “ he said.
Thompson credits Mission to North America’s (MNA) swiftly-organized disaster response team and a unified response from all the churches in the presbytery with providing clean-up and supply distribution help.
As the initial work subsides, the presbytery has begun looking for families it can adopt to help with long-term relief. “We are looking to walk into people’s lives and offer them the gospel,” Thompson said. Evangel Presbytery has also formed a new subcommittee on disaster response so that it can be better prepared when the next disaster hits.
Even in an area as heavily churched as central Alabama, Thompson said, people are surprised to see the church active in the community. “It has been really neat to see people be a little more open to spiritual things,” he said. “As tragic as disaster is, you can see God opening hearts and homes to His people. It is a privilege to watch.”
In Warrior Presbytery, churches are doing what they can to meet the overwhelming needs in some of Tuscaloosa’s poorest communities.
In addition to offering its facility as living quarters for Habitat for Humanity work groups, Trinity PCA in Tuscaloosa used its preschool to offer free childcare for a few weeks after the storms.
Repenting of Goodness … and Neglect
Rev. Tim Lien, pastor of Riverwood PCA in Tuscaloosa, said that immediately after the storms, everyone wanted to appear to be doing something dramatic. “It was well intentioned, but we wanted people to think we were doing something awesome,” Lien said. “We had to repent of ambition in goodness.”
The storms decimated some of the poorest sections of Tuscaloosa and showed Lien how little his church had cared for those areas. These hard realizations forced Lien and the church’s summer interns to spend time walking with community members through the storm’s aftermath.
Currently, Lien said his interns work with about 12 families, talking with them, helping them get counseling, and spending time with their children. Like CTK and the churches of Evangel Presbytery, the churches in Warrior Presbytery must now discern how to best provide long-term care for these families.
“There are a lot of decisions down the road, and I don’t know what that’s going to look like,” Lien said. “There is so much that can’t be told because it would devalue the people involved. It appears much hasn’t been done, but … in our own hearts, it has done a lot.”
Ministering after the Storm: Prayer Requests and Needs
Christ the King PCA, Joplin: “Pray, give, come. That’s all we need, but all of those are really important. Pray for volunteers and for funding. Our goal is not to redeem the city, but to bring people into relationship with Christ. Pray that our work will open up the door for the real work—gospel proclamation." – Reed Dunn
Evangel Presbytery: “Right now, the biggest need is to locate the people we can help long term. We need prayer for direction to find those people. This will be a two- to four-year project to rebuild. We need to pray that the Lord would be the guide to show us the areas where we can offer ourselves.” - Chris Thompson
Warrior Presbytery: “Pray for wisdom for direction [regarding committing resources]. Pray for a commitment to vision, obedience, and endurance with those decisions and for unity in community regarding decisions.” – Tim Lien
Trinity PCA, Tuscaloosa: “Pray for wisdom and peace among our city leaders, that city politics would not come into play… . Pray that we would have a desire to make God’s name great.” – Catherine Brewbaker
To learn more about volunteering or giving, visit www.pca-mna.org. This article originally appeared at byFaithOnline. Used with permission.
Publication date: August 28, 2011