Thursday, September 22, 2005

An Encouraging Big Picture, Indeed

Liz Griffin, our outstanding Women's Ministry Director, wrote an excellent email to our ladies today. I post it here so that more of them (and our men too) can see how our faithful Christian women have been at work responding to the overwhelming needs in the wake of Katrina. Liz says:

Dear Ladies,

As e-mails have been flying over the past several weeks since the hurricane, I thought it might be good to step back and try to paint a bigger picture of what is happening in all the sharing of information, as well as add some personal stories. Some of you were involved in some of these stories, and others have many MORE of your own stories that you could share from the places where you have stepped up to serve. I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time out at our Brandon PCA Disaster Response office, and it was eye-opening to say the least. Dr. Duncan painted the picture for those of us who were at Wednesday night prayer meeting.

As Dr. Duncan mentioned Wednesday night, the work of the PCA Disaster Response office is not bureaucratic paper pushing. Instead, it is a managed chaos of phones ringing, some devoted to incoming calls and some for workers to make outgoing calls. As workers take those phone calls, voice mails stack up in numbers waiting for them when they hang up. All seem urgent. Some are the voices of tired and strained relief workers on the coast needing someone to step up to relieve them. Perhaps a man in charge of feeding hundreds or even a 1000 people in a few hours, yet calling to say he needs a truck pronto because he is out of food and water. Another from a site coordinator wanting to know where the cell phones he asked for were, because his volunteers could not coordinate with one another. Yet another is from a church (one of hundreds?) calling to say they want to mobilize a team and want to know what to do next. Another from a team who are ready to go but need a location that needs them. Another from a site that has room to house 30 volunteers that they desperately need for clean up. The Disaster Response office takes all these calls and connects needs with help wanting a place to plug in. They direct these ever changing needs to the local churches who then communicate out through a myriad of ways. It is amazing to watch the Lord direct and connect needs with help on an hourly basis as the phones buzz. In the meantime they also respond to the Cajun shrimp fisherman who shows up on their doorstep (in his boots no less!), needing help finding a place to live. The food our Circles are providing to that office is there to be offered to the walk-ins as well as the workers. They also take the call regarding a family with a newborn baby that has lost everything. They call CPC (Crisis Pregnancy Center) and arrange for one of their packages to be sent, and then the Disaster Response volunteers go to Wal-Mart and with their own funds purchase anything else the family needs for the little one. All this is then on its way in record time to the family. From individual requests to large requests, they take them all. They work through several staging sites close to the coast, and then on down a chain to individual churches which are their doorway to move help out into the surrounding community.

That brings in the bigger picture. As I was being trained for my volunteer time, I was told that the key was “network, network, network. Do NOT reinvent the wheel. We do not have time for that!” What has evolved from the hour to hour changing needs in the past few weeks is an amoeba-like network of agencies and churches all over, each working a piece of the puzzle. Our PCA Disaster office could not function without Christ United’s Distribution site, who they call when they need to load a truck for one of our sites on the coast. Christ United couldn’t function without sites like our Disaster Response office that coordinate where the needs are on the coast to send the collected goods. We call CPC for the newborn package. The Red Cross visits our office to check to see if we can help connect someone in their shelter with housing through our housing registrations on the website. All over our area people are working together to respond and it is an amazing thing.

Finally, there are the stories coming back. I met a trucker just returning from running a load to a small town on the coast. There he was met by the mayor of the town and the police. The mayor was so glad to see them, that after they unloaded he provided them with a police escort to the one restaurant open in town (a fish house!) for a meal ON THE TOWN.

A special thanks to all of you who have stepped up to contribute in some way. Wherever you have plugged in to help, you have plugged into this amoeba network that is working to provide help to the coast. The Lord is at work, and it is exciting to see His people be His hands and feet to those in need. As we continue to press on in this marathon, our WIC theme verse FOR THIS YEAR provides us much needed encouragement:

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Galatians 6:9-10

In His Service,

Liz Griffin
Director of Women’s Ministry
First Presbyterian Church of Jackson

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