IV Press Article 9-6-19 ### Viewpoint: What church is really supposed to look like

Rev Ron Griffen.jpg

On Aug. 29, 2005, I got up, made coffee, and turned on the television. I don’t think I was much different from many folks that day. Hurricane Katrina was making landfall near New Orleans. It was, to that point, the biggest hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast in our lifetimes. The most devastating area hit by Katrina was Gulfport, Miss.

I was pastoring a church in Orange County at the time, and one of our members, Bob Ullerich, came to me and suggested we send a work team to Gulfport to help out in the recovery. I agreed. We created a team of volunteers, and under the tutelage of Bob (He was a wildcatter, working on oil rigs, and sometimes the geothermal wells here in Imperial Valley — his nickname was “Big Dog.”) were trained in basic construction practices.

We made our way to Gulfport, and connected with the Methodist Church there, Trinity UMC. There we met John Kelly, church member and retired Army officer. That day, Aug. 29, 2005, John Kelly showed up at the church to see what damage had taken place. So did a lot of others. People checking on their friends and neighbors, wondering how they had fared. In the midst of the destruction, they came together to help out any way they could.

The first thing John Kelly realized was, with power out, there was no way to save any food these people had. So, he got them organized, got out the church barbecues, fired them up and began to cook.

Lines formed. The word went out. The church had food.

Two days later a semi rolled up to the church. “I’m supposed to deliver this food to the local market, but the market isn’t there any more. Can you use this food?” And so it went, like this, for several days while the Red Cross and FEMA began responding to the disaster.

Our work team worked on half a dozen homes, helping restore them. Helping families get back into their homes. We slept in the church hall, and John Kelly kept us fed along with all the other volunteers, and survivors.

All in all we sent four work teams to the Gulf Coast over a period of three years. After the immediate response to the situation FEMA asked UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) to coordinate the long-term recovery of the Gulf Coast. Our last team stayed at Camp Hope, set up on another church property in Gulfport by UMCOR. It consisted of a barracks for men and women, a dining hall, and storage area for building materials. On that last trip we restored three homes. That was 12 years ago.

On each of these mission trips I heard at least one of the volunteers say, “This is what being the church is all about.”

Big Dog and his wife, Nancy, two amazing, dedicated Methodists, moved right after our last trip to Gulfport in 2007. They now live in Columbia, S.C.

I emailed Nancy to let her know we were thinking about them and keeping them in prayer. Columbia won’t catch the brunt of Hurricane Dorian, but they will get some serious weather. And knowing Bob and Nancy the way I do, they will be out there somewhere, helping in any way they can, making things better for others.

Like lots of other people — people who get it, people who understand that alone they might be faster, but together we are stronger. Despite our differences. There are many John Kellys in the world. And Big Dogs. And Nancys. Thank God for them. They are the ones who remind us every day that helping others in times of need is what the church is all about.

Indeed.

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/viewpoint-what-church-is-really-supposed-to-look-like/article_bea92f9a-d053-11e9-bc50-f3874d4db2b8.html