Harvey, Irma and Maria. For several weeks it seemed like these were the only names you would hear on the news as one hurricane followed closely on the heels of another. The Board of World Mission (BWM), through Moravian Disaster Response has worked with numerous partners to try our best to put the generous gifts of our congregations and members to work in the ongoing relief efforts.
The BWM has sent financial support to Moravian partners in Cuba and the Eastern West Indies Province to assist with immediate needs in the wake of the storms. Longer-term plans are still in the works, and there will likely be a need for individuals willing to join in the relief efforts by joining work teams. We ask for your prayers as congregations on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. Maarten have all experienced damage.
In response to Hurricane Harvey the BWM now has teams on the ground in Port Arthur, Texas. We have partnered with the Unity of Brethren Church in Texas, and specifically with the Good Shepherd Moravian Church (a Unity of the Brethren congregation formed by individuals with Moravian roots, many from Nicaragua.)
This church lost its pews, organ, piano, carpeting and much more to flooding, and many members of the congregation were also impacted by flooding. At this time, the BWM is lining up teams through spring of 2018, and welcome any individuals who are looking to volunteer their time in the physical rebuilding efforts. Much of the news around these storms has rightfully centered around the extent of the destruction and trying to predict the long term impact. However, the silver lining to this awful destruction has at times been the stories of community and service as people have shared what they have with one another.
The same has been true in the Moravian world, as several unique responses have complimented the generous financial gifts and wave of information provided by volunteers looking to join the relief teams.
Disaster Response trailer
Moravian Disaster Response has three trailers filled with tools and is always ready to be deployed to disaster areas. One such trailer has been deployed throughout 2017 in North Carolina in response to Hurricane Matthew. Following Hurricane Harvey, a second trailer was scheduled to be deployed from Wisconsin, where it had been available for use during the remodeling phase of Tricklebee Café.
While it was already stocked with tools, congregations in Southern Wisconsin joined together to help donate items needed in rebuilding efforts. With only a week’s notice, a bulletin insert listing needed items was placed in Sunday bulletins, and by the next Sunday bags filled with cleaning supplies, drywall tools and carpentry items had been delivered to Lake Mills Moravian Church, ready to be loaded in the trailer.
Three volunteers from the Western District—Jon Gehler, Aaron Van Der Linden and Phillip Kietzke—left in the pre-dawn hours of a Monday in September to deliver the trailer to Texas. Now on site and ready to receive teams, the unique contributions of the members of these congregations will be used to help rebuild.
In addition to the trailer of tools, the BWM has also sent an RV to Texas. Just as requests came from the Unity of the Brethren for any campers to serve as temporary housing, the BWM received an email from Tim and Cheryl Back of Graceham Moravian Church in Thurmont, Maryland. They had an RV trailer they were willing to donate if there was a use for it… and of course, there was (and is)! The RV, fully stocked through further generous donations, has now arrived in Texas, and is ready to serve as housing and a shower facility for teams coming to rebuild homes.
Many congregations have participated in packing shoe boxes with toys for children around Christmas time. Evie Blum, of New Philadelphia Moravian Church, has helped to organize a similar effort, with a specific focus to collect items needed by the Moravian communities in the Virgin Islands.
For more information on how you can assist with Board of World Mission Moravian Disaster Relief efforts, visit www.moravianmission.org.
Thanks to Justin Rabbach, director of mission engagement with the Board of World Mission, for this article.