College Wesleyan Church (Indiana)
When God Says Go
By Sarah Westfall, Contributing Writer
January/February 2009 Call to Prayer
Almost daily, we see the devastation caused by natural disasters or local crises on the nightly news. Do we as a Church simply shake our heads and wonder, “Why, God?” for a brief moment, only to go on with our daily lives? What if just part of the “why?” is that God wants His Church to actually step up and be the Church, the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to people in need?
Last summer, southern Indiana experienced the worst flooding in over 90 years. The city of Columbus, Indiana, was one of the hardest-hit areas. Several inches of rain came down in a very short amount of time, so the waters rose quickly. Many people had only minutes to get to higher ground before their homes were filled from the flooding. Most affected residents had very little time to rescue more than themselves.
The devastation left by the flooding was overwhelming. The interiors of homes were ravaged by the waters. Walls, floors, and family valuables were caked with the mud and debris that had been carried in by the strong flood currents. Most homeowners had to completely gut large portions of their homes, tearing out drywall, carpeting, and even wall framing in order to avoid decay and the growth of harmful molds.
However, many people did not have the time or resources to make their homes livable again. Although some homeowners received government aid to help with repairs, many either did not receive assistance or did not receive enough to cover all the expenses. Even if residents were able to purchase supplies, many did not have the needed skills or time away from their jobs to do the projects on their own. Hiring workers only costs more money. For many, the situation seemed impossible.
Only two hours north of Columbus, members of College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, decided that they needed to help.
“Earlier this summer, we had begun discussing how we as a church need to be ready to respond to emergency situations that come up locally, nationally, and globally,” said Jim Vermilya, College Wesleyan’s volunteer outreach pastor. “Then, just a couple of weeks later, we received word from Pastor Wes Jones of Flintwood Wesleyan Church (in Columbus) [who was] asking for teams to help them with post-flood clean-up projects. It seemed rather obvious that God was wanting us as a church to respond to the situation, so we did.”
Before heading to Columbus, the team did not know what to expect.
“Most of us had seen the brief television footage that was taken during the flood, but after the waters receded, the TV crews left,” said Pastor Jim. “So when we arrived there a month after the flood hit, what we saw [at] the outside of the city was quite different from what we saw on the insides of the homes.… When you walk into a home, seeing the water-stained line a few inches up from the floor where the flood waters once were, and when the smell of black mold hits you in the face as you walk through the door, you really start to get a sense of what these people are going through.”
On three separate Saturdays, flood relief teams from College Wesleyan traveled to Columbus. They gutted interior drywall and insulation, cleaned and packed away salvageable items, hung new drywall, cleaned homes, and took the time to talk to and encourage the flood victims. The teams went home tired and blistered, but they had learned what it meant to be a missions-active church, to say “yes” when God said “go.”
Maybe your church also wants to be more missions-active right where you are by responding to crises in your area. To you, Pastor Jim offers this advice: “Don’t just talk about it; do it. Plan ahead. Be preemptive so that you are ready when the crisis hits. You cannot respond to every crisis, but you must be ready to respond to those that the Lord prompts you, so be ready.”
Here are some practical suggestions for making it happen:
• Set aside crisis funding in your annual outreach budget, so you, too, can mobilize teams from your church to go and give hands-on relief.
• Create a list of crisis relief volunteers you can contact when a need arises.
• Have an annual Crisis Relief Supply Drive, asking each church member to bring in nonperishable items, bottled water, or cleaning supplies. You can then store the items until a crisis occurs and aid is needed.
• Research ways that other churches or organizations provide aid to people in need.
• Determine an area in your church building where you could house displaced families, if needed.
• In your Sunday service or small groups, have a prayer time focused on crisis relief. Ask God to prepare the church with the wisdom, spiritual sensitivity, and courage to act.
Is your church actively engaged in missions? I want to know. Write me at email@example.com.