"Where you go I will go; where you stay I will stay." These words are this year's theme for the Week of Compassion offering. Appropriately much of our focus this year is on the international refugee crisis, yet I can never separate Week of Compassion from their domestic work following natural disasters. After all, when I served as a pastor in Joplin, MO, Week of Compassion came to us and stayed with us.
It was May 22, 2011. A beautiful Sunday afternoon that turned into a disaster - literally - after an EF-5 tornado made its way across 14 miles, most of it highly populated. In the days and weeks that followed the tornado, as we sought to locate displaced members of our congregation, to help them find what they needed, to find a temporary place to meet (our building had sustained damage), and to respond to the widespread need in our community, Week of Compassion came alongside us.
Within days their presence was felt in two significant ways. As we began to figure out who all was directly impacted by the tornado, Week of Compassion sent checks - solidarity grants - gifts that said to those who sustained loss that their church was standing alongside them. Where they had gone, even through the pain of loss, Week of Compassion went, too. What a privilege it was for me, as a pastor, to deliver these checks. I looked into so many tear filled eyes as I pronounced to these members of my congregation the love of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). "I always gave to Week of Compassion," said one elderly survivor, "but I never expected to get anything back."
And the gift of Week of Compassion wasn't only for those directly impacted, but for those of us in leadership. Brandon Gilvin, then with Week of Compassion, and Josh Baird, with Disciples Volunteering, sat across from myself and my clergy colleague and offered pastoral presence. Just days into this journey they reminded us of the high rates of clergy burnout following disasters and of the need to pace for a marathon not a sprint. Where we were, they came alongside. If not for their presence, I am not sure I would have been more than a statistic.
And the efforts of Week of Compassion weren't only in those early weeks. Over the years that followed they assisted us as we navigated our role in the local recovery efforts, as we worked with the distribution center at our sister church, and as we set up a mission station so those who were reaching out could stay in our midst.
Over the 3+ years following the tornado, so many Disciples came to us through prayer, offerings, and presence. And for those who lived through Joplin's tornado, the words "Where you go I will go; where you stay I will stay" have Week of Compassion written all over them.
Jill Cameron Michel was the pastor of South Joplin Christian Church from 2001 - 2014. She now serves as Minister of Children, Youth and Families at Central Christian Church in Indianapolis, IN.
When the TV news stations began to tell stories about many of the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Somalia making the dangerous journey to freedom and safety, the Outreach Ministry Team of Country Club Christian Church took action. They wanted to send financial support to provide these refugees with water, medical equipment, medicine, clothes, blankets, emotional, spiritual and psychological support and much more. We immediately knew that the best way to get help directly to those in need was through an offering for the the Week of Compassion. The team chose this important effort as their focus for our annual Christmas Offering. A generous collection was received for Week of Compassion as a way for us to offer hope to the world.
Glen Miles is the pastor at Country Club Christian Church in Kansas City.
Facebook Overlay to Raise Awareness
Turn your compassion into action to resettle refugees, respond to disasters, and end the cycles of poverty. Encourage others to do the same by adding this overlay to your Facebook profile picture!
Step 1) Change your overlay here: https://app.profileoverlays.com/.../week-of-compassion-overlay
Step 2) Share