It has been an intense week across the Midwest with tornadoes, severe storms and subsequent flooding causing serious damage in many communities. Some Disciples congregations-- such as Community Christian in Jefferson City, MO-- sustained significant damage to their facilities. Other congregations are ministering to members who have lost their homes or been displaced. Week of Compassion has been working with these communities to support individuals and families who have been impacted by the storms.
In many communities, however, local Disciples congregations have not been directly impacted. Their buildings have been unharmed, and their members have not sustained loss. In those cases, Disciples are stepping up to serve their neighbors in a variety of ways.
First Christian Church of Jefferson City, Missouri already had a food bank ministry on-site; but they knew that the needs would be even greater following the storm.
“A number of people have been involved on the ground and helping in the affected areas, doing everything from clearing brush to feeding workers,” said elder and food pantry coordinator Cindy Leveron. “Today we had our food pantry open and we served about 115 families; a number of them had been affected by the tornado. I had put a call out to the congregation to come and support the pantry today, knowing that there would be a bigger crowd. We had a great response, with at least 10 first-time volunteers who had never been there before, in addition to our regulars. You could tell that the people coming in knew that they were cared for.”
A couple of agencies working on housing were on-site and available today as well, Leveron said. The church recognizes that recovery and rebuilding will be a long process, and they are committed to offering this kind of support for the long journey.
Other churches in Oklahoma--such as FCC of Broken Arrow and FCC of Hominy-- have reached out to their neighbors in meaningful ways as well. And in El Reno, First Christian Church is helping families to find new apartments, as well as putting together beds and linens in the church to host families who have been displaced.
Still other congregations are reaching out to support first responders, who are working overtime to meet overwhelming demands.
In this weeks’ lectionary text, (John 17:23) Jesus prays that God will bind the disciples together in unity, “so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” As Disciples across the country answer the call to care for those in need, it is clear that God’s love is made known through the unity of these powerful partnerships. We are grateful for the ways our congregations offer a presence of strength, love and compassion in their local communities. With your support, Week of Compassion works with these congregations so that they may respond even more effectively and compassionately when needs arise.
We will share more updates as we continue to connect with local communities and assess the damage from more recent storms in Ohio and Indiana. In the meantime, we are mindful that covenant relationships have always been central to the identity of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. In that spirit, Week of Compassion remains committed to supporting a strong network of care and solidarity. Whether we combine our resources to support sister congregations or partner with ecumenical and interfaith counterparts, unity and partnership mean that our resources go even farther. When we work together, God’s love is made known in us.