Office of Disciples Volunteering introduces mission pre-planning in Virginia (9/8/07)
Disciples News Service
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (DNS, 9/8/07) — The social hall at Diamond Springs Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Virginia Beach, Va., was filled to capacity on Aug. 26. The people came to hear Carl Zerweck, director of the Office of Disciples Volunteering in Disciples Home Missions (DHM). Zerweck was there to educate the district’s churches on how to become a mission station church like the churches that have hosted Disciples mission teams in the Gulf region.
In light of the devastation wreaked by hurricane Katrina, Disciples Home Missions is encouraging churches in the nation’s hurricane zones to take a proactive approach to natural disasters.
The Regional Minister of the Christian Church in Virginia, Lee Parker, kicked off the meeting with a brief introduction of the purpose of the meeting, which was “making decisions before a disaster.” Week of Compassion funding has historically been the primary response mechanism to disasters.
Since hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf region in 2005, DHM has decided to make a formal disaster relief program in concert with regional partners. District VIII was the first of the regional partners to respond and hence the reason for Zerweck’s presentation there. Disciples as a denomination have historically been known to be the last to leave a disaster area, meaning they are part of the long term process.
But now they are embarking on plans to become a first response denomination.
DHM has a goal of sending 750 work teams to the hurricane-impacted area from Sept. 1, 2006 to Aug. 31, 2008. To date, almost 500 groups have gone in the first year. There are still many slots open and many work opportunities available. In addition to the volunteering, Week of Compassion helps fund these missions. Already, 20 groups have been dispatched to Greensburg, Kan., to help with the tornado recovery.
The slogan of the Office of Disciples Volunteering is “Getting Dirty for Jesus.” Churches who desire transformation always undergo a significant transformation when they get dirty for Jesus.
Almost every church in District VIII has fielded a mission trip and each of the churches represented in the meeting at Diamond Springs Christian Church shared a sentence or two about how the trips have impacted/changed their lives. Most agreed the experience was life-changing and brought to life the true meaning of discipleship to the group and to their congregations.
It also blurred the lines between “them” and “us” and made a disaster real to those of us who have only seen the results on TV. The blessings included seeing hope on the faces of the folks they helped.
With disaster response there is a sequence to responding. The first phase is called the emergency phase, when trees are cleared and power lines and water service are restored. Disciples are not normally involved in this phase of response. The second stage is relief and the third is long-term recovery, which Disciples are currently doing.
If the steps aren’t followed, the victims could loose out on significant financial help because repairs were done before insurance adjusters could properly assess damages, etc. Disciples put a priority on helping Disciples-related churches and families.
Zerweck also provided the congregations present with a packet on how to become a mission station, and a sample covenant agreement between the mission station church, the Regional Church, the Office of Disciples Volunteering and Week of Compassion. Mission stations need to provide floor space for sleeping, a food preparation area and showers, either already onsite, built in after the disaster, or nearby. Week of Compassion will pay for the installation of showers.
Regions or districts need to work cooperatively to decide which churches are best equipped to meet all the needs required for a mission station. Week of Compassion will also help mission station churches with monthly stipends to help offset the additional utility expenses, if needed. It is important that groups going on mission trips not reach their destination before Sunday afternoon, and leave the mission by Saturday morning so the regular services of the mission church are not negatively impacted. Likewise, the local minister is not expected to be involved with the volunteer group management so as not to infringe on the mission church pastor’s normal ministerial duties. The intent is not to burden the host church.
Mission station churches may end up being as much as 100 miles away from the disaster site since they must have power and utilities, although they may be within the disaster area. Churches are also only expected to serve as a station for a specified amount of time. Week of Compassion also helps foster work groups by making a stipend available. Any group going on a work trip can apply for a grant of $500. Multiple groups from a church can also apply.
Zerweck closed the meeting by sharing numerous resources on how to “Get Dirty for Jesus” and Regional Minister Parker led those gathered in a closing prayer.