Poured Out Reflections

Rev. Nathan Hedge, Pastor of May Ave. Wesleyan Church in Oklahoma City, OK

When the tornado struck in Moore, OK in May 2013 I was struck with a question in my mind.  It’s the same question that went through the mind of many Americans and many Christians as the images of the devastation surged across our TV’s and the internet.  That question is, “What can I do to help?”  I pastor a small church in Oklahoma City.  What can the well-intentioned efforts of just a few people do in the face of such immense devastation?  Then came a call from my DS.  The Wesleyan Church was asking to use our facility and property for the base of operations for a relief effort through Poured-Out.  There was no question in my mind.  “Yes” was the only answer I could give.  Only after that conversation did I think to notify the board (I was on vacation in Maryland visiting family at the time).

Poured-Out had a person on the ground quickly to assess the damage and determine which neighborhoods would be targeted for maximum effectiveness and efficiency.  All this took place before I was able to return.  The day Poured-Out pulled in, I was overwhelmed with what was coming.  Disaster Ministry was a new realm I had never delved into before.  What would my role be?  Would I still be a pastor, or a disaster guy?  How will this affect my church?  What will the people say?  Is this too much?  The next day Steve Adams said, “Let’s go for a ride, Pastor!” as he waved me over to his truck.  We rounded up some free pizzas, made our first contacts in Moore, and spoke to families directly affected by the disaster.  I was stunned that it was this easy to get in, approach them, and start helping them.  It seemed like there should be more to it.  But Poured-Out are filled with seasoned veterans.

It almost sounds calloused to say they live for disaster.  For them, the images of disaster are opportunities to share the love of Christ.  In fact, they’ve helped in Haiti following the devastating earthquake, in New Orleans after Katrina, and in New York when Sandy struck before coming to Oklahoma.

In the meantime, the people of the church I serve stepped up to the plate and volunteered to help cook the food for the Poured-Out team and the volunteers who would come.  I had no idea how much we would come to genuinely love each group and every individual who came at their own expense, giving up vacation days, and working very hard.  Some of the people who came were not Christians and we just tried to show them His love through our hospitality.  I was impressed with the energy coming from just a hand-full of people.  We were pouring ourselves out for a cause greater than ourselves.

Working with Poured-Out was a great experience.  I learned the thrill, and dare I say, the addiction of disaster ministry.  But I saw God use them to bring our people together for a common purpose.  Some of the volunteers stayed at the church during the day to help clean and cook so we wouldn’t have to worry about that.  The volunteers were very accommodating for our worship services.  They also responded with some remarkable generosity.

The benefit to our church was in seeing cooperation, passion, and sacrifice.  Yes, we were blessed financially, but the greatest blessing was just being able to serve.  While the work is exhausting and creates longer hours, the ministry connections which can be made are eternal.  In fact we acquired our Hispanic pastor through a contact and partner forged during the relief work!  It’s also a great opportunity to work with the partners pastors are forging in the community.  We partnered with a Lutheran church, a Baptist Church, and another Wesleyan Church to help in the feeding of the volunteers.  The friendships forged with those pastors now runs deep.

So if disaster comes to your neck of the woods, I hope local pastors and districts will throw their doors open to Poured-Out and see what God can do through sacrifice and hard work in the context of Christ’s love.  Jesus is the soul of this organization and I’d imagine in the middle of a disaster, our Lord would be raking debris so Steve or Chris or Levi could push it to the curb.  Then he’d go up to the home-owner with all of his sweat and grime and offer a big juicy hug.  And He can do that…through you.