September 2, 2010
Reflection on five years of ministry and work
Watching various fifth anniversary events of Hurricane Katrina brought up a number of memories and emotions. I have been thinking for some time what to write about. Nothing seemed to come clear. Perhaps there has been too much that has happened in five years. It does not seem like five years have gone by. Like most of us on August 29th 2005 and the days that followed I sat and watched the events unfold with great distress and anxiety. How do I (we) help?
As people were being shuttled to the Astrodome, I travelled to Houston and met with some of the UCC clergy. One local pastor and I made our way to the Astrodome to see if we could help. They did not need any help until much later in the day so I went back home. The next day I went to one of the shelters in San Antonio that was just opening up. There was a great deal of commotion as hundreds of people were there transforming an abandoned mall into a shelter for countless numbers of people. I was able to volunteer as a chaplain at the shelter and began a routine of putting in hours at there. The people brought to this shelter had either been picked up from the Morial Convention Center or their rooftops.
Over the next few weeks discussion took place between the national office, conference office and I as to how the UCC was going to respond. This would be the first time the UCC came into an area after a disaster to set up its own disaster response ministry. The work and ministry of the UCC disaster ministry in New Orleans officially began in November 2005 as the water receded from the city and it was safe to begin work.
Looking back over five years much has happened. First, I give thanks and praise to God for the wisdom, strength, patience and everything else to do this work. I also thank God for all the people that have come to work with us. Tim, Sarah, Elizabeth, Dale, all the Partner in Service volunteers who have been site supervisors and the thousands of volunteers who have and continue to come and work with us each week helping people they do not know return to their homes. I give thanks to the churches that have housed groups for all this time, opening their church home and being gracious hosts. From our humble beginnings of not knowing where this ministry would go and what would be encountered along the way, by the grace of God this has developed into a well respected home rebuilding ministry in the community of those we serve and whom we work.
The most important thing about all this work and ministry is not so much that we have assisted hundreds of homeowners in their recovery process but that we, the collective we, have opened our hearts to allow God to work in new and different ways in our lives. Allowing God to use each one of us and the talents given to us in service to others so that our faith may be stronger and more vibrant. To have the opportunity to be a part of this and witness that in others over the last five years has been a blessing beyond words.
Thanks, praise and honor be to God and each one of you for praying and supporting this ministry.
Rev. Alan Coe
Minister for Disaster Recovery
UCC South Central Conference, New Orleans