Disaster-Stricken States Blessed by Team from Ohio
By Kevin Spear
Vernon Maddox has served many roles in the Church of God at local, state, and national levels. When he retired as state pastor for Ohio, he served as special assistant to the general director of Church of God Ministries, at that time, Ronald V. Duncan. Ron encouraged states to develop disaster relief systems and protocols. Under the state ministry leadership of then regional pastor for Ohio, Randall Spence, Vernon Maddox was inspired then to start the Church of God Ohio Disaster Relief Team (COGO-DRT).
The new ministry’s effectiveness would be aided largely by Maddox’s years serving as state pastor. Current state pastor, Esther Cottrell, explains that “state ministries in Ohio have had a great emphasis on missions and disaster relief.” She continues, “While Vernon was state pastor, he organized several mission trips. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, he helped organize several work crews.” Out of Maddox’s experience and Dr. Duncan’s encouragement, COGO-DRT became a blessed reality.
“We have sent DRT teams to West Virginia, New York, Detroit, and Texas,” says Maddox. On average, about seven volunteers have gone across the country to offer help when disaster strikes.”
Dean Butts is one who has worked with Maddox and the team on various trips. He says, “When COGO-DRT was organized, I started working directly with Vernon. The team has a tool-equipped trailer and can be used as required. We’ve worked alongside the Mennonite Disaster Service. We’ve also worked in many homes doing clean up and repairs.”
Maddox emphasizes that the team is there to help local churches, not replace their efforts. “People who know each other will work together much more effectively when a local church knows the town,” he continues. “The local churches are much more mobile. We are there to help them. We want to be a facilitator or catalyst to help the churches respond when a local disaster strikes.
Over the years, COGO-DRT has worked in many locales. But on Memorial Day 2019, disaster struck in COGO-DRT’s own backyard. Multiple tornadoes hit West-Central Ohio and caused an estimated $1 billion in damage. COGO-DRT was ready to help.
Kyle Hayes was the missions and outreach pastor at Salem Church of God. About the ministry of COGO-DRT, he explains, “They acted as a connector. “They used Salem as a hub church. With this tornado, they were more of a resource. They provided the trailer and the tools.”
COGO-DRT continues to help in the Dayton, Ohio, recovery efforts. It has worked with other Church of God congregations on long-term recovery, along with the Mennonite Disaster Service and the Greater Dayton Long-Term Recovery Committee.
Cottrell observes that Maddox has made great use of his skills in systems-thinking and networking. “Vernon retired fifteen years ago,” she reflects, “but his heart for ministry is still strong.” She advises anyone who would like to start a ministry to consult Maddox. “He and Marvin Schooler are great at developing systems and procedures. That is what is needed for this kind of endeavor.”
For more information about COGO-DRT, go to www.cogo.church/ohio-ministries-disaster-relief. To learn more about Church of God Ministries Disaster Relief, visit www.jesusisthesubject.org/disaster-relief.
*Feature (top) photo: Disaster relief team following the 2019 tornado outbreak (photo courtesy Kyle Hayes).