Here I Am, Send Me! Disaster Relief Ongoing After Tornado Outbreak

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Disaster Relief, Southeast

By Carl Stagner

Until you’ve seen the devastation with your own eyes, the other-worldly scenes are simply unfathomable. Whole communities are still reeling from the historic tornado outbreak that left an estimated 250-mile swath of deadly destruction from Arkansas to Kentucky, December 10–11, 2021. In the wake of the catastrophic storms, determined disciples of Jesus across the denominational spectrum were quick to respond with disaster relief. With the recent implementation of new ways Church of God teams can receive support to put boots on the ground, efforts in Kentucky post-disaster were augmented by hardworking Church of God people this year who responded to the Holy Spirit’s call to go with an enthusiastic, “Here I am, send me!”

Supercell thunderstorms developing in the evening hours, and continuing in the darkness overnight, interacted with a saturated airmass to create one of the most dangerous situations on the ground imaginable. Rated EF4, the winds contained in resulting twisters rarely leave anything standing in their wake. Towns and cities, such as Mayfield and Dawson Springs, Kentucky, as well as several others, were nearly decimated. Thankfully, individuals like Marty Cheeks had both the availability and willingness to be a part of the answer to the hopelessness and fear so pervasive across the hardest-hit regions.

Marty Cheeks attends First Church of God in Laurel, Mississippi. For those who are unfamiliar, the area is known for tropical disturbances, even hurricanes. Marty says, “When you’ve been through one or more of those, and people come to help, you want to do it for others.”

Marty notes that not everybody is able to get up, go, and serve when disaster strikes. But this is one thing he knows he was divinely designed to do. “This isn’t everybody’s cup of tea,” he reflects. “Not everyone has the time, but there is something for everybody to do in the body of Christ. You just have to be sensitive to the Spirit. When God says go, you get up and move.”

To get on the schedule to participate in organized cleanup efforts, Marty contacted Samaritan’s Purse right away. Thanks to the all-new disaster relief vouchers available by application through Church of God Ministries, Marty was able to offset fuel and food expenses to and from Western Kentucky. He’s thankful for the chance to partner with agencies like Samaritan’s Purse that offer a well-oiled machine to handle the demands of on-the-ground disaster relief. He acknowledges the wisdom behind Church of God Ministries not reinventing the wheel, but instead providing the means for partnership. “[The vouchers] encourage those who otherwise might not be able to participate,” Marty explains. “When you can partner with an organization that aligns for the most part very well with the Church of God, it’s honestly a win-win.”

Marty Cheeks surveys the extensive damage.

He’s been a part of cleanup efforts in the past, but it’s always a sobering sight when the eyes behold entire buildings leveled and scattered rubble for miles. But Marty didn’t drive all the way to Bowling Green and Dawson Springs to stare. He went to work. And the ministry value of what Marty was a part of cannot be overstated. Thought residents don’t always immediately trust “outsiders” who come in to help, after a while, they express appreciation and openness to the love which propels the relief efforts. “They wonder why you would come and help them, when you’re don’t even know them and you don’t have relatives in the area,” Marty reflects. He goes on to explains that the team members sign a Bible that is ultimately given away to residents affected by each disaster.

Though Marty is among individuals who opt to help alone, work teams from Church of God congregations historically play a major role in disaster relief, too. Kendra Peterson got on board to lead a team of thirteen from Big Lake Church of God in Columbia City, Indiana, in the early part of 2022. She, too, is grateful for the opportunity to offset some of her team’s travel expenses via vouchers from Church of God Ministries. But for Kendra, this was something she had to do regardless of financial backing.

“When I heard the news, I knew I had to do something and I knew others from the church would want to go, as well,” Kendra explains.

Kendra was a part of a team that provided disaster relief in Henryville, Indiana, following a tornado outbreak there a decade ago. “When things like this happen,” she continues, “I want to go right away, but I know we needed a plan. I believe God is leading me in this direction, and I just have a heart to go and help people.”

Through a work connection Kendra has in Kentucky, an opportunity presented itself for the Big Lake Church of God team to schedule a trip. Her prayer for the experience is that God keeps them safe and that their efforts truly make a positive impact on the lives of those they serve.

Church of God Ministries is only able to respond swiftly when disaster strikes because it maintains a disaster relief fund. In crises where an immediate response is critical for relief, Church of God Ministries advances funds in anticipation of a gracious outpouring of donations from churches and individuals. Disaster Relief contributions are utilized to bring relief to those affected by disasters worldwide.

Give now at https://faithlife.com/coggm-c/give?funds=4743. Donations can also be mailed to Church of God Ministries, PO Box 2420, Anderson, IN 46018; please note that your gift is for Disaster Relief, Project #45.04502. Learn more about Church of God Disaster Relief at https://www.jesusisthesubject.org/disaster-relief/. Thank you!

Would you be interested in applying for a disaster relief volunteer voucher? Simply fill out the Tornado Disaster Volunteer Interest Form.

Feature (top) photo: Western Kentucky tornado destruction, mid-December 2021. Photo courtesy Marty Cheeks.

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