Ready to Respond: Ohio Church Activates Disaster Relief Team

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Disaster Relief, Great Lakes, Loving and Serving

By Carl Stagner

Tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. Earthquakes, wildfires, and drought. War, famine, and persecution. The headlines leave most of us feeling helpless if not hopeless; what really can any of us do to make a difference? Thankfully, the Church of God Disaster Relief and Restoration monitors and responds swiftly and decisively when disaster strikes locally and abroad; partnership with the Movement in such matters reliably extends local church reach and maximizes impact. But it’s a big world, and the big problems too often dwarf the capacity of the Movement to respond collectively. In such cases, our big God moves in the hearts of sisters and brothers at the local and state level to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the most practical and tangible ways. One example of this is the culmination of nearly two years of laying the groundwork for what is now the disaster relief team of Salem Church of God just outside Dayton, Ohio.

Considering the recent deadly and destructive tornado outbreak across the Midwest, the activation of their disaster relief team—in addition to multiple Church of God congregations in Indiana and Ohio sending people and supplies separately and in partnership—came just in time.

“Our team at Salem has been a work in progress for nearly two years,” Tom Moody, pastor of local and global missions, explains. “That is when discussions first began internally and, eventually, included some discussions with Pastor Vernon Maddox [of the Church of God Ohio Ministries] and Michaela Urban [of Church of God Ministries]. The state ministries of Ohio has blessed Salem’s team with training, support, and a fully stocked 14-foot disaster relief trailer full of essential tools and equipment for a proper disaster relief response. The team at Salem officially launched on February 25, and in the span of less than one month has been able to respond three times to two separate tornadoes in our own backyard. God’s timing is always perfect.”

Salem Church of God has often mobilized teams to respond to disasters when they strike but, over the past several years, particularly devastating and seemingly frequent disasters necessitating response suggested the need for a more strategic approach.

Ohio Ministries Disaster Relief trailer (file image).

“Salem was less than one mile north of the path of an EF4 tornado in the Memorial Day tornado outbreak of 2019,” Pastor Tom explains. “We had no team in place at that time, but were supported well through the state and national offices as we mobilized congregants to cleanup efforts in the weeks and months that followed. After Hurricane Ian hit Fort Myers, Florida, in 2022, I had a lot of people asking if the church was planning any sort of response to help, but again, we had no formal process or procedure to respond to these events. After some thought and a lot of prayer with a small handful of Salem congregants, we were able to discern a call from God to form this team. Salem Church is blessed to be one full of servant-hearted individuals who are generous in their surrender of time, talent, and treasure. Our mission is to help people take their next step with Jesus in every season of life, and this team has provided a practical next step for many in our church during its short existence.”

In practical terms, the new disaster relief team has been able to help in a variety of ways specific to the need on the ground. “At this time,” Tom expresses, “we have focused primarily on cleanup efforts. We have a large number of skilled workers covering a variety of different trades that allow us to take care of a lot of work in a short period of time. We also have medical and mental health professionals who have volunteered their time and skills if called upon to provide for those needs. One of the more impressive turnouts has been the prayer warriors. So many people have said that they do not have any skills that are typically considered when we think about disaster relief, but they would be happy to pray for the team and pray with those affected, and I think that should be the first thing we consider when we mobilize the church. Physical, emotional, and housing needs are all important, but spiritual needs should be at the forefront of any organized church effort. What an incredible opportunity to show others what the church is all about! I recall in 2022, when helping someone who still had damage from the 2019 tornado outbreak, pulling up to their house and seeing a bumper sticker over their door that said, “If money is the root of all evil, why are churches always begging for it?” Well, this is a tremendous avenue for those with that mentality to see what stewardship and generosity within the church is all about.”

People who volunteer are routinely blessed, as are those who receive the help. Though the team doesn’t love on others with the purpose of receiving feedback, the feedback they do receive is incredibly positive—and certainly encouraging.

Tom Moody (center) and the Salem team (wearing orange) partnered with Radiant Lighthouse of Greeneville, Ohio, in response to the March tornado disaster.

“People are overwhelmingly appreciative of the help that they receive,” Pastor Tom explains. “We are careful to be sensitive of the fact that, while we are working there, they are experiencing one of the hardest times of their life. We create trash piles, but within those piles are sentimental items that represent years of memories. There are a lot of tears from the homeowners we assist, and I’ve seen an increased willingness to be vulnerable and talk through what they are feeling. I’ve identified a real need for good listeners to be present on these teams to just sit in the moment with folks and process with them. During an assessment for this most recent tornado outbreak, I saw three homes with significant damage. The first home had about thirty carloads of volunteers helping, and the third home had nearly fifty. The second home, however, had none—just an elderly couple standing in their front yard looking confused. I stopped to ask if they needed hands or equipment, and their response was simply, “We have nobody.” I assured them that we would be there to help, and the following day, we were able to get thirty people to put a big dent in their massive mess. The woman I had spoken with originally came up to me and admitted that she had been feeling really depressed seeing her neighbors receiving so much support, and how good it felt to know that they weren’t looked over.”

No one overlooked. That’s the strength of disaster relief at the local level, and that’s the power of God’s love flowing through congregations just like Salem Church of God.

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. 100 percent of Disaster Relief contributions are utilized to bring relief to those affected by disasters worldwide. Donate today and learn more about the numerous efforts of Church of God Disaster Relief and Restoration, at https://www.jesusisthesubject.org/disaster-relief-and-restoration/.

Feature (top) image: Salem volunteer (wearing orange) among volunteers responding to recent tornado damage in Ohio. Credit: Radiant Lighthouse Greenville, Ohio.

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