Tuesday, June 04, 2013

TOP STORY >> Cabot church to the rescue

Leader staff writer

Pastor Spencer Dunlap of Re:New Community Church in Cabot felt a calling to do something when he heard the news about the monstrous killer tornado that decimated Moore, Okla., on May 20.

“My heart just broke about the parents who lost their kids at the school,” Dunlap said.

He told his wife that he was going to Moore. He made a post on Facebook for help. Within 10 hours, hundreds of people from the church and the community had organized a packing party. They filled more than 250 individual disaster-relief care boxes for men, women and children with food, hygiene products and toys.

People from all over the country donated $1,500 to the church to buy items that were needed by the tornado victims.

A group of eight people from the church borrowed a van from Little Rock Church and a 12-foot trailer because the church’s trailer was too small to haul all the supplies.

The next morning, they hit the road and headed west, where they met up with church friends from Indiana providing disaster relief in Moore.

“Annihilation. As far as the eye could see was leveled. It was unreal,” Dunlap said.

He said near one of the main intersections was a theater where cars were stacked two and three deep on top of each other in the parking lot.

“We fed people, prayed for people, picked up debris and helped families collect their personal effects. We were there to serve and do whatever was needed,” Dunlap said.

“What I saw besides physical destruction was emotional destruction. People were sort of wandering around and did not know what to do next. We tried to ask good questions, pray for people and help them get structure by cutting a tree in their yard, working side by side,” Dunlap said.

Since the church had a trailer, the Re:New group helped Tyson Foods distribute hamburgers and chicken wraps to families in the hardest hit areas.

One thing that caught Dunlap’s attention while driving into Moore was the number of American flags waving. He said entire neighborhoods were leveled to sticks of lumber, not even a tree standing and someone would find an American flag and put it out to fly.

“It was dramatic to see that,” Dunlap said.

He said the flags were a show of patriotism but also had deeper spiritual meaning of “In God We Trust.”

“People were looking for a symbol to hold on to, the belief that God was still there,” Dunlap said.

He saw many spray-painted messages written on damaged houses and posted on business marquees proclaiming a trust in God amidst the destruction.

“Everyone wanted to pray, hugged and wept. We didn’t come across anyone who refused to pray,” Dunlap said.

The group was there for two days so it was a fast turnaround for them. They plan on multiple return trips to continue to serve with different teams from Re:New church.

On the way to Moore they trained the team on crisis counseling. Dunlap said it is easy to say the wrong thing when people have just experienced a loss.

He said that next time the response team would be figuring out what people are going to need after their immediate needs have past and how they can be best utilized properly.

“We are creating a formal disaster relief ministry. It will have the resources, skills and be a first response team in the region and beyond,” Dunlap explained.

On the way back the Re:New Church group stopped to help out at Shawnee, Okla., which was hit by a tornado the day before Moore was struck.

“Shawnee didn’t have the news coverage as Moore. People felt left behind because the news crews weren’t there. There were lots of people on the ground already serving and ministering,” Dunlap said.

The crew from Re:New offered more spiritual and emotional support in Shawnee than anything else.

Dunlap said that if people want to help, the best thing is to connect with Re:New Church on Facebook and watch for an announcement about the next big disaster relief effort.

“Called to serve and love, that’s what we were doing,” Dunlap said.