By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (June 3, 2011) – The relief work of Evangelical Covenant churches and other congregations has provided an opportunity to be witnesses for the love of Christ, say church members.
After a May 22 twister ripped through the northern part of Minneapolis, Community Covenant Church organized volunteers, collected food, served hot meals and held multiple prayer meetings.
When one resident who doesn’t attend any church saw Community Covenant’s pastor, Luke Swanson, helping remove trees, the man commented “I can’t believer a pastor would climb on a roof with a chain saw,” said office administrator Latoya James. “He repeatedly told his sister, a member of Community Covenant, about how touched he was by the kindness of the church.”
Residents also have expressed their gratitude to members of Sanctuary Covenant Church, who also have provided meals, delivered food and helped removed debris. Volunteers from both churches as well as other Covenant congregations plan to participate Saturday in a city-organized cleanup event. Government officials hope 2,000 people will show up.
Many of the churches are now working through the local nonprofit organization Urban Homeworks. “There’s not a lot more we can do individually,” said James.
Congregations also have held multiple prayer meetings. Jim Sundholm, former director of Covenant World Relief, spoke during a gathering at Community Covenant last week and the gospel choir sang. “It was said at the prayer meeting, ‘In the midst of a storm, we still have a song to sing,’ ” James said.
Residents and volunteers in Joplin, Missouri, have been grateful for the opportunity to get showers, says Michael Gromer, who directs Covenant People Respond (CPR), a nonprofit organization that works closely with Hillcrest Covenant Church of Prairie View, Kansas.
Last week the organization brought a 26-foot trailer that contains three showers and laundry facilities. It is located on the parking lot of Forest Park Baptist Church, which is about 10 blocks from where the tornado cut through the city.
As many as 20 people will be waiting in line for showers at any one time. So far about 1,000 volunteers and residents have used the trailer, said Gromer.
The shower system is staffed with volunteers and showers are available from 6 a.m. to late at night. One group showed up at 12:10 this morning, Gromer said.
The CPR volunteers also have become important sources of information. “People come by asking where a business is or where there are free clothes,” Gromer said.
Covenant People Respond and Hillcrest led much of the relief and reconstruction work in Plaquemine’s Parish, Louisiana, for years after Katrina struck. They coordinated Covenant and non-Covenant teams from around the country.
Gromer said CPR already is working with churches of different denominations already are working together in Joplin. Covenant churches from around the country have expressed interest in helping but are waiting for a plan to be more fully developed, Gromer said.
He expects it will be at least four weeks for long-term plans to take shape. “Right now we’re looking to help people who don’t have insurance,” Gromer said.
He is confident churches will help with reconstruction work during the years to come. “Covenant folks rise to the occasion.”