Returning the Love
Oct 25, 2020 | by Nancy Newbrough
On August 25th at our daily staff prayer time, Pastor Joe Carollo shared that his in-laws had property in the unincorporated community of Hackberry, Louisiana. He passionately told about his personal strong connection to Hackberry and many friends there. Hurricane Laura was headed right for Hackberry. Honestly, my internal reaction was disinterest.
Category 4 Hurricane Laura made landfall on Thursday, August 27th about 15 miles south of Hackberry. On Friday morning, I got a call from Ron Peters, Executive Director of Katy Responds, a non-profit collaborative effort between 12 Katy area churches (including The Fellowship). It was formed in 2018 to continue the work of restoring homes and helping families impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Ron asked how The Fellowship might respond to Hurricane Laura. I replied that we could do a donation drive. By that afternoon, the Katy Responds trailer was staffed and parked at our church to collect supplies for Louisiana. Except for promoting donations, at this point, I was not interested in going to Louisiana.
Pastor Joe made a reconnaissance trip over to Hackberry, and that same Friday afternoon, he went live on Facebook. I happened to be at home relaxing and saw him showing homes with no roofs, no siding, no walls … power lines laying across the roads … broken utility poles everywhere. It was a true disaster! As I watched and listened, something inside me stirred for Hackberry. I went from disinterested to “I have to do something now!”
An important principle in missions and disaster recovery is to work with key local people. I prayed, “God, we need to find the person(s) of peace in Hackberry.” A person of peace is one who is well respected in their community, knows practically everyone and has a sincere heart for their community. Pastor Joe located our persons of peace in Hackberry -- Tammy and Curtis.
I shared pictures and updates about Hackberry with Ron Peters of Katy Responds. On Saturday morning, I called Tammy who is the community coordinator for the local Catholic Church. Her husband is the Fire Chief in Hackberry. I said, “The Fellowship wants to help Hackberry because Lousiana helped Katy following Harvey and we want to return that love!” She said any way we could help would be very welcome!
My original agreement with Ron Peters was that all collected supplies would go to locations the organization determined. Now being fully committed to Hackberry, I was in a quandary about where those supplies would be sent. Turning it over to God, I prayed: “Please stir Ron’s heart for Hackberry!” God can work really fast! By that night, Ron texted that he was feeling led to engage in Hackberry. We worked out a plan to split the supplies between his network commitments and Hackberry.
I drove the first trailer of supplies to Hackberry with the help of another guy from The Fellowship on Wednesday, September 2nd. It included water, cleaning supplies, sports drinks, lumber, tarps, etc. We spent about three hours getting knowledgeable about Hackberry and driving around to talk with random people working on their homes. By the time we left, God had broken my heart for the residents there. I fell asleep that night thinking we should do a meal-cooking event for the Hackberry community.
Tammy connected me with Curtis who leads the Office of Emergency Management for Hackberry. Over the next ten days, we had several conversations with Curtis and also dropped three more trailer loads of supplies in Hackberry.
On Friday, September 11th, I committed to Curtis that The Fellowship would do a community hamburger cookout for Hackberry on the following Saturday, September 19th. By Monday morning, I began to realize the enormity of my commitment. Cooking 700 hamburgers was easy to commit to, but gathering supplies, volunteers and equipment had me really concerned. At our Monday staff prayer time, I expressed my anxiety and we prayed for God’s favor on the event.
After that prayer time, I was reminded of several things. Grace Fellowship has a cook truck and trailer, and a good friend from that church could reserve them ... and another good friend knew everything about that trailer. So, I made two phone calls that day. The first friend agreed to reserve the truck and trailer and bring her entire family to cook. The second friend was not as encouraging; he said the trailer did not have enough cook tops to do 700 hamburgers in two hours. I ignored his negativity and continued with my plans.
The next morning he called to say, “Hey! I have 1,000 hamburger buns donated for you and the Westlake Fire Chief wants to send his big cook trailer and three firemen to cook in Hackberry. By Tuesday evening, EVERY single needed item was donated and ten people were lined up to go. Wow! Only God!
By the time the 19th came, we had ten firefighters, ten Fellowship volunteers, and ten volunteers recruited by my first friend. And finally, the icing on the cake! One of the firefighters was not a believer, but on the way back, he told the fire chief he wanted to know more about Jesus! He has been attending church with the fire chief since then!
Missions and Evangelism Pastor
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue
but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:18