Connecting With Others

In my newsletter article for September, I share about a visit to my friend Brian in Iowa and how he is finding ways to support the victims of the derecho wind destruction in the state, especially in nearby Cedar Rapids, where his sister lives.  Yesterday, I talked to my former supervisor who is a pastor in San Juan, Puerto Rico, as they found themselves between two simultaneous tropical storms.  This is a time of year when many people are bracing for natural disasters and as we hear about them it can be hard to know how best to help.  As the Vice President of Renegaid, I am part of an organization that promotes connecting with those that have been directly affected by disasters and listening to hear what is really needed on the ground and how to best support them.  We believe that when survivors are treated like part of the solution and recovery, it can be empowering and transformational in the midst of a situation where it is easy to feel powerless.

When I got back from Iowa, I had a phone message from a neighbor in West Allis that heard we had a food pantry.  Than Nguyen grew up in Cedar Rapids, and his relatives told him what specific food and supplies were needed and he asked us if we could offer some food and supplies to deliver to people there.  After I talked more with Than, the volunteers at the food pantry immediately set up some food and supplies from our food pantry for him to take.  Because he knows the people on the ground personally and the agencies that were helping them the most locally, he was going to find out what was needed for this week knowing that their needs may change.  I also had an opportunity to talk to Than more and learn about his story and what was motivating his desire to help.

We at First continue to adapt our services and ministries by listening to the stories and needs of others to support those who are experiencing different stages of loss, recovery and transformation.  This happens in our own families, with friends and neighborhoods and wherever God invites us to connect.   Not only can we help each other, we also can learn from each other.