Driving rain and a three-vehicle caravan could not keep 15 missioners from Oak Ridge, Tenn., from reaching their goal of arriving at the United Methodist Committee on Relief's (UMCOR) Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, La.
On the trip south several folks approached us and asked for prayer for their particular situations. How did they know we were safe to talk with? They read our T-shirts and our church bus. They somehow felt connected to us and God.
Our four-day work week began with devotions on the screen porch at 7 a.m., in time to see the sunrise. Team members were devotion leaders. They prepared us for our work for the day.
Missioners decided on which type of work they would do during the week: quality control of health kits in the warehouse, visiting in a local elementary school, mowing the campus grass, working in the flower beds, or working in the sewing room. We also helped with food distribution to local folks who were elderly, families with babies and others who were approved by the umbrella agency.
Fellowship is an important part of the Sager Brown/UMCOR experience. We had three geat meals a day in the dining hall. Each team had kitchen ministry, which included washing dishes and preparing the room for the next meal. They also led the blessing.
After supper, our team shared a reflection time to discuss experiences of the day. A team member led the group and all participated. Each kitchen ministry group led the blessing. After supper our team relaxed with bridge, chicken foot dominos, reading, and snacks.
First United Methodist Church of Oak Ridge team members chose to mow grass, work in the warehouse, and visit a nearby elementary school. The health kits, which were most needed because of world disasters, were verified. A portion of that process was opening boxes of toothpaste to include in the kits. The kits were boxed and placed on pallets which were shrink-wrapped and placed on warehouse shelves. These kits will be sent throughout the U.S. whenever disasters occur.
From January through Sept. 10, 25 shipments have been sent out to folks in U.S. disaster areas. Eleven shipments have been sent to 12 countries for a total of 212,737 health kits. Thanks go to the volunteers and the UMCOR staff. The eight types of kits sent out so far this year are valued at $3,969,268.
The 15 First Oak Ridge UMC members who made up this team are: Maxine Schultz, team leader, Nita Barnes, Rose Anne and Steve Bell, Kari and Myron Iwanski, Susan Krieke, Jerralyn Luckman, Evelyn and John McKamy, Bob Schultz, Cara Weigel, Sandi Wright, John and Linda Yarborough. First Oak Ridge UMC has sent teams to Sager Brown for the past eight years.
UMCOR is administered from New York, but has local leaders at the two UMCOR depots in Baldwin, La., and Salt Lake City, Utah. First Oak Ridge challenges district and conference churches to consider sending a team to share in the work of or Lord in Baldwin.