Tag Archives: disaster relief

Operation:  Monroe, LA

Somewhere on the order of twenty four inches of rain fell on the great state of Louisiana last week and thousands were affected.  I can’t even begin to imagine how many people lost everything in the flooding.  Here we are nine days later and the water has finally receded from the only road to my house. We had to get creative to get to and from home because of this.  I only had some minor flooding in the living room and I think we cut the pad out in time to rescue the carpet.  My problems pale in comparison to those we are serving this week in Monroe, LA.  

Chef John Stout smiling as he stirs red beans and Chef Gary LeBlanc assembling meals.

As a Mercy Chef, I serve alongside many talented chefs to provide restaurant quality food to victims, volunteers, and first responders.  Our numbers have been increasing daily.  As I headed home today, I was advised we prepared 1000 meals at lunchtime.  The hours are long and the work is strenuous–over two and a half days I worked nearly 40 hours. 

Chef Buddy raking a much needed break.
 
As I lay in bed reflecting on the past few days my body, my swollen hands, aching back, and angry feet remind me that I’m going to pay for it.  But I’m in my bed.  I’m not cramped in a Motel 6 relying on the kindness of strangers to meet my basic needs.  I’m in my warm home listening to my sixteen year old daughter practice her piccolo solo.  

My friends are still serving in Monroe as the need is great.  We don’t do anything special.  In comparison to other disaster relief ministries one might think we don’t do much at all.  And they would be right.  We provide a meal.  It’s intransient, yet a hot meal brings comfort in crisis. 

Chef Lisa peacing out while Chef Blake prepares apple Brown Betty. I’m the joker washing dishes.
 I’m reminded of Luke 14:12-14:

“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.” 

M3 along with its companion cooler trailer.
 That’s what Mercy Chefs does.  

The Least of These

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14 ESV)

Saddest.  Tree.  Ever.  We were contending with 30 mph winds and the tree took some serious abuse.
Saddest. Tree. Ever. We were contending with 30 mph winds and the tree took some serious abuse.

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to spend some time in Ft. Worth, TX to participate in Mercy Chefs’ “17 Days of Christmas.”  Heather and I have talked about serving the homeless on Christmas Day for years, and we were blessed with the opportunity to serve around 100 homeless and underprivileged men, women, and children. This project will continue through December 31.

(In case you are not familiar with Mercy Chefs, let me explain.  We are primarily a disaster response and relief ministry.  We serve hot chef prepared meals to first responders, victims, and volunteers. Fortunately, we don’t have continual disasters, so when we have downtime, we partner with other ministries to feed the homeless.)

I’m always amazed when we are obedient to Christ.  We serve with the intention to bless others, but we always seem to be the ones blessed by the homeless.  Yesterday, I sat down with a 60 year old man who has been out of prison for 18 months.  He spent a couple of years in prison after he beat up some creeper who was abusing his fifteen year old daughter.  What surprised me was that this man, Terry Gibson, was a brother in Christ and could quote scripture better than I could.

Learning about Terry Gibson and his circumstances.
Terry said that before today, he hadn’t eaten in two days.

Terry said that he was a manager at a classic car dealership for ten years before he went to prison.  He was a single father who had custody of his three children.  I spent about an hour listening to him as he told me that his predicament came solely because he didn’t trust God to handle the precarious situation with the sexual predator that was after his daughter.

As I imagine myself in his shoes, I know that if I was faced with a similar situation with one of my three daughters, I might be tempted to handle the matter similarly.  I pray that I am never thrust into a comparable position.

My wife and middle daughter watching "Elf" with a couple of new friends on the side of the Mercy Chefs trailer.
My wife and middle daughter watching “Elf” with a couple of new friends on the side of the Mercy Chefs trailer.

His troubles are far from over as he is still picking up his broken life. His children, feeling abandoned by his imprisonment, have pretty much abandoned their relationship with their father.  He attributes it to his unwillingness to allow God to handle his dilemma.  Yet, he is still upbeat.  He is thankful for his experience in prison as it has drawn him closer to God.  He served as a father figure for many young men behind bars, and now he offers his wisdom to kids and young adults on the streets.

My family.
My family.

When we parted ways, he left with a full belly and a warm blanket and I left with a fresh perspective.  God can and does use the least of us to serve Christ, and I’m blessed to have a new friend.  We may never meet again, but I don’t have to worry about him.  He is safe with the Lord, but I do pray for him and his family and I pray that God saves others through him.  It was a Merry Christmas, indeed.

Operation: Vilonia Part II

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I had a chance to pass food out in some of the affected neighborhoods today.  It is the same story no matter how many times you see a disaster.  Every time it makes you sick to see all of those hurting souls.

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It’s hard to put the experience into words.  Disaster relief can be very difficult, both physically and spiritually.  It is also a place where you can see the better side of humanity when you see strangers show compassion.

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Now it’s time to sift through the rubble to uncover the pieces.

Operation: Vilonia

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It seems that spring is a good time of year for disaster relief. Not that you want people devastated by disasters, but when the inevitable happens, thousands of volunteers from countless organizations are ready to serve.

There are various types of disaster relief. The most common is cleanup. I’m a part of a different kind of relief organization. We provide hot meals to both victims and relief workers as they work to put lives back in order. When you think about it, it doesn’t really seem like much, but providing a hot meal to a hurting family can bring some measure of comfort.

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I’ve volunteered with Mercy Chefs over two years now and have been on so many deployments, it’s hard to keep them straight. I’ve seen so many faces. Aside from those I regularly work with, I can only remember Benny.

We went to Greeley, Colorado after the flooding in September 2013. Benny was an out of work guy who volunteered every day we were there. He said, “I don’t have a job and don’t want to waste my time on the couch.” That’s my kind of guy. Sometimes it can be hard to worry about others when you don’t know how you are going to pay the electric bill.

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We are in Vilonia, Arkansas this week after a tornado ripped through town Sunday. In less than 24 hours we were on site. I hear another of our mobile kitchens will leave for Louisville, Mississippi tomorrow.

I don’t know how long we will be here or where I will be sent next, but I always have a bag packed.