Monday, December 3, 2007

New Wineskins and the NoAH project

The Fall 2007 edition of ReachOut, the bulletin of the New Wineskins Missionary Network, is out in print (but alas, not apparently on the web), with a 4-page lead article which features the now-closed God's Katrina Kitchen and our own Church Army Gulf Coast NoAH project.

The article, "WHO IS FEEDING THEM NOW?", was written by the stalwart Mary Edna Thompson, who is currently back among us working diligently, plastering drywall in Katrina-damaged structures, meeting and praying with political figures who would rather that we disappear, and leading nightly Bible studies. Here are some condensed excerpts from her article:

The images of the victims of Hurricane Katrina are haunting and stir a deep desire to reach out and do something to ease their pain. Two years later, Hurricane Katrina is still wreaking havoc on the lives of many. Concrete slabs and piles of rubble are all that remain of many homes and businesses.

The work of God's Katrina Kitchen was awe-inspiring. GKK has fed an estimated 20,000 volunteers, most of whom work in reconstruction and restoration of storm damaged homes. Not only did GKK feed the volunteers but they also fed residents who needed to be fed. On July 2, 2007, the Gulfport City Council voted not to renew the permit for GKK to continue to provide meals for the residents in need, though God's Kitchen (renamed) can continue to provide meals at a nearby church to volunteers.

HOMELESS ON THE GULF COAST: Homeless is too broad a term for the people who came into the big red and white tent to receive three meals a day. Let me introduce you to some of the regulars at GKK—names have been changed.

SALLY is a cute little four-year-old who lives in a minivan with her Mom and Dad. Black plastic covers one area that used to be a window. Sally won the hearts of everyone. Sally always received a hearty meal three times a day. Her mom would fill plastic jugs with water for her bath. They came to Gulfport in response to a promise for employment. The employment opportunity never manifested and now they are caught up in a homeless situation with occasional day-to-day jobs to help them. So now, who is feeding Sally?

MRS. CORA. Across a field beside the kitchen are FEMA trailers which currently serve as homes for survivors who are struggling to rebuild their lives. Mrs. Cora lives there and walked over to the kitchen at mealtime. She is a quiet sort of woman but never hesitated to say thank you to the volunteers. She suffered great loss from the storm. When your eyes meet her eyes you see pain. But, she is quick to tell you about her faith in Jesus. Who is feeding Mrs. Cora?

VAN AND FREDDIE. No report about GKK would be complete without the inclusion of the on-site ministry of NoAH and two of its participants, Van and Freddie. NoAH is dedicated to the rehabilitation of the homeless and the addicted. Van and Freddie were living under the pier and caught up in a lifestyle of alcohol and drugs. They came to God's Katrina Kitchen one night for a free meal. They received far more than food for the body; they received hope and saw a possibility of a new beginning. Jesus led them to GKK and He received them with open arms. Both were given a place to call home while they worked in the kitchen as lead cooks.

Not only did they accept all the responsibility of running their shifts but a great deal of their time was spent in devotions, Bible study, and accountability sessions. Both Van and Freddie graduated from the NoAH program. Freddie has left GKK in order to support his daughters. Van is now with God's Kitchen, in charge of feeding staff members and volunteers. God answered his prayer to use his talents in food service to serve the Lord.

There is much more to Mary Edna's article, along with a photo of NoAH residents Terry, Van and Freddie. Perhaps if you write or call the contact below, New Wineskins will send you their fall bulletin. And don't forget to send something along to these good folk. .

Looking at the New Wineskins Website, there is a page summarizing the 2007 seminar led by Steve Brightwell, the National Director for Church Army USA. Sharing in Jesus' Heart for the Poor reviews what the bible has to say about our response to those around us who are poor. .

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