Disaster Project Leadership Trainees Are ‘Hooked’

Church of the Brethren Newsline
August 8, 2007

“My name is Larry, and I’m an addict.” The roomful of fellow addicts responded, “Hi, Larry!” This is not the typical opening for a meeting of Church of the Brethren volunteers, but Larry Williams offered this caveat, “I’m addicted to disaster response.”

Williams is a disaster project director for Brethren Disaster Ministries. He served as co-trainer for a five-day Disaster Project Leadership Training held at the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center on July 30-Aug. 3. All of the Brethren Disaster Ministries project leaders are volunteers. Teams of trained leaders work together in various capacities at each project site where the program carries out clean up, repairs, and rebuilding following disasters.

The 18 trainees at the event included Rodney and Christine Delawder, Jim and Doretta Dorsch, Jim and Alice Graybill, Charles and Sigrid Horner, Steve Keim, Jerry Moore, Alan and Denise Oneal, Mike and Ruth Siburt, Lee and Trudy Stamy, and John and Janet Tubbs. Trainers included Bob and Marianne Pittman, John and Mary Mueller, Glenn Kinsel, and staff members Roy Winter, Zach Wolgemuth, and Jane Yount.

Trainees learned all aspects of disaster project oversight–volunteer management, coordinating work, safety, household management–and the various nuances of relationships, faith, and ethics that are an integral part of the work.

When asked what they thought makes people volunteer for disaster relief, the group was quick to respond: “To give back to people,” explained Doretta Dorsch, “It’s what we are commissioned to do–what Jesus tells us to do.” Rodney Delawder added, “You build up self-confidence, knowing you can contribute.”

Christine Delawder chimed in, “They get hooked. Once you see the families and the smiles on their faces, you want to go back and help more.” Trudy Stamy agreed, “The thank yous and hugs from homeowners make you want to come back.” Jim Dorsch pointed out that, while volunteering is important, it’s also fun: “We laughed ’til our stomachs hurt!”

The training ended with a commissioning service led by Marianne Pittman, who instructed the group to look intently at their hands. “The saying that Christ has no hands but your own is true for disaster service,” she said. “Blessed be the hands that bring help to one another.”

She invited the other trainers to share from their own experiences, and John Mueller offered the group this challenge: “Just try to leave more than you bring back. It’s not possible…. Welcome to the losing battle of not being able to give back more than you received.”

–Jane Yount is coordinator of Brethren Disaster Ministries for the Church of the Brethren General Board.

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The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To receive Newsline by e-mail go to http://listserver.emountain.net/mailman/listinfo/newsline. Submit news to the editor at cobnews@brethren.org. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.