Gary Henneke, Pastor of Frelsburg Baptist Church of New Ulm, Texas joined 140 volunteers who served during the recent “Loving Oklahoma” event. Gary is a trained NOVA Chaplain and joined to see how his training could be of assistance on the field. Gary wrote the below account of his experiences and concluded that Chaplains are very much so needed as Disaster Recovery teams continue to serve in areas affected by disasters. Gary stated “We certainly need to be the “hands and feet” of Jesus during these times but we must not also forget to be the “eyes and ears” of Our Lord during these recovery events.” Gary worked with “Field of Teams.” A ministry in El Reno/Yukon that is helping farmers with debris clean up and fence building.
From Gary, I returned from my “Loving Oklahoma” trip. I stayed there four days and worked with a group from Richmond, Virginia building 5 strand barb wire fences. This work was coordinated by a lady named Levi Clifton working under “Field of Teams” doing debris pickup in fields that the local farmers are preparing to plant and building fences. This work is in the El Reno / Yukon area west of Oklahoma City. We completed two miles of fencing, that would total stringing out about 10 miles of barb wire, putting in close to 1000 T-Post and fasteners on all the post. We did GOOD!! God Blessed!
What I noticed about the land owner was that it took a couple of days for him to open up to sharing with us about his loss. Wednesday morning he showed up and asked me to take him down to his pickup in another field and when we arrived there we sat there a long time as he just “talked” about all that was going on around him (the rest of the group thought I snuck off to the local Dairy Queen?). He did not share with me because I was a Chaplain or a Pastor (he had no idea) but because I was present and attempting to make a difference.
The next day he spoke a long time with the entire team about his loss and his families loss from the tornado and what challenges lie ahead for them. It has been a little over two months and what I see is that they still need to talk this out, they are still living out this traumatic event.
Let me share with you one example. Wednesday evening he started plowing one of the fields that had been cleaned and before the evening was over had four flats to fix from picking up nails in his tires on the equipment, fortunately none in the big tractor tires although he said the lugs were full on nails just none penetrated the tires…YET. Can you imagine the trauma of going out into these fields and plowing, planting or even harvesting not knowing how much down time you will have due to “debris damage”. And this could go on, year after year , every time the ground is reworked.
As I was there this week watching many vans come and go dropping off workers, loading up and then leaving, I saw little or no interaction between the volunteers and the victims. Perhaps what I was reminded of from my experience is this:
We certainly need to be the “hands and feet” of Jesus during these times but we must not also forget to be the “eyes and ears” of Our Lord during these recovery events. Realizing that this is not everyone’s “Gift” the foresight of having Chaplains embedded in work crews, even months after the initial disaster, is priceless. But again, one must earn the right to step into the shattered lives of these individuals and more so as time passes and they witness so many “volunteers” come and go.
God Bless, Gary Henneke
We pray more Chaplains will follow in Gary’s footsteps and join us in more Disaster Recovery Trips. Volunteers are needed in Oklahoma as we build homes and continue in debris clean up. Go to www.texasbaptists.org/disaster click on Oklahoma Tornadoes to sign up.
There is a huge need for funds. Go to www.texasbaptists.org/give and give generously.