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Reflections of a rookie early responder

 

Now that the Rusk UMC Early Responder Team has finished it's first deployment I wanted to share my thoughts which, I believe, will reflect those of our entire ten person team.  From the day our Pastor, Jacob Smith told me about TACCOR and asked me to explore the idea of setting up a team till the day we said good by to Sarah Nichols, the Director of Volunteers in Oklahoma, this has been an amazing journey!  On a scale from one to ten, I'm going to say 9.8.
 
I don't know if you are responsible for the excellent videos detailing the Methodist disaster recovery program but we showed one to help educate our congregation and it was very well received. With the memory of the explosion in West and the Oklahoma tornados still fresh in our minds, this was a mission everyone could support.  The unexpected bonus was how this turned out to be a huge shot in the arm for our church.  Knowing it was designed by Texas Methodists for Texans was important.  We were not aware that our church was the first church in the district to set up our very own team and when we found out, church morale went way up.  When Rev. Alan Van Hooser (DDRC) gave us custody of the equipment trailer we were proud and more determined than ever to be ready to go if the call came. 
 
We are a small church so we wondered if we could get enough volunteers to build a team and then enough financial support to fund it.  Turned out to be a piece of cake.  Of the fifteen who volunteered the first time around, twelve actually went through the training.  DeWitt Cox was our trainer and prepared us well.    Financially, our church stepped up again.  Our congregation took up special collections which paid for our training,  finished equipping the trailer ($1400.00) and if that wasn't enough, provided $1000.00 for our deployment.  Even in Oklahoma when it was obvious that we needed a weedeater, one of our own team bought a top of the line one out of her own pocket.  
 
Large companies, school districts and other organizations spend lots of money on team building.  I have had the opportunity to participate in some of that stuff but it pales in comparison with this experience.  Some of us on the team hardly knew each other and now we are friends.  Those of us who were already friends are even better friends.  We have a special bond because we did it together!  Alan, I remain convinced that pulling people from different churches to form a team will never be as powerful as the way we did it IMHO.  I know I am preaching to the choir here but when the ten of us hit church yesterday, we were able to give virtually everyone in our congregation a taste of our experience and when we complete our power point presentation and show it in church, people will be blown away.  So get ready to train some more Rusk folks.  My best guess at this point is eight to ten more will sign up for training.  If all goes as planned, I feel confident that we can put a good size team in the field on short notice.
 
Alan, When you stopped holding my hand, Sarah Nichols in Oklahoma took it.  She heads up the war room in Moore and is responsible getting teams where they need to be and making sure they have a place to stay.  With so many teams from all over coming and going, I don't know how she sleeps at night.  She told me not to tell anybody so I'll just tell you that we (Rusk) were her favorite team.  She probably says that to all the teams but that comment sure put a spring in our collective step on a very hot August afternoon.  The family Sarah gave us to work for is a tribute to her attention to detail and (I suspect) a little devine intervention.  It can only be described as a match made in heaven.  He was a veteran of WWII and not able to work very much.  She is a cafeteria worker in a local school and leaves home very early to start preparing food for the students.  I never will forget the first day she came home and turned into her driveway.  She had her windows down and you could hear her screaming with joy a long way away.  We all felt so appreciated that we were happy to do as many extra projects as we could in addition to building 600 feet of fence.
 
There are other stories to tell like the CVS pharmacy that let one of our members in 20 minutes before they were scheduled to open just because she had her Disaster Recovery shirt on.  She didn't even ask.  They saw her! I'm going to stop here and simply say that if you are reading this and thinking about trying to start an Early Responder Team in your church, do it!  No matter which district you are in, you will find a Coordinator who will help and support you all along the way.   Many congregations are not aware that these teams exist so tell them and watch the esprit de corps rise in your church as the team comes together.   TACCOR is a well oiled machine helping us do what God has commanded us to do and be where He wants us to be.  Being a part of this program will make you proud to be a Methodist. 
 
Sincerely and in His name,
Robert