On March 2, while an EF-4 tornado was swirling across southern Indiana, Jim Bland, coordinator for Mission to North America (MNA), was huddling with his family in his daughter’s basement.
“We began hearing the most awful sound, like somebody beating on the roof, pounding, pounding, pounding,” Bland recalled. The torrent lasted for no more than 10 minutes, and then silence. Returning upstairs, Bland and his wife, who were staying the weekend with their daughter and son-in-law, saw little damage to the house but found that their car was badly dented by baseball-sized hail.
Half a mile down the road, the storm had been less gracious to Henryville Elementary School, where the Blands’ son-in-law Travis Drake worked as a fifth grade teacher. Although no one was hurt, the twister had blasted through the school, destroying classrooms and smashing school buses.
Meanwhile, MNA’s disaster response director Arklie Hooten was monitoring the storm from his base in Tennessee, watching as it swept across Indiana, flattening homes and killing 11 people. After hearing about Bland’s experience, Hooten traveled to Henryville to survey the damage and join with other agencies in first response efforts. While there, he met with David Dively, stated clerk of the Ohio Valley Presbytery and host committee chairman for the 2012 General Assembly (GA) in Louisville, Ky., just 20 miles south of Henryville.
Three years earlier, when Dively first learned that Louisville would be hosting GA, he began considering how the host committee could create meaningful opportunities around the assembly—opportunities for prayer, evangelism, pastoral counseling, and service. While eating breakfast with Hooten, an idea began to form: How about mobilizing GA commissioners and guests to serve the battered Henryville community by pulling together the PCA community and beyond to build “Sheds of Hope”?
First constructed in response to Hurricane Katrina, MNA has built more than 700 Sheds of Hope to date. “When your house is terribly damaged or gone, you need a place to put your ‘stuff,’ ” explained Harvey Anderson, executive director of Home Repairs Ministries (HRM). “[It] is a Shed of Hope because it is built around the hope-filled message of the gospel.”
Birthed out of Perimeter Church (Duluth, Ga.), HRM is a non-profit that equips churches of all denominations to start their own home repair teams, particularly to minister to widows and single mothers within and outside of the church.
Hooten invited Anderson and HRM to join with MNA’s disaster response team during GA (June 19-22) in the parking lot of Hotel Louisville—a hotel that doubles as a transitional home and job training site for formerly homeless women—to build four Sheds of Hope for families in Henryville. With less than a mile between the hotel and the Kentucky International Convention Center where GA will take place, commissioners are invited to participate in the construction project along with members of churches in the Ohio Valley and Central Indiana presbyteries. Upon completion the sheds will be sent to Henryville to four families, selected by Drake, creating a foundation for establishing a preaching point in the community.
Dively hopes the project will encourage pastors from around the country to start their own home repairs teams that will be equipped to respond to disasters in their area: “The more people know about our disaster relief ministry and the more they’re attuned to the possibility of [disasters], the more they’ll be ready to respond when something happens.”
Meanwhile, Bland plans to stop by the Hotel Louisville and survey the beginning of a response to the disaster that hit very close to home.
“Who would have thought that a visit to one’s kids would lead to a mercy ministry that will continue long into the future?” Bland said.
To participate in the Sheds of Hope Project, bring a pair of gloves and a hammer to Hotel Louis, 120 West Broadway, Louisville, KY, Monday-Thursday, 10-2 p.m. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.