On the evening of July 27, 2022, Rev. Jay Bennett, pastor of Neon Reformed Presbyterian Church (OPC) was asleep his family’s apartment, which is situated upstairs from the storefront church building, located on Kentucky Highway 317 at the center of town. His wife and daughter were visiting family in Georgia. Pastor Jay and his son, Cole, reported waking up to the sound of a flood warning coming through their phones. One of the first things they noticed after waking up was a banging noise in the front stairwell.
The sound, they soon discovered, was a small Jon boat that they stored in the stairwell. They found that it had floated to the top of the stairs and was banging against the apartment wall. Jay thought it wise to move the family’s car from the back of the church building to higher ground, but soon discovered that he would not be able to do so. Minutes later, Jay and Cole watched two family vehicles float down the river that had once been the main street through town.
Fleming-Neon is a former coal mining town located in southeast Kentucky. In fact, the building occupied by the church still has a coal company sign over the back door. The main roads in town run alongside two seemingly innocuous creeks, that come together just south of the church building. On most days you could walk across the creek without any trouble. Anyone in town would tell you that these creeks often flood, but the water rarely rises above the sidewalk. But the flood that occurred the evening of July 28 was different. There were places in town where the water reached as high as 8 – 10 feet. Water levels in Pastor Jay’s church reached over 6 feet.
As the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s (OPC) disaster response team began its work in Neon, MNA Disaster Response Director, Arklie Hooten, reached out to OPC Disaster Response Coordinator, David Nakhla, with offers to help in any way possible. On August 3, MNA Disaster Response sent three staff members, Arklie Hooten (Director), Marty Huddleston (Logistics Specialist), and Mike Kennamer (Warehouse Manager) to Neon to deliver a mud out trailer and a mini-track loader, along with a trailer and associated implements. Arklie Hooten trained local church members and volunteers to operated the mud out trailer, which includes pressure washers, water tanks, and other equipment for flood remediation. Mike Kennamer trained the local team to operate a Bobcat mini track loader and to safely change implements and load and unload from the trailer.
In the months since the flooding, the PCA has sent a number of teams to minister to the people of Neon. As the work transitioned from clean-up to long-term recovery, Arklie offered the OPC up to 20 Sheds of Hope to be deployed and assembled in the Neon area.
On October 26-27, Mike Kennamer transported the first Shed of Hope from the Charles H. Jones Family Disaster Response Center in Rome, Georgia to Neon to train a team of volunteers to assemble the kits. This shed kit, built by Lake Oconee Presbyterian Church in Eatonton, Georgia, was constructed for the purpose of providing tool storage for the work teams.
Two weeks later, an OPC Disaster Response volunteer traveled to Rome to pick up an additional 6 sheds. These sheds, valued at $1900 each, were transported to Neon and assembled by volunteer teams.
The OPC has suspended the work in Neon until March, when they expect to open back up to volunteers and build more sheds. Please continue to pray for the people of Neon as they recover from the storm and for the church and the OPC as they continue to minister to those impacted by the floods.
The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) enjoy a fraternal relationship through membership in the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC). One of the guiding principles of that relationship is that, ‘we will cooperate wherever possible and feasible on the local and denominational level in such areas as missions, relief efforts, Christian schools, and church education’. We have a long history of working with the OPC in relief efforts, and in every instance it has been joyful.
The PCA doesn’t have a congregation in Neon KY, but the OPC does. Neon Reformed OPC (mission), a lovely community of believers in downtown Neon was crushed by torrential rain and subsequent flooding on July 28 and then again on August 1.
The church physical plant was inundated with 7+ feet of flood water and when the water receded the church was left with 6 to 8 inches of mud throughout the entire building. On August 3 MNA Disaster Response staff transported a ‘mud-out’ trailer and skid-steer loader to Neon to standup the OPC’s relief efforts. The mud-out trailer is a self-contained rolling equipment depot designed specifically for such work. It contains commercial grade pressure washers, large water holding tank, generators, dewatering pumps, portable lighting, dehumidifiers, blower fans, etc. The skid steer is being used to move debris and mud.
Please keep praying for the OPC’s efforts in Neon. Pray especially for Pastor/Planter Jay Bennett and the lovely congregation. Pray for restoration and give thanks for the many opportunities to demonstrate God’s love to a community crushed by this storm and subsequent flood. Pray “….that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints” — Romans 15:31
To know more, please visit https://opcdisasterresponse.org to get the latest information and learn about ways you can help.
On August 29, 2021, Hurricane Ida struck New Orleans. This was 16 years to the day that Hurricane Katrina devastated this same city. This video tells the story of three PCA churches affected by Ida and the quick and loving response of MNA’s Disaster Response Ministry!
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MNA Disaster Response is deploying Sheds of Hope in Sevier County TN in response to the recent wildfires. Staff are loading sheds at the MNA Charles H. Jones Family Disaster Response Warehouse tomorrow and will begin assembling the sheds this Saturday April 16, 2022.
The Hatcher Mountain fire began Wednesday, March 30 in Sevier County TN in the Wears Valley Community and burned nearly 2,500 acres and incinerated 219 homes. This is the area just west of Dollywood, a popular theme park, and short distance from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the nation’s most visited national park with more than 14 million visitors each year. Further to the west in Seymour another fire consumed another 700 acres and burned more structures. Thankfully no one died as a result of the fires, but several firefighters and a few civilians were injured battling to bring the blazes under control.
After the fires were contained and it was safe to enter the area, Evergreen Presbyterian Church Senior Pastor Wes White reached out to MNA Disaster Response asking for help, specifically for MNA Disaster Response to deploy Sheds of Hope (SOH). Evergreen PCA is lovely community of believers located in Sevierville TN, the mountainous county-seat of Sevier County. The county also includes Gatlinburg TN and Pigeon Forge TN, well known destinations for folks seeking recreation and fun in the beautiful Smoky Mountains.
MNA was ready to respond and quickly put together a plan with Evergreen leadership. Volunteers from several churches will descend on Sevier County on Saturday to assist Evergreen Presbyterian Church deliver a strong measure of God’s Shalom to this devastated community. The following congregations are mobilizing to help.
- Evergreen PCA Sevierville TN
- Covenant PCA Oak Ridge TN
- Redeemer Church of Knoxville PCA Knoxville TN
- First PCA Crossville TN
- Restoration Presbyterian Church PCA Dacula GA
Please pray for final planning. We are transporting the sheds and tool trailer from our Rome GA warehouse, and staff from AL, FL, and TN to train volunteers how to assemble the sheds. Regional Specialists Mike Kennamer and Keith Perry will train and supervise the teams during the first builds.
Please pray for this opportunity to assist the Wears Valley Community and Evergreen Presbyterian Church. Pray for good weather this Saturday, and for safety for the workers. Pray for MNA Disaster Response and Sheds of Hope as sheds and equipment are transported from GA into the area. Most of all, pray that our service will be acceptable to the King, and to the saints. Romans 15:31.
At least five were left dead in AL on Thursday, March 25, after a severe weather outbreak in the south that spawned several tornadoes. Five deaths occurred in Calhoun County, just east of Birmingham. Four of the victims lived in Ohatchee, where significant damage occured; the fifth victim was killed in a mobile home in Wellington. At least a half dozen tornadoes were confirmed in AL, while one was confirmed in MS and another in TN. The next day the National Weather Service declared a tornado emergency for Newnan, GA, about 35 miles southwest of Atlanta.
The large tornado that struck Brent and Centreville AL promped the Weather Service to issue a ‘tornado emergency’ and warn of potentially ‘catastrophic’ damage. Radar showed a large amount of debris from this tornado lofted into the atmosphere in what is known as a ‘debris ball’ signature. “What you are seeing is graphic violence,” said Birmingham TV meteorologist James Spann as he described the radar shown to viewers. James’ own home suffered significant damage from the storm. Although MNA Disaster Response is assisting in many areas of AL in response to this event, Brent is the only area where Sheds of Hope are being deployed.
This isn’t the first historic-strength tornado that has crushed Brent. On May 27, 1973, a category 4 tornado tore through the Brent, Centreville, Montevallo, and Greensboro area, leaving 90 percent of the city of Brent destroyed. The tornado demolished more than 12,000 acres of timber and over 500 buildings; 72 people in the area were injured and five of its citizens killed. The thoughts and fears of that dreadful day were still lingering with the citizens of Brent and were pushed again to the forefront when the March 2021 tornado occurred. The City of Brent was founded in 1898 but was forever changed on that day in 1973. A site next to the current City Hall building was dedicated to the people of Brent whose lives were devastating by the powerful tornado. Five lives were lost:
MNA Disaster Response is assisting Brent Presbyterian Church after the recent tornado. Although the church was established in 1907 it was in 1973 that Brent Presbyterian Church became a founding member of Warrior Presbytery and eventually the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Brent PCA’s current pastor is Rev. Mitchell L. Haubert, who was installed in 2015. He also serves as the Executive Director of Jumpstart-Alabama and the Coordinator for Birmingham Theological Seminary’s Prison Initiative Program. If you are on Facebook you can visit Pastor Mitch’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chaplain.bull If you would like to know more about Jumpstart Alabama, please go here: https://www.jumpstartvision.org/alabama/. To read a summary of Birmingham Theological Seminary’s Prison Initiative Program, click this link: https://bts.education/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Prison-Initiative-Brochure.pdf
After the storm as soon as access was allowed MNA Disaster Response TAG Region Specialist Mike Kennamer requested Sheds of Hope kits be sent to Brent PCA. MNA Disaster Response Logistics Specialist Marty Huddleston loaded the kits at the Rome GA warehouse and rendezvoused with Mike and MNA Disaster Response FL Region Specialist Keith Perry in Brent. Over the next few days Mike and Keith trained church members on how to setup the Sheds of Hope on the property of homeowners displaced by the storms. The old training model, ‘See one, Do one, Teach one’ method that is so effective was employed to train these volunteers. Some members of the Jumpstart Alabama program joined the efforts.
Spring tornado season is no where near over just yet and the Atlantic Hurricane Season is just around the corner. Colorado State University has recently released their 2021 predictions and if they prove true it’s going to be another doozy. Obviously, only the Lord knows for sure, but making preparations is always a good idea – and biblical. The Word has a lot to say about being prudent and wise.
If you would like to join in the relief efforts in AL you can reach Mike Kennamer at email@example.com or visit the MNA Disaster Response TAG (Tennessee-Alabama-Georgia) Region webpage at http://mnadrtag.com.
Additionally, we are now moving towards resuming training events. If you would like to schedule a Sheds of Hope training or a general disaster response training event at your presbytery or church, please contact Arklie Hooten at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In preparation for the upcoming storm season you can register as a MNA Disaster Response Volunteer. Please click here to register as a volunteer.
If you would like to support the ministry of MNA Disaster Response, please click here.
Mission to North America (MNA) leadership has approved the launch of a capital-campaign to raise the funds necessary to purchase or build a disaster readiness campus along the Ocala/Lakeland I-75 corridor in central Florida. This is a bold new step for Mission to North America Disaster Response in our effort to provide a higher level of support to the congregations and presbyteries of Florida.
The target location in Florida was chosen after much research and many conversations between MNA Disaster Response staff, key leaders, and seasoned volunteers. Please click the picture or the link below the picture to better understand our reasoning and purpose in making this bold move, and for ways you can partner with us to make this resource a reality.
First Hurricane Laura, then Hurricane Delta!! One disaster is too many, but two within six weeks is more than any community should need to endure. But that is exactly what happened. Hurricane Laura, a major wind event – coming ashore with stronger winds than Hurricane Katrina and actually sending the MS River backwards – upended Lake Charles LA on August 27 at near peak intensity. Then, on October 5, Hurricane Delta, a major rain event, blasted Lake Charles dumping torrential rains that flooded blue-tarpped homes that were still ‘shingle-less’ after Laura.
Sheds of Hope deployed shortly after the storms and so far six Sheds of Hope have gone to Lake Charles. Today, two additional SOH were constructed on the grounds of Bethel PCA to store church belongings while the church is being dried out and rebuilt. When Laura pounded Lake Charles, Bethel’s roof was significantly damaged. Some water entered the church in various spots after shingles were ripped off by the storm. MNA Disaster Response volunteers and church members blue-tarpped the roof until a replacement plan is settled on by the congregation.
Then, just six weeks later, Hurricane Delta, brought about six inches of flood water into the the church physical plant. Again, volunteers from several congregations including Westminster PCA-Bryan TX, St Roch PCA-New Orleans LA, Redeemer PCA-Katy TX, and Grace PCA-Shreveport LA, descended on Lake Charles to gut the saturated drywall up to the 16-1/2″ level, and remove contaminated insulation from almost the entire church physical plant.
While those volunteers tackled the arduous task of gutting and cleaning the building, other volunteers and church members assembled two Sheds of Hope to store church items for safe keeping while the reconstruction is underway.
Sheds of Hope had already built two sheds at Bethel to store tools and equipment while the response is underway.
Huge shout-out to Covenant PCA-Auburn AL, and Plains PCA Zachary LA, churches that have the distinction of being ‘pre-builders’ of Sheds of Hope. These congregations have heavily invested in this important ministry, understanding it’s importance. These sheds were ‘ready-to-go’ and delivered to Lake Charles when we put the call out that sheds were needed.
Other congregations are ramping up their pre-building activities, including Lake Oconee PCA in GA and Memorial PCA in TN.
Let us know if your church would like to receive training and begin building Sheds of Hope.
Early on August 27, Hurricane Laura made landfall near peak intensity in LA. This was the tenth-strongest U.S. hurricane landfall by windspeed on record. The storm killed at least 22 people in the US and inflicted an estimated $8 billion in insured damage on southwestern LA and southeastern TX. It was the deadliest hurricane in the US since Hurricane Michael killed 59 in 2018. Hurricane Laura was a deadly and damaging Cat-4 that likely tied the 1856 Last Island Hurricane as the strongest hurricane ever recorded to make landfall in LA.
Seven days before Laura reached LA, forecasters indicated that landfall was imminent and MNA Disaster Response (MNADR) jumped into action and began preparing to respond. Staff and volunteers began preparing equipment and supplies at both our Dallas TX Depot and our Rome GA Warehouse. Grant Williamson, MNA Disaster Response Key Leader, and team members used chainsaws to cut their way into Bethel PCA Lake Charles LA to assess the damage and secure the physical plant. Evan Scroggs, MNA Gulf Coast Specialist, reached Lake Charles LA / Bethel PCA on Saturday morning and provided additional assessment even as other southern LA Presbytery teams assisted Pastor Jones and members of Deridder PCA after a tree landed inside his home.
After the initial assessment, our logistics team was able to reach Bethel PCA with one of our self-contained mobile bunkhouses from the Dallas Depot and key leaders from Delhi LA were able transport the Presbytery of the MS Valley’s mobile shower trailer there as well. Keith Perry, MNA Disaster Response Specialist-FL, made his way to Bethel PCA to set up operations. He is assisted by Mark Becker, RE at Christ Church, Katy TX, one of our DR Key Leaders. Please pray especially for these incredible men. Although MNADR has coordinated over 60 major responses, we will be facing many challenges during this response as we will absolutely be building the 747 as we fly it while being tested by Covid-19. Other MNADR teams were mobilized including Gulf Coast Presbytery’s chainsaw army. Loads of tools and pandemic supplies were sent from our Rome Warehouse where volunteers and staff from the TAG (TN, AL, GA) Region worked into the night loading up transport trailers.
Power is not expected to be restored anytime soon; we have heard that seven of the nine major transmission-lines that feed power to Lake Charles LA are catastrophically destroyed. That means that every business, church, home, etc. will not have refrigeration, AC, lights, etc. without generator power. Generators are in scare supply, are expensive, and require much attention to keep fueled. Even gas stations need electricity to pump the fuel from the holding tanks to your vehicle and almost every station depends on satellites to process credit cards. Without power, HVAC units, fans, blowers or pumps will not work, resulting in buildings that quickly become ‘sick’ with mold and mildew. In God’s providence Bethel PCA was able to secure a trailer mounted industrial generator that was hooked up to the church, allowing the AC to be restarted and the kitchen to be used. Such generators cost $700-$1,000 a week to lease, an expensive proposition. Once buildings becomes ‘sick’ they sometimes reach the point of no return and need to be leveled. Wisely, our mobile bunkhouses have Honda power plants that are sufficient to power their HVAC systems and provide enough additional power to support our mobile shower trailers. Air conditioned sleeping and clean, hot showers are vital for teams working in these conditions.
Plains Presbyterian Church of Zachary LA, near Baton Rouge showed up this week with two prebuilt Sheds of Hope to setup at the Bethel PCA recovery site, arduous work in sweltering conditions on a blacktop parking lot in 95* temperature. This is a typical operation that we are thankful for. These sheds will be used to provide secure worksite storage for valuable equipment and supplies that are used by our volunteer teams.
Bethel PCA, our host site, actually had a shed but Laura picked it up, overturned it, and slammed it down between two trees! Hopefully our teams will be able to upright it at some point in the near future. Law enforcement agencies typically use the universal 10-code system to communicate with each other. I can’t help but think if Sheds could talk they would have contacted one-another and yelled, “Shed down, needs assistance. 10-999! 10-999!!”
Over the next few weeks, our teams will be concentrating on chainsaw work, tree and debris removal, and evaluating the need for Sheds of Hope. If our site managers signal that Sheds of HOPE are needed, we are ready to deploy. We currently have 20 sheds ready at the Rome Warehouse, 11 at the Dallas Depot, and several churches are ramping up production and have builds scheduled over the next few weeks.
Our new Sheds of Hope setup trailers are ready to go. Our plan is to roll the one pictured above to Lake Charles LA next week. in the event that sheds are needed, it will be ready to support those efforts. Each of the new trailers has every needed tool to support teams setting up Sheds of HOPE
To know more about the response to Hurricane Laura, and to assist though financial means, participation, and prayer, please navigate to: pcamna.org and look for the red bar for the most current information.
The film Braveheart (1995) is one my all-time favorites and my fav scene is when the English cavalry is bearing down on William Wallace (Mel Gibson) and his fellow Scots. The cavalry approaches in slow motion as the hooves slam into the ground with increasing tempo. The Scot’s tension rapidly increases, along with the tension of the film’s viewers as the horses draw nearer while William Wallace shouts, “HOLD… HOLD… HOLD.” Wallace didn’t want his men to raise their spears too soon for doing so would alert the cavalry of the trap and they would likely retreat to avoid being impaled on the spears.
Using this scene as an analogy for our volunteer mobilization efforts, the approaching cavalry is the fear of missed opportunity to serve. Robust mobilization of volunteers during the ‘safer-in-place’ mandate is not allowed and likely will not be allowed for some time to come. Our stance for now continues to be, “HOLD… HOLD… HOLD!” Above all, we don’t have the capacity to thwart God’s providence in the current events unfolding around us. We do continue to register volunteers who are chomping at the bit, as they say, to re-engage at worksites. But we don’t want to re-engage too soon!
One day MNA Disaster Response, including Sheds of Hope, will be cleared to again mobilize volunteers. Meanwhile, our team of staff and volunteers have been investing massive amounts of time and effort preparing for that day, so that when it comes we may do so safely. Our network of relief providers have been innovative in finding ways to cautiously take steps during this time that will allow our teams to rapidly restart operations when it is safe. Take a look at the following pictures of a recent Shed of Hope build by Lake Oconee Presbyterian Church. They have been cautiously holding the line, complying with social distancing mandate, but staying busy staying on mission.
Building Sheds of Hope kits is construction, light construction, but construction just the same. Undertaking any type of construction during this time is a challenge. The team leaders put much thought and efforts perfecting a procedure that allows them to continue ministry. New protocols include less team members working at any one time, wearing masks, using hand sanitizer, maintaining distances, etc. They are looking forward to the day when the entire team can be together serving again. For now it is, “HOLD… HOLD… HOLD!“
Love will find a way! Lake Oconee PCA is not the only church Sheds of Hope team being innovative and finding a way to be fruitful during this time. Plains PCA-Zachary LA, Covenant PCA-Auburn AL, and Memorial PCA-Elizabethton TN, are also grappling with how best to build Sheds of Hope kits during this time. ‘Our Daily Bread’, the well known monthly devotional, recently published a devotional about a cartoon that depicted a sour, disgruntled, elderly gentleman standing in rumpled pajamas and robe at his apartment door. He had just secured the door for the night with four locks, two deadbolts, and a chain latch. Later he noticed a small white envelope stuck beneath the door. On the envelope was a large sticker in the shape of a heart. It was a valentine. Love had found a way! The Sheds of Hope teams are finding a way!
MNA Disaster Response has 31 Sheds of Hope kits ready to go, but many more are needed. Please let us know if you would like to develop a Sheds of Hope kit building team as we would love for you to join the movement. Please keep praying that our teams will continue to ‘Hold’, be innovative in the meanwhile, and when the time is right to again, ‘GO’!!
We were surprised when we received the call informing us that the twins, Vincent and Julius, arrived early! What a great blessing! Last Wednesday we immediately made our way to the local Homesteader dealer and took possession of the new Sheds of Hope setup trailers and transported them, one by one, to the Rome GA warehouse for outfitting.
Mike Kennamer, MNA warehouse manager, is making lists and checking them twice; he will begin sourcing the equipment for each trailer right-away. Outfitting should begin in July and likely take about two months to get the trailers road-ready.
When the trailers are ready for use we will transport Vincent (Twin #1) to the MNA Disaster Response Dallas Depot where he will be on standby when not deployed. Julius (Twin #2) will remain stationed at the MNA Rome Warehouse. If you would like to help with the outfitting, please check out the previous post. There you will find information on how to give a financial gift, and/or to volunteer on the project. Most of all, please join us in prayer giving thanks for these new tools that will be of great help as volunteer teams deploy to assist disaster-displaced families! Maybe they will be needed in your community.