Volunteers help rebuild in Mississippi


By STEPHEN STRANGE / Special to the Alabaster Reporter What do you do when God changes your plans? You listen to God and you change your plans and maybe even your destination. For the last 13 years, Frank Chacon has been going to Mexico to build houses for local villagers. Frank attends Alabaster First United Methodist Church and a few years ago asked some of the members of Lakeview Pelham’s First United Methodist Church if they would join him in this mission endeavor. Joe Shelton and Richard Gouge along some others from Lakeview PUMC agreed and they joined with First Presbyterian Church in Athens, and Alabaster UMC to have a very ecumenically diverse mission team. But then something happened in the midst of planning to go to Mexico in 2009; drug lord violence broke out along the border and the Faith Ministry Mission organization made a decision that they would not take any missions teams across the border until they had 30 days free of any border violence. So what does a group do when plans are changed? You begin to pray and God gives you a brand new vision and many times a brand new mission venue. That is exactly what happened when the mission team decided that they would travel to Mississippi to help with Katrina relief. If you can believe it, five years after Hurricane Katrina there are still people that are homeless and others that are living four- to six-people deep in FEMA trailers. God knew that many people over in Mississippi needed some help from Alabama. So for the last two years, we have worked with a mission organization that helps families with Katrina relief efforts. The name of the organization is “reliefvolunteers.” This organization is housed in Poplarville, Miss., but serves families up to 75 miles from Poplarville. The organization will allow groups to do all kinds of construction work. Their rule for work is that your group can work up to the skill of your most skillful leader. The last two years when Alabaster UMC and Pelham UMC joined together, they were able to complete all kinds of work projects. They have built wheelchair ramps, hung dry wall, put in tile flooring, plumbing, hung doors and set windows – not to mention all kinds of minor repairs and simple painting projects. One of the great things about the work is that you also get to meet the family or individuals that you are working with. This year, we got to spend some time with June Smith, who was able to move into her house the day that we left. Some people in Mississippi even mentioned that God had sent them Angels and we were those angels. The truth is that we were not angels – we were just willing to serve. We also show that in the United Methodist Church we really are a connectional system. We can worship in two different places and yet we can pull together to be the hands and feet of Jesus. The plans are to return next year to Mexico but if God has different plans, then we will listen to the plans that God has for us. If you want more information about helping with Katrina relief check out Reliefvolunteers.com/index.html. The Rev. Stephen Strange is pastor of Lakeview, Pelham’s First United Methodist Church. You can reach him at steve@lakeviewpumc.org.

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