Wednesday, October 31, 2018

After the Hurricane

Hurricane Michael hitting the Florida panhandle
As Allen and Trish start wrapping up their latest U.S. trip, let’s give a recap of what has happened since they were driving behind Hurricane Michael.

In Edgewater, Florida, they spent time opening backpack boxes and making them full enough to not crush in shipping. There wasn’t time to repack all of the boxes, so there are additional repacking events scheduled for future Saturday mornings. Edgewater is a collection point for shipping a container of donations, and these donations include food for the feeding and sponsorship programs. Because the amount of total U.S. donations equaled too much for two shipping containers (the one from Edgewater and the other shipped from Maryland), and not enough for three containers, something was going to be left behind. Sowers4Pastors receives whole containers of food from Minnesota, so the food could be replaced, but he backpacks could not. Allen and Trish knew they could help victims of Hurricane Michael with a large donation of the food they couldn't ship.

Congregation members from Piedmont Park Alliance
Church, in Tallahassee, who helped move the food
from our rental truck into their rental truck!
After checking with the people who had donated this food, to be sure they approved of diverting some of it to hurricane victims, Allen and Trish looked around for contacts to see if there was a way the food would be useful. This wasn’t the type of food donation storm victims in the U.S. normally receive. It was the type of special formula food served at the feeding centers. Allen had a number of organizations working in the disaster area tell him they already had enough food. Then he made a connection with a pastor in Tallahassee, Florida. The pastor immediately said, “Yes! We will make good use of it!” However, at the time, he wasn’t sure what that use would be. Still, he felt God was telling him to accept the donation.

The drop-off was made and the Tallahassee pastor began making some phone calls of his own. His experience was similar to Allen’s. People said, “We have all the food we need. Maybe if you had plywood, or some building materials…” Then, he made a phone call to another ministry, which eagerly asked for all of the food!

The ministry that received the food works with low income and at-risk people in the community. While they were not in the direct path of the storm, they were on the outskirts. The food donations they normally receive had been diverted to storm victims. Also, many of the people who normally contribute to this ministry were directly impacted by the storm. The man who operates the ministry said that, on the morning he received the phone call about the available food, he had been praying about how he would continue to feed the people who depended on him! The food is being used to feed the homeless and low-income families, on the edges of the hurricane impact zone.

66 boxes of backpacks awaiting transport
in Missisippi

After they dropped off the food, Allen and Trish headed to Gulfport, Mississippi, where they picked up 66 boxes of backpacks. When they arrived, Brita, who headed up the backpack drive, checked her tally sheets and realized they had 449 backpacks. She laughed and said that if they had known they would have made one more backpack to hit a nice, round number. On Sunday morning, Trish spoke in that church about the kidnapping story. Between Sunday school and the church service, a woman approached Trish. She said she had missed the deadline, but wondered if they could take one more backpack! Yes. Yes, they could! 450! 

Hannah's family, in the rental truck with the backpacks

Next, they headed to Valparaiso, Florida. They picked up 175 more backpacks, which were a combination of backpacks for sponsored and unsponsored children. Hannah, the woman who headed up the collection in Valparaiso, did so at the encouragement of her young son and daughter. Trish said that backpack collection was unique because it was more child led.

Allen and Trish continued east and delivered this final batch of backpacks to Edgewater. In total, they have covered more than 6800 miles on their backpack collection trip. Even with a hurricane there were no major incidents to report. A check engine light in a Penske truck and a six hour delay are minor in the big scheme of things. They were able to collect backpacks from churches in Seattle, Colorado Springs, Kansas, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, one in Virginia, four in Georgia, two in Florida, and 4 in Mississippi. They were also able to speak at numerous churches and to additional individuals who are talking to their churches about partnering with Sowers4Pastors.

Stay tuned for the final backpack tally!

 - posted by Christi

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