Brian Wright is pastor of Cornerstone EFC in Owatonna, Minnesota.
Sixty-five thousand. How big a circle would you have to draw around your church before it included 65,000 homes? Now, imagine all of those homes empty. That is the measure of the work that remains in New Orleans five years after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation.
Mark Lewis, EFCA’s director of TouchGlobal Crisis Response, reminds us that each one of those homes represents a family who still needs help. After many agencies have moved on, TouchGlobal remains active in New Orleans.
Over the past five years, people have donated more than 2.3 million dollars, and 16,553 volunteers have given almost 650,000 hours of work to bring relief to New Orleans families. Yet the impact goes far beyond numbers. Five years of relational investment has granted TouchGlobal a “credible entrance into the community,” Mark says.
That impact is seen in stories from people like Fernando and Nicole Hernandez, who were both saved through the testimony of volunteers working on their home and are now attending a local church.
And Michelle Nunez, who remembers the week when 11 strangers unexpectedly showed up at her house. “They were just all walking up the driveway with their arms outstretched hugging me, hugging me, hugging me,” she says. “They weren’t there to just gut my home. They were there to instill hope. They were there to lift and build and encourage.”
TouchGlobal’s goal is that these relational investments would lead to the development of missional faith communities—vibrant church plants led by local lay people. In preparation, TouchGlobal is adding a church-planting role to its New Orleans team, in partnership with two EFCA districts.
Clearly, volunteers are still essential in New Orleans, five long years after Katrina. Long-term workers are needed for the forming of these new faith communities. And the call for short-term teams has never ceased—doing everything from rebuilding homes and churches, to prayer-walking the streets and hosting block parties as a way to build relationships.
And TouchGlobal’s crisis-relief work extends far beyond New Orleans. We won’t forget Galveston, Texas; Chincha, Peru; or Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Who will need crisis response next?
Several initiatives are being developed to better equip teams to respond to future disasters. Mark Lewis is confident that TouchGlobal will be prepared to meet great needs because “we serve a great God of supply and resupply.”