Within minutes after terrorists had crashed a hijacked airliner into
the Pentagon on September 11, Denny Nissley, an ordained Assemblies
of God minister who attends Manassas (Va.) Assembly of God, began planning
how to help minister to those working on the rescue and recovery efforts.
As director of Christ in Action, Nissley soon received permission to
cook meals for emergency and military personnel on a Pentagon parking
lot later dubbed Camp Unity.
Christ in Action moved a 53-foot-long refrigeration trailer truck,
two commercial grills, a double-stack convection oven and 60-gallon
soup cooker onto the site.
Originally Nissley had been granted permission to set up for one afternoon.
But Brig. Gen. Bob Smolan quickly informed relief organizations and
restaurateurs that meals would be a joint operation, and he designated
the tent as the hub for the feeding operation. Christ in Actions
tent is the size of a gymnasium.
"Its a miracle that he was even there," says Manassas A/G Pastor
Charles Nestor. "You have to understand how difficult it is in the Washington,
D.C., environment especially in a serious security situation
to get up close."
In the first 17 days after the disaster, Nissley, his staff of seven
and more than 100 volunteer workers from around the country, served
55,000 free meals.
By 8 each morning, 2,200 people had eaten pancakes, eggs and sausage
courtesy of Christ in Action. Volunteers began arriving at 3:30 to make
the meals a reality. Some team members slept on chairs, the ground and
the Christ in Action stage.
Dozens of volunteers from Manassas Assembly of God and Fairfax (Va.)
Assembly of God helped sweep the pavement, cook and serve the food,
place fresh flowers on the dining tables, and set out flag-embossed
New Testaments donated by Convoy of Hope for the workers to take with
In addition to bringing a pallet of Bibles, Convoy of Hope supplied
a truckload of food. Potomac District Superintendent H. Robert Rhoden
presented a $25,000 donation to Christ in Action on behalf of the Assemblies
Meals have been served to a wide range of guests, including FBI agents,
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington Redskins Coach Marty Schottenheimer
and U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.
"Youve made a home away from home for everybody here," Sgt. Ruben
Gonzalez, in charge of security for the Camp Unity feeding area, told
But there was more to the ministry than hearty meals. "We were the
only entity sharing Christ, along with meeting the physical and tangible
needs," Nissley says. "Our people took the time to sit down at a table
and just talk and ask if they could pray for them. Some broke into tears
and some asked us to pray for them." Many who helped to recover corpses
sought counsel from Christian volunteers rather than the professional
secular psychologists on-site.
"They need hope," Nissley says. "They need to know that there is a
future, that it doesnt end here." On Sundays, Nissley supervised
a preaching and worship service.
"Hearts were ripe," says Gail Ritter, who had been scrubbing to keep
the area clean. "People are so broken."
After finishing at the Pentagon on September 28, Nissley and his Christ
in Action team left for New York City on October 14 to help feed recovery
workers near the World Trade Center site. They are expected to be there
until early December.
John W. Kennedy and Dan Van Veen, with Mike Messner in Washington,