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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Disaster Response Team Ready to Roll, Save Lives

By Jeff Houghton
Nov. 14, 2010

Some of the South’s worst flooding happened in May. Nashville, Tenn., took the brunt of the devastation when entire neighborhoods flooded, parts of the Grand Ole Opry House were inundated, and 10 people died.

“We had no power, no phone,” says Nashville resident David Crawford. “It took me about two days to get out.”

But even before Crawford could get out of his flood-ravaged neighborhood, Convoy of Hope was on the ground doing assessments and making contact with local churches and organizations.

“One of the first things we do during a disaster is assess the number of people impacted and displaced, the kind of damage that is done, how it affects the communities as it relates to power and resources, and the availability of water,” says Kary Kingsland, vice president of Disaster Response. “We take all that information and data from other sources and develop a strategic plan and timeline of response.”

That attention to detail and timeliness impressed Crawford, who is pastor at Grace Uprising Church, an Assemblies of God congregation.

“It was awesome, because as a church we have a big heart but a small budget,” Crawford says. “Convoy of Hope came in and partnered with us, and we were able to make a tremendous impact in our community.”

That partnership empowered a team of volunteers from Grace Uprising to distribute water, cleaning supplies and building materials to those in need. In partnership with other churches, Convoy of Hope was also able to operate seven points of distribution throughout the city. 

Since 1998, when Convoy of Hope started responding to disasters, it has brought aid to nearly 11 million victims of 179 tragedies throughout the world. Convoy of Hope has responded to catastrophes as far ranging as the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.; Hurricane Katrina; a typhoon in the Philippines; and the tsunami that struck Indonesia. The organization also regularly responds to natural disasters of earthquakes, ice storms, tornadoes and hurricanes.

Headquartered in Springfield, Mo., Convoy of Hope has a fleet of trucks (many donated by Speed the Light), an emergency mobile command center and a reputation as a much-depended-on first responder. On average, the organization ships 140 containers per year, with each one made up of 35,000-40,000 pounds of food, water and supplies.

At the organization’s headquarters, the weather and even earthquakes are monitored 24 hours a day in the Convoy of Hope Operations Center so that a disaster response team can be dispatched quickly and efficiently throughout the world when disasters strike.

For instance, as Hurricane Katrina approached the Gulf Coast in 2005, Kingsland dispatched several tractor-trailers filled with relief supplies and staged them in southern Mississippi. After the storm hit, Convoy of Hope fanned into Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama to help.

According to Kingsland, every disaster is rife with needs and opportunities, but there are three ever-present characteristics in each disaster that responders must take into account: damage, needs, and safety issues. That fact was highlighted earlier this year when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake crushed much of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Almost immediately after the earthquake, Convoy of Hope began distributing food, water purification units and supplies to those in need. Within months, more than 9 million meals and thousands of hygiene kits and water purification units had been distributed. But the numbers only tell half the story.   

“People need the food, water and cleaning supplies, but there’s nothing more powerful than a personal touch and a look in the eye,” says Nick Wiersma, Volunteer Services director for Convoy of Hope. 

Wiersma says another reason Convoy of Hope is so effective at offering food, water, supplies and hope during disasters is the extensive networking the ministry does with local churches, government agencies and other organizations.

“The churches and organizations become points of distribution. They can supply volunteers, and they can provide knowledge of the area,” Kingsland says. “But more importantly, they become the face of help in their communities. We exist to empower them.”

Crawford concurs.

“I think that makes an incredible difference and impacts the lives of people,” says Crawford of the partnership he formed with Convoy of Hope during the floods in Nashville. “It’s ignited a passion in my people to go wherever Convoy of Hope is. We want to make a difference.”

JEFF HOUGHTON is a freelance writer who lives in Springfield, Mo.

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