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Georgia couple gives up everything for hurricane relief

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A UMNS photo Woody Woodrick

Dee and Jack Boreing are working in Mississippi as full-time site coordinators for work teams helping in recovery efforts.
April 24, 2006

By Woody Woodrick*

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (UMNS) — Many residents of the Gulf Coast lost everything in Hurricane Katrina.

Dee and Jack Boreing gave up everything because of Katrina.

The Boreings are working in Mississippi as site coordinators for work teams helping in recovery efforts. They came to Pascagoula from Douglasville, Ga., where they had lived all their lives.

“We have been in the mission field for many years and knew for the past three years that we wanted to be doing something full time,” said Dee Boreing. Members of New Covenant United Methodist Church in Douglasville, the Boreings have made five or six mission trips to Mexico. Family obligations put full-time work on hold, but when that situation changed, the Boreings were ready.

“We told God we were ready to go to Mexico for two years. Nothing came about,” said Dee. “We changed our prayer to say, ?We’ll go where you want us to go.’

“Less than 24 hours later, we got a call asking us to come to Pascagoula.” The call came from the Rev. Nick Elliott, executive director of the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission for the Southeastern Jurisdiction. He asked the couple to go to the Gulf Coast for three months. They arrived in January and have agreed to stay through August.

“Knowing their deep faith, their knowledge and organizational skills and their commitment to Christian service, when we received the urgent request from the Mississippi volunteer office for coordination assistance, it was a ?no-brainer,’” said Joe Hamilton, associate director of the jurisdiction Volunteers in Mission. “The staff almost simultaneously said their name and placed a call.

“With their expressed commitment to volunteer service, their reply was effectively, ?Here am I, send me.’”

Hitting the road

When the Boreings accepted the call to Mississippi — Jack said he had already said yes before even knowing where Pascagoula was — they owned an embroidery business, home and land. Dee said two weeks after agreeing to come to Pascagoula, a neighbor called and asked about purchasing their home and land, and a deal was struck without even advertising. It wasn’t easy; Dee had lived all her life in the house her grandfather had built.

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A UMNS photo Woody Woodrick

Jack and Dee Boreing (from left) discuss recovery work at a Pascagoula house with Shelby, N.C., volunteers Bill Ross and Jerry Henry.

A week later, Dee shared their plans to enter the mission field with a former employee and the business was sold to the employee’s daughter.

“We gave away everything else,” Dee said. “We paid off everything we owed, packed up and came to Mississippi.”

The Boreings purchased a travel trailer and a new truck before hitting the road. The trailer sits behind First United Methodist Church and is the Boreings’ home.

The couple says they do nothing without first praying for God’s guidance. They also search the Bible for additional direction. At the urging of a friend, they created “Side By Side Ministries,” which is based on Nehemiah 3, in which Nehemiah rebuilds the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days.

“The only way it could be done was if all the tribes worked side by side, the greatest priest and the have-nots worked side by side. That’s the way we do everything, working side by side with the Lord,” Jack said.

“It doesn’t matter what denomination or what race someone is. This is the way God told me the Gulf Coast would be rebuilt,” Dee said.

Long days

Long days and hard work are a way of life for the Boreings, who wake up early and usually don’t get to bed until about 10:30 p.m. They coordinate and assign teams to work sites and then spend the day going from site to site ensuring the teams have the materials they need. They meet with homeowners seeking assistance and the needs for repairing homes. They eat most of their meals at Pascagoula First United Methodist Church with the work teams.

“It’s basically a seven-day-a-week job,” Jack said. “There’s Scripture to cover that. If your neighbor has an ox in the ditch, you’re going to stay there until he’s out. I consider this an ox in the ditch.”

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

A Volunteers in Mission team working out of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Biloxi, Miss., repairs the roof of a hurricane-damaged home.

Little direct training exists for hurricane recovery, but Jack said he found he had many of the necessary skills for jobs such as mucking out homes and spraying for mold. He spent 33 years as a mechanic for Delta Airlines, and that included hazardous materials training. He received damage control training in the Navy, and his grandfather was a fire chief in Georgia. Jack said he learned from him and working for the Civil Defense, which formerly carried disaster first-response duties.

“Dee and Jack bring outstanding leadership skills and a deep faith in Jesus Christ to their role as UMVIM volunteer coordinators,” said Hamilton. “Their gracious gift is empathy and compassion for the survivors of disaster (and) that serves them extremely well in bringing hope to people who may well feel abandoned. They are people of their word; they do not make promises lightly, and the promises they do make are fulfilled.”

Dee Boreing runs the “office,” a couple of conference tables set up near the kitchen door of Pascagoula First’s Family Life Center. Buzzing around town in her bright yellow Jeep, she also delivers materials to work crews, handles scheduling and lends a hand wherever needed. Each site averages about five teams and 70 workers per week. For all this work, the Boreings receive no pay. They are volunteers working out of their love of God.

“We weren’t prepared for anything we’ve had to do, but God has provided,” Dee said.

The Boreings don’t get much time off. Jack laughs while saying they recently took four hours for themselves. They’ve taken weekends to visit children and grandchildren back in Douglasville, Ga., and the grandchildren have visited Pascagoula.

They plan to take off a couple of weeks in July — to join a mission trip to Mexico where they will help complete construction of a church.

While the work is hard, Jack said the rewards make it worthwhile. “My satisfaction comes when someone comes in so stressed they are losing hope, and we’re able to sit down and talk to them and they see there is hope; something will get done,” he said. “Our outreach to people is to let them know God loves them and is here.”

No arguing with God

When the end of August arrives, where will they go? Jack and Dee say they’re not sure. They express a desire to stay in Pascagoula until the work is done but don’t know when that will be. Mexico is still a possibility. UMVIM has a two-year position open. Hamilton said people like the Boreings are vital to mission work.

“Without such volunteers, UMVIM would not exist. Each year, thousands of UMVIM volunteers, both short term and long term, are the glue that binds a community of hope together in service to Christ and his church,” he said.

Wherever they go, the Boreings say it will be where God leads them.

“We never question what God wants us to do,” Jack said. “I’m not about to argue with him. I’ve done that before, and I end up losing.”

*Woodrick is editor of the Mississippi Advocate, the newspaper of the United Methodist Church’s Mississippi Annual Conference.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or


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