|Little church feeds multitudes after Hurricane Ike|
Community volunteers distribute food to Hurricane Ike survivors at a supply
center set up at Grace United Methodist Church in Manvel, Texas.
A UMNS photo courtesy of Grace United Methodist Church.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Sept. 30, 2008 | MANVEL, Texas (UMNS)
With a handful of volunteers, the contents of a small church’s pantry
and the "absurb notion" that she could, Elaine Warner fed hot meals to
more than 400 stranded survivors of Hurricane Ike in the first days
after the storm hit.
Warner was one of about 12 members of Grace United Methodist Church who
believed that they could feed the multitudes like the little boy who
offered Jesus fishes and loaves, said the Rev. Donald Brown.
"And we did!" he said.
Elaine Warner helped feed stranded
victims of Hurricane Ike. A UMNS
photo by Mike DuBose.
The soft-spoken Warner earned the nickname "kitchen nazi" after taking
charge of the feeding ministry when Ike struck Texas on Sept. 13.
"Everybody raved about the food," she said, shaking her head in
amazement. "I just dumped some generic gallon cans of tomato sauce into a
pot and made spaghetti."
Like many places on the Gulf Coast, the small town of Manvel was without
water, electricity and food after the hurricane. No stores were open,
and Manvel was not on anyone’s radar to receive assistance, according to
Because Grace recently had started a food pantry, members of the
community began coming to the church for help. With an average Sunday
worship attendance of about 50, the small church was used to serving
about 125 families a week. In the first few days after Ike, Grace fed
more than 13,000 people.
"It was the Holy Spirit, it was a God thing," said Brown, explaining how
the small congregation was able to do so much. Brown called everyone he
could think of for help, and trucks of water, food and ice started
arriving in the church parking lot.
"One pastor from Austin, Texas, told me he had just written the biggest check in his life to Costco for water," Brown said.
Soon, helped began arriving from United Methodists from across the United States.
"On Wednesday, we had four 24-bottle packages of water and 50
volunteers. By Thursday we had 30 pallets of water," Brown said.
"Volunteers started appearing out of nowhere. … They came from every
local church—the Marines, Boy Scouts—it was just a blur."
It took several days for FEMA to set up a pod to distribute food, water
and ice to the community. Brown said many officials he had called for
help had a "let-them-eat-cake attitude." One county official told him to
send the needy people to Wal-Mart since it recently had reopened.
"These are economically disadvantaged people," Brown said. "They don’t even have transportation to get to Wal-Mart.
"It was the Holy Spirit, it was a God
thing," says the Rev. Donald Brown.
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. aaaaaaaaaaa
"It was truly a loaves and fishes story. Food was so abundant and came so fast we didn’t know what was happening."
Visiting with Brown 12 days after the storm, Bishop Janice Riggle Huie
told the pastor that "people looked at you and saw the face of Jesus."
Huie later wrote about her visit to Grace church in one of her daily
letters updating United Methodists about storm response and needs. The
letters were posted on the Web site of the church's Texas Annual
(regional) Conference, which Huie leads.
"The practice of operating a food pantry week after week can easily feel
more like hard work than some grand example of 'risk-taking mission and
service,'" she wrote.
"However, that practice gave these dear Methodists the eyes to see the
‘least of these’ in their community. They saw them as friends who needed
their help, and Christ multiplied their generosity many times over to
serve far more people than they could ever imagine. Truly, the presence
of God was in that place."
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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