News Archives

NOMADS bring expert help to Gulf Coast recovery

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Ginny Underwood

Bob Delcuze works with NOMADS and other relief workers staying at Main Street United Methodist Church in Bay St. Louis, Miss.
April 24, 2006

By Woody Woodrick*

JACKSON, Miss. (UMNS) — Arlin Kiel went to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in October to help Hurricane Katrina recovery and knew right away he had a source of more volunteers.

Kiel had recently joined the board of directors for NOMADS (Nomads On a Mission Active in Divine Service), a group of recreational vehicle owners who travel the country doing mission projects.

“I put together a proposal and took it to the board (in the fall), and they approved it,” Kiel said. The result has been a steady stream of RVs arriving at two sites on the Gulf Coast.

The mostly senior-age volunteers have been parking at Caswell Springs United Methodist Church near Moss Point and Main Street United Methodist Church in Bay St. Louis.

“Between the two sites, we’ve had approximately 120 different NOMADS work here,” Kiel said. “That represents about 10 percent of the total national membership. I’m really pleased with that.”

NOMADS provide volunteer labor and tools for all sorts of projects involving building, remodeling or repairing churches, homes, camps, youth centers and other agencies. They also do office/clerical work, sewing and other tasks in support of mission.

Operating what it calls “drop-in” projects is a bit different from the norm for the group. The organization usually finds specific projects and arranges months in advance for workers to spend a couple of weeks on them.

Kiel, originally from Nebraska but now living full time in his motor home, said the NOMADS have been warmly welcomed. “The reception from the people in the church has been unparalleled.”

High skill level

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Ginny Underwood

A parking lot at Main Street United Methodist Church in Bay St. Louis, Miss., is filled with the trailers of NOMADS and other volunteer workers.

Caswell Springs installed hook-ups for seven RVs. In Bay St. Louis, Main Street can accommodate up to 10 but has hosted as many as 12 RVs.

“We started with eight spots,” said Bob Delcuze, who handled the setup at Main Street. “We put in more electrical lines and tied into the sewer line at the bakery next door.”

Ben Moore, site coordinator at Main Street, said having NOMADS working has been a big help. “They come in and know what we need, and they have adapted,” he said of a group from Kansas. “I can give them a house and they know what to do. They have knowledge that many groups don’t have.”

Kiel agreed. “The skill level of NOMADS, as a whole, probably is much higher than a mission group from a church because they’ve been out doing this kind of thing,” he said.

Tough work

NOMADS working on the Gulf Coast have found the work more intense than most projects. “This has been a lot more grueling,” said Holden Hyde of Kansas, who arrived April 10 in Bay St. Louis on his third trip to the area. “The work goes on every day instead of three days per week.”

In addition, some NOMADS are providing office help to site coordinators. Since making their first trip to the coast, Hyde and his wife Linda have left their fifth-wheel RV parked at Main Street. They last worked in the area in January. The group members plan to stay on the coast until mid-June, take some time off and then return in mid-September.

This is not the first time NOMADS have been to Mississippi. The group has worked on projects across the state. Kiel recently joined a group working at United Methodist-related Rust College in Holly Springs.

In addition to working at sites on the coast, the members regularly supply office help to the Mississippi Disaster Response Center in Meridian. They plan to work at the Mississippi Rural Center near Columbia to repair Katrina-related damage. They are performing hurricane-related work in Dulac, La., Le Blanc, La., and Florida City, Fla.

*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


Related Articles
Georgia couple gives up everything for hurricane relief
NOMADS travel far, wide to help those in need
Soft seats help cushion Mississippi church’s recovery
United Methodists plan long-term work in Gulf region
Volunteer teams give Mississippi pastor hope
Mission Volunteers