Beyond My Church Walls

Beyond My Church Walls


By Cassandra Broadus-Garcia, CT District Disaster Response Coordinator

Simsbury UMC (CT) and Hilliard UMC (OH) ERT's come together to work in Massapequa

I recently received a Facebook photo from a friend that said, “You have never really lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” Volunteers who have worked together on an Early Response Team (ERT) completely understand this statement and many find that it becomes their life’s mantra. Disaster Response Ministry is a very specialized place to be – one that touches not only the lives of those devastated by, in this case, an unprecedented storm, but, it’s much more than that. It’s a ministry that feeds the souls of those who serve on an ERT team; it’s an experience beyond a volunteer’s wildest dreams.

Over a five-year period, Simsbury UMC (CT) sent teams to Biloxi, MS for post-Katrina rebuilding work. Team building, however, involved inviting Christian friends from other local churches, including our Catholic, Episcopal, Quaker, and non-denominational congregations. This ecumenical team-building model meant we were able to share our faith with others, not only homeowners for whom we were working, but also volunteers with whom we sharing the experience. Evening “de-briefings” became a time of sharing one’s faith, testimony, or worship tradition. Long, back-breaking days resulted in friendships that will last a lifetime.

Again, six years after beginning the Disaster Response journey, we again find ourselves re-initiating the call and, once again, our brothers and sisters in Christ across denominations have heeded the call. Recently, two Simsbury ERT teams served in Massapequa, NY (Long Island) where we were greeted with more than enough work. Our first team joined a group from Ohio who had traveled to the NYAC to serve. (This same Ohio team served in Prattsville last year.) Beyond our church doors and now beyond our conference lines, we’ve come to know others whose ministry through ERT work is strong.

Mary Ann Fish (rt) from Hilliard, Ohio and Debbie Dunn (left) from Simsbury UMC working with Massapequa home owner (center).

Simsbury ERT teams and those from afar may wear different hats, but all have the same inner lining – the love and desire to serve our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! May we accept God’s call to help others and to step beyond our church walls, inviting and serving with others in this rewarding ministry called Disaster Response!