Franklin Baptist Church shares insights from their experience
When thousands of refugees began departing Afghanistan for the United States, the response required a lot of resources all at once. In the first few days, emergency managers and the department of defense requested14,000 hygiene items, which they needed in less than 12 hours. The volunteer organizations they relied on for acquiring those items didn’t have the resources to meet the need immediately and couldn’t mobilize volunteers quickly enough to collect them, so the response quickly became overwhelming.
Virginia Baptist Disaster Response reached out to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and asked what might be helpful to collect. They asked us to maintain an inventory of hygiene kits that would be available the next time a request came. So we reached out to churches, they responded beautifully, and we have been able to meet each request as it comes by working together.
Over 100 churches have responded with over 8,000 kits, several thousand diapers, and cases of baby formula. Churches have found multiple ways to serve, and there are lots of great stories about how they have responded, but we want to share the lessons we have learned from one church: Franklin Baptist, which has already donated over 750 kits. They have their process down to a science and want to offer their experience in multiplying their labor to do greater work as the hands and feet of Christ.
Use what people offer – everyone can contribute.
Some people were not physically able to assemble kits, but they were able to give money that allowed the church to purchase items in bulk. Not everyone could participate during work hours, so they had a packing event in the morning for people who could come and in the evening for people who wanted to help after work.
Use natural small groups within the church to engage more people without a special meeting.
Several churches shared that a particular group in the church really invested in the hygiene kit response and took it on as a personal project. Whether a children’s group, the youth, the WMU, a Sunday school class, or a group of seniors that meet regularly, any group can take on a project like this and make a real contribution to helping their neighbors, without even the need to plan an extra meeting.
Organize, organize, organize…and have fun together.
Franklin Baptist took the time to work out exactly how they would pack each bag and set up the entire process ahead of time. They knew the best place to purchase items to maximize donations, how to arrange the items to maximize space. And they turned the event into a social gathering – enjoying their time together.
This initial response was just about meeting immediate needs. Any kits or other items that we receive go within a week to Fort Pickett, Quantico, or Fort Lee. As we receive further requests, we will share them with our churches, confident that you will respond – loving our new neighbors as we love ourselves. We thank you all for serving, and as the response moves from supplying basic needs to aiding in resettlement, we ask your prayers for the agencies taking on that overwhelming response, and for the people whose lives and families have been uprooted.
Written by Glenn Maddox, National Missions Director, with source information provided by Jackie Howell, a DR feeding volunteer from Franklin Baptist Church.