I grew up in a Mennonite community in Kansas. Even as a youngster, I recognized that Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) was something special. With frequent tornados across the Sunflower State, it was common on a Sunday morning to have someone get up in church and announce that MDS needed volunteers to respond to a neighboring community. In my little world, I thought MDS was the only organization of its kind.
In April, I was hired as Communications Manager at MDS. In many ways this is a dream job, to bring my years of communication and marketing experience to a non-profit whose mission and values so closely align with my own. But this has been an eye-opening experience.
Hurricane Dorian is my first disaster. I looked at the notes posted from various National VOAD calls and FEMA reports and saw the list of organizations ready and waiting to respond: Church World Service, American Red Cross, Knights of Columbus, Operation Barbeque, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Team Rubicon, The Salvation Army, United Methodists, Convoy of Hope, Church of Latter-Day Saints, Church of Scientology, Convoy of Hope and so many more. I first read this list with wide eyes and said, “Wow!” Then, I read this list again, this time with a lump in my throat and again I said, “Wow.”
Regardless of our theology or even if we HAVE a theology, how wonderful that we can all set that aside, join hands and hearts in a united effort to bring aid and hope to those whose lives have been shattered by a natural disaster. Deeply moved, I sat for a moment taking this all in.
Together at the VOAD table, and together out in the field responding, we recognize and respect our differences. We deeply trust each other’s areas of expertise so that we can stand united in compassion for the people who need our help. We are able to love our neighbors impacted by disaster because we have, for longer than I ever knew, been loving our neighbor organizations responding with us.
My dream job is now even bigger, even more important. All of us involved with VOAD are more than just “active in disaster.” From what I’ve seen during my short tenure, I’d say, together, we make a profound difference in disaster response and recovery.
-Jesse Huxman, Mennonite Disaster Service