NEWALLA — A group of retirees from across the country has converged upon Oklahoma cities and communities that were devastated by storms in May 2013.
Their wandering is by design because they are NOMADS — Nomads On a Mission Active in Divine Service.
Kevin Walker, a project manager with Oklahoma United Methodist Disaster Response, said NOMADS is an outreach ministry of the United Methodist Church. He said NOMADS teams provide much-needed volunteer labor for home repair needs assessed through the Oklahoma Disaster Recovery Project, which is a group of several agencies working together to aid storm victims.
“They can do really great work at no cost. It helps stretch the dollars,” Walker said.
Tim Brubaker, a team leader in charge of a NOMADS group that worked in Newalla, said though many of the volunteers are United Methodists, the group is open to individuals from all Christian denominations. There are 1,022 NOMADS members from 47 states and Canada.
Brubaker, 65, and several members of one of the NOMADS teams recently rehabbed homes in several storm-ravaged areas, including Newalla, Moore and south Oklahoma City. At a Newalla home, Brubaker’s crew installed siding, built front and back decks and laid flooring, among other things.
Brubaker said the group parked its recreational vehicles at First United Methodist Church of Moore, its host site. By day volunteers worked on repair and rehabilitation projects, and by night, they met back at the church to eat and sleep.
Brubaker, of Harbor Springs, Mich., said each team member believes very much in the “divine” part of their ministry’s name, or they wouldn’t do what they do.
“I feel God calls us to be here,” he said. “It’s a way to show God’s love to people.”
Other team members agreed, saying their nomadic way of life helps them aid many people.
“It’s just been a blessing for me and my wife — another way to serve God,” said Bruce Nivens, 63, who is a part of Brubaker’s team, along with his wife, Judy, 63. Although they make their home all over the country through NOMADS, the Nivens said their home base is in Alford, Texas.
Darryl Epperson, 53, of Florence, Ky., said unlike others on his team, he isn’t retired. To travel as a member of the NOMADS, he takes vacation time from his job installing engines in trucks for Cummins Corporation. As a member of an independent Christian church, he and Brubaker are the only non-United Methodists on Brubaker’s team. Brubaker said he attends a Presbyterian church.
He said the ecumenical nature of the ministry is evident in the way the NOMADS teams come together to help others in the name of Christ.
“This is what heaven is going to be like,” Brubaker said.
Sue Albright, 54, of Darwin, Minn., said she knew when she retired from the Coast Guard that she wanted to serve others. She said for the past three years, she has worked on three NOMADS projects each winter.
Brubaker said several NOMADS teams will be in Oklahoma until June, but other NOMADS teams will serve in Oklahoma from September to December. The teams will rotate on four- to six-week mission efforts in Oklahoma through 2015.
NOMADS leaders said the ministry teams worked on 132 projects in 27 states in 2013, donating more than 106,500 hours.
Meanwhile, Walker and the Rev. Adam Shahan, associate pastor of First United Methodist Church of Moore, said the NOMADS teams have been a blessing to the Oklahoma communities they have served.
“The work they do is just phenomenal,” Shahan said.