More than 70 Oklahoma churches are working together to form a disaster relief network to aid victims of recent storms.
Church leaders have been meeting with representatives of the Austin Disaster Relief Network, a faith-based group formed to help victims of the 2011 Bastrop, Texas, wildfires.
Stephen Brewer, the Austin network's associate director, said the group has compiled a list of about 800 Oklahoma families affected by the May tornadoes and floods who want to be sponsored by a local church. Brewer said they have been giving the information to local churches interested in being part of an Oklahoma relief network. About 90 families have been “adopted” so far, he said.
Daniel Geraci, the Austin organization's director, said his network will hold a training session Tuesday at First Baptist Church in Moore for church leaders and members interested in being part of the Oklahoma network.
“We're expecting Oklahoma to really come out strong,” Geraci said. “I believe there's a movement moving forward to build a network in this city.”
The Rev. Trevor Williams, campus pastor of LifeChurch.tv Edmond, 4600 E Second St., said a central network will better serve crisis victims, churches and the community at large. He said church leaders appear to be open to the concept, and many already have been responding to storm victims' needs.
The Rev. Walter Mullican, senior pastor of Portland Avenue Baptist Church, said the network appears to be the best way to connect his congregation with storm victims. He said his church has the names of 10 families it plans to support on a long-term basis.
“Within minutes of the tornadoes, people were down there bringing water, food and other basics, and those are all good responses, but I wanted our church to perhaps get involved with families long-term, to learn their names, to walk through this with them,” he said.
Mullican's church, at 1301 N Portland, hosted one of two meetings held this week to introduce local churches to the idea of a network.
The other meeting was at Frontline Church, 1104 N Robinson. Mullican said he hopes to see the network swell to at least 100 congregations.
Timely, efficient aid
Geraci said a network helps provide timely and efficient aid to those in crisis. He said the Austin network recently helped churches in Waco, Texas, form a network in the aftermath of the deadly explosion at the West Fertilizer Co.
Brewer, with the Austin network, said the group donated to the Oklahoma relief effort, and the training for churches interested in joining a local network is free.
He said people interested in adopting a family through the Oklahoma network must work through local churches.
Online platform proves helpful
Williams said a key part of the formation of an Oklahoma network is an online platform called ServeOK.org.
He said the online component is in place and can immediately help local network churches identify other churches they may partner with and will help the congregations keep track of which churches are doing what. Williams said this can cut down on duplication of efforts.
“It can tie us together and it can live on past this disaster,” Williams said of the online platform.
Carol Wright, a board member for the metro-area ministry Revive, said Revive spent much time creating the ServeOK.org component before the natural disasters occurred.
“It's just like the Lord has been preparing us all this time,” she said.
“We want all the churches and compassionate care groups to get on this website.”