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Church's lay ministries director links volunteers with tasks

When people in Hamblen Park Presbyterian—especially those with relatives in Gulfport, Miss.—began wondering how they could help after Hurricane Katrina, Susan Preuninger, director of lay ministries for four of her 17 years at the church, met with them.

Gulf Recovery Hamblen Park Presbyterian
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance volunteer village of corrugated plastic tents

Her role of helping people identify ministries they feel called to do and ways to meet those calls led to a group of 14 going Sept. 20 to 27 to the Orange Grove Presbyterian volunteer village in Gulfport, Miss.

Long-term young adult and adult volunteers coordinate up to 150 volunteers each week through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

 “I realize how connected we are and how God can use us anywhere to do things we could not physically do by ourselves—things homeowners were too traumatized from watching neighbors drown and too worn out from the uninsured claims to do,” Susan said.

“The homeowners are so grateful that people come and for God sending them,” she said.  “Without help they face too many decisions.  It’s hard for them to know what to do next.  Knowing people care enough to come helps them carry on,” Susan said.

One woman had bought a home in June and renovated  it.  In July, she had surgery.  In August Katrina hit.  She could not live in the house, but had to make payments on it.  She was living in a FEMA trailer beside her house when the Hamblen volunteers arrived.

Volunteers put in sub-floors, fixed bathrooms, framed windows, did electrical work, put in molding, hung doors and repaired steps.  Her house still needed carpet, vinyl, kitchen cabinets, wiring light fixtures and painting when the group left.

Hamblen’s debriefing at the end of the week reinforced for Susan “how God wants us to work together to do things.  There is need in neighborhoods and communities all over the world.  God can use all of us to meet the needs.”

The experience re-energized her work of finding places and ways for members to serve within the church, in the community or through the wider church.

“I help people identify ways they can use their gifts to answer God’s call, rather than just plugging them into a volunteer opportunity I learn about,” she said.

For information, call 448-2909.


Mary Stamp - The Fig Tree - © February 2007