Disaster Response / Feature / General CBF

How One Church Demonstrates More Effective Crisis Relief in the Form of Backpacks

By Jennifer Colosimo

Just over a year ago, First Baptist Church of Dalton, Ga.,  took members on a mission trip to the Florida panhandle to provide relief for those affected by Hurricane Michael. The devastation was immense, and people were left without homes, food, water or much hope. For FBC Dalton, witnessing that immense tragedy with their own eyes struck a chord—one they took back to their greater congregation in North Georgia as an urgent call to action to be better prepared to help aid in the aftermath of future catastrophes.

IMG_9862“Anytime we see an opportunity where we can get involved and have an impact, we go after it,” said Suzanne Hooie, minister of missions and community ministry at FBC Dalton. “That’s why Life Pack made sense for us. Seeing the depth of devastation that existed on the Panhandle, and witnessing the great need—even six months later—was hard. We saw people piling up cases and cases of water, but they didn’t have enough of the other supplies that they needed.”

Here’s where Life Pack comes in. With a specific shopping list for each pack, relief groups can more efficiently fulfill dire needs and deliver what people really need after a crisis like Hurricane Michael. Each single pack costs $35, or a five-pack kit costs $165, plus shipping, and can be reordered as they’re needed—whether on a per project basis or regularly.

IMG_0057Each drawstring backpack comes stocked with a Sawyer Point One water filter and a devotional book. Once a church orders those packs, they follow a specific shopping list provided by CBF, which includes hand-crank flashlights, a portable solar charger with USB ports, a first aid kit, various toiletry items, hand towels and prayer cards written by children and adults within the church. How each group chooses to do the packing is up to them.

“I love the Life Pack concept, because it is put together in such a way that meets all of the basic needs of individuals and families after a particular situation,” said Hooie. “Yes, bottled water, diapers and first aid kits are important; but the needs go much further than that, and this project helps craft those customized packs to be exactly what people need.”

FBC Dalton offered their congregation two ways to get involved—donating money for a bulk purchase made by the youth, or by shopping and packing kits individually, many opting to do so as a family.

IMG_9912“For the church packs, we put our youth and our children in charge of packing,” said Hooie. “If you let young people do things, instead of just talking to them about it, it makes a deeper impact and helps them understand why we’re doing those things. It begins to shape their minds for what their own giving patterns might look like in the future.”

On a Wednesday night, Hooie invited the Mission Friends, RA’s and GA’s to “be the hands and feet of Christ” and together, they stuffed more than 50 Life Packs.

“They loved it, and really enjoyed getting to be hands-on with a project that the church supported,” she said. “I’m so blessed to be a missions pastor in a church that has such a huge heart for missions. Our motto is “together in Christ, sharing his love,” and getting to witness that happening from our children to our senior adults—I’m really blessed to be a part of that.”

The church’s passion behind this service project didn’t end with the packing party. This past October, they participated in a special Sunday morning service to dedicate the packs. Children walked the packs into the service and placed them on the altar, the church read a prayer written by CBF missionary Melody Harrell, and Hooie led a children’s sermon in front of the congregation. In essence, it was a service that made this project meaningful to all members.

IMG_9889“These Life Packs could end up anywhere, yet we can do them from our church’s home base,” said Hooie. “We leaned heavy into this—especially with what was on our hearts as a church after our trip to the Panhandle; we knew we wanted to make an impact in this way.

“Everybody wants to be able to help when something like that happens. They want to do things. We all feel like we’re making a difference when we can be doers,” she added. “Life Packs gives us the opportunity to provide something beyond that initial reaction of wanting to help. Instead, we can be prepared with exactly what people need, and eliminate the duplication of resources. The packs are ready to go as soon as we get the call. And once they’re gone, we’ll be ready to do more.”

That certainly offers people facing a crisis a little more hope.

Learn more about CBF Life Packs at www.cbf.net/lifepack. 

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