We’ve learned a lot these past five months in Neon, as we normally do with each OPC Disaster Response effort. Just like other ministries, each new opportunity to serve brings with it new people and situations, and there’s a need to adapt. In Neon, some locals are reluctant to accept help from strangers; they’ve been through decades of tough times. Yet they press on with surprising gratitude for what they have, and many have welcomed us in. Each disaster response effort proves to be an amazing opportunity to share the gospel, and Neon is no exception.
What seems to remain a constant in all disaster response efforts, though, is the gratitude and apparent spiritual growth of those serving. It’s been made clear to us over the years that helping others in need after a disaster blesses both the one who gives and the one who receives in many ways. Shane Everts, team leader for Carolina Christian School’s team of 27 reflected on their mid-November visit, “This was the first short-term mission trip for many of our students, and the impact was significant. The students, as well as the adult leaders, laughed together, wept together, prayed together, and served together in the name of Christ. Our theme verse for this team was 1 Samuel 12:24: ‘Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you.’ We serve because Christ served, and we serve with hearts of gratitude in response to the lovingkindness of our heavenly Father.”
With a group of 27, living in tight quarters for four days has the potential to be stressful. But Shane says they grew closer. “We labored side by side, we enjoyed fellowship and meals together, we experienced heartache and tribulations together, and we rejoiced together in triumphs. Not surprisingly, personal relationships were formed and strengthened, and team members have returned home with newfound respect, love, and appreciation for one another.”
During their time in Neon, the group built “Sheds of Hope” for four families; mucked out a crawl space and cleaned up debris from homeowners’ lawns—debris that had been piled there almost since the time of the flood. Mattie Hadnagy, a senior at Carolina Christian, was eager to connect with the families, “I was also thankful that we were able to pray with [the homeowner], as that is probably one of the most important things we could have done for her when it comes to showing Christ’s love.” Honor Svenson, a senior at Carolina Christian was anxious for her first missions’ trip, but said, “To say that I’m grateful that I went is such an understatement. Hearing all the testimonies of the people and seeing the destruction in the community we visited brought me to tears— and still brings me to tears when I think about it. That weekend truly impacted my life and my walk with the Lord.” OPC Disaster Response is thankful for the group’s willingness to serve and grateful they left the community of Neon not only with better living conditions, but with the long-lasting effect of joy in the Lord, for both those who served and those who were served.
Kenley Leslie, Mercy Coordinator for Neon and member of Staunton OPC in Staunton, VA, clearly feels the satisfaction of being called to Neon and other disasters, “The biggest joy for me is when someone gets back into their home!” You can read the testimonials from a few of the Carolina Christian students on our website, OPCDisasterResponse.org.
Matthew Wood, member of Grace OPC in Cosa Mesa, CA, traveled over 2,300 miles, (by far the furthest of any participant), to help homeowners for a week in Neon in mid-November. His contribution was immeasurable. To date, nearly 150 volunteers have come to the aid of the church and community in Neon.
What’s Next for OPC Disaster Response in Neon?
We’re so glad you asked! Although more work needs to be done in the community in Neon, the Neon Disaster Oversight Committee has agreed that since the weather in Kentucky is quite unpredictable during the winter, the community outreach effort should pause at this time. Lord willing, work will resume in the early spring.
The Lord Provided Again
While knowing that it was a large and unlikely commitment for someone to agree to serve on the ground for a three-month period, we hoped and prayed for someone to step up to assume the role of Mercy Coordinator for the spring outreach effort. We praise God for raising up Mike and Sylvia Kelly to answer the call to serve.
Jeff Davis and Kenley Leslie have spent the last few months making amazing progress in contacting and assessing the community’s needs. Mike Kelly, a deacon, along with his wife, Sylvia, a member of Heritage OPC in Wilmington, NC, plan to pick up the torch in March and assume the roles of Mercy Coordinators for the Neon effort. But they will need your help! Volunteers will be needed to help with cleaning out, demolition, and repairing homes as well as building sheds. Please consider, if you haven’t already, registering with OPC Disaster Response to let us know you are interested in helping, when your schedule allows. This segment of the effort is expected to run from March through May of 2023. Contact Jane Robinson to reserve your week.
Neon Reformed OPC
We hope you’ve enjoyed the photos we’ve been posting to our social media pages of NRPC and the progress they have made. In addition to the sanctuary chairs arriving in early December, bookshelves have been received and assembled for Pastor Bennett’s new library and boxes of books are arriving daily to replace the ones lost in the flood. The church continues to await countertops and a few other items for the kitchen (on backorder), but they are able to worship, and have even enjoyed a fellowship meal together recently.
Donors of the Kentucky Flood Fund have graciously agreed to allow a portion of the remaining funds to be used to repair and improve the exterior of the church building. Brick samples have been received and plans are being drawn up to allow the exterior to reflect what’s been done indoors.
How Can You Pray?
Please pray as plans are made for Mike and Sylvia’s arrival in Neon in late February, for this dear couple as they plan and travel, for Neon Reformed OPC as they get back into the swing of normal church life as a continued witness to the community and for the Lord to raise up volunteers for the spring outreach effort, as He has done to help those in need in Neon.
© 2023 The Orthodox Presbyterian Church