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posted: 1/31/2013 1:07 PM

Aurora Methodist volunteers give three days for others

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By Al Benson
Aurora-area United Methodist churches

Eleven members of four Aurora-area United Methodist churches recently spent three days volunteering to help people in need at the Midwest Mission Distribution Center of the United Methodist Commission on Relief.

The center is a disaster relief facility designed to help people in need around the world.

Volunteers represented Aurora's Fourth Street, Wesley and Bethany United Methodist churches and Kaneville UMC.

Workers were the Rev. Debbie Tinsley-Taylor, Laurel Gilbert and Linda Lipsey of Fourth Street church; Emmy Lou John, Ann Merk, Jim Merk and Herb John of Wesley UMC; the Rev. Alka Lyall and Abe Lyall of Bethany UMC; and the Rev. Mark Harkness and Jim McConnell of Kaneville UMC.

At the center, volunteers assembled disaster-relief kits, supplies and resources, including flood buckets, sewing materials, hospital gowns, patterns, school supplies, school bags, school desks, health kits, medical equipment, bicycles, quilts and personal transportation devices.

Volunteers, who lived in a dormitory on-site during their service, represented all ages, denominational backgrounds, abilities and walks of life.

"This was my third trip to MMDC," said Taylor, Fourth Street's pastor. "It was the second time for the Aurora-area UMC churches. After a long drive, we arrived at the MMDC campus. We slept in the dorm. Each room was furnished with shelving and two bunk beds. If you are older than 12, sleeping in a bunk bed can be challenging -- not impossible, just a challenging way of life."

She said volunteers focused on emptying pallets of flood buckets sent by other churches during December.

"We made sure the materials fit the standard set by UMCOR -- no disposable plastic gloves in place of reusable vinyl kitchen gloves; no cellulose sponges that contain moisture and allow for mold growth inside the bucket; 30- to 45- gallon trash bags, not 13-gallon tall kitchen bags; the appropriate size of disinfectants and laundry detergent; insect repellent versus bug spray. There is no job too menial or too small when done on behalf of someone in need."

Taylor said volunteers rolled hundreds of garbage bags into packets of 12 bundles to fit into 5-gallon disaster relief buckets.

Workers also sorted thousands of buttons by color, size, the number of holes, and appearance into packets of five to eight buttons each to be enclosed with material and thread.

"The work that we do when we are at MMDC allows someone to rebuild a life, a home, hope and a future for themselves and their families when their lives have been shattered, their hopes and dreams tossed about, their plans for the future altered or destroyed by a 100-year flood, an F-5 tornado, a Category 4 Hurricane, or raging wildfires," Taylor said.

"It is work that is full of the grace of God directed at those who are bloodied, bruised and broken and find themselves standing in the midst of devastation, wondering where and how to begin again.

"When we work at MMDC we find ourselves in solidarity with those who are in need of God, God's love felt, God's hope restored, and God's comfort experienced."

Taylor said volunteers will again go to MMDC in February 2014.

"Come with us and take a chance on doing something for somebody else that will change your perspective on who you are, what you can do, how you can do it," she said. "Come with us and feel the fire of the Holy Spirit rekindle in your soul. Come with us, and remember your baptism and be thankful."