Working to Build Relationships

This spring Bruce and Laurie Hawley will again offer RCA work groups a great opportunity to grow spiritually through volunteer service. They'll be leading volunteers who will take on the tremendous flood damage to an RCA church and homes in upstate New York.

For seven years, the Hawleys have connected RCA folks with dozens of major rebuilding and renovation projects. With their guidance, hundreds of volunteer workers have helped rebuild hurricane-devastated neighborhoods in Texas, cleaned and repaired flooded homes in Iowa, fixed tornado-damaged homes in Missouri, rehabilitated RCA churches in urban neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey, and built a reconciliation training center in what is now South Sudan.

Working with partners

On all of the projects they facilitate, Bruce and Laurie work with and are accountable to RCA mission partners. They help the partner with project development and oversight, and they are on-site to orient volunteers and coordinate their work. All the while, the Hawleys are alert for opportunities to offer hospitality and spiritual care and build bridges of communication and understanding between the volunteers and the people they have come to serve.

The Hawleys say the real reason for the work they do is building relationships—relationships with other volunteers, with the local partner, with the people they serve, and ultimately, with God.

A recent project in Texas City, Texas, is a good illustration. Volunteers came to rebuild the home of Manh Danh, a South Vietnamese man; his Cambodian wife, Cherung Nay; and their five children and one grandchild. Their house, damaged by Hurricane Ike three years earlier, was falling down around them. The family couldn't afford repairs or even gas to travel to church on Sunday. Volunteers repaired their home and connected with a young man in the neighborhood who is a Christian. The man invited his pastor to visit the community, and now the Danhs serve the poor in their community by hosting church meetings in their refurbished home.

Hurricane Irene flood relief

In April, May, and June, the Hawleys will partner with Prattsville Reformed Church in New York. Prattsville was devastated when Hurricane Irene dumped nine to 12 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, flooding nearby Schoharie Creek. Many homes were swept away and others were flooded. The foundation of a large wing of historic Prattsville Reformed was washed away, and the home of copastors Becky and Greg Town was ruined.

"So many were affected in the community and are now displaced," says Bruce. "The volunteers will bring them hope."

To learn about volunteering, contact Nancy Ellens at nellens@rca.org or (616) 698-7071, ext. 243, or visit www.rca.org/volunteer.

Posted 02/24/11

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