“Who Are You People, Operation Compassion?”

By , January 18, 2002

“Who are you people, Operation Compassion?” was a question asked by a representative of the state of West Virginia during the flood relief of July 2001. The representative who arrived on the scene to coordinate relief efforts for the victims was astounded to see that Operation Compassion and the Appalachia Dream Center staff had already mobilized and organized a massive relief effort.

On July 8, 2001, torrential rains saturated the mountains of West Virginia. As the rains continued throughout the night, creeks and rivers overflowed into the valleys and hollers of the rural countryside. Houses, mobile homes, cars and trucks were tossed like children’s toys. Trees and bushes that covered the hillsides were swept away like kindling, leaving massive destruction in its wake. No one could adequately describe the scope of this disaster. Scores of families had nothing left. No cars, houses or personal belongings. Everything was lost!

By early on July 9th, Pastor Mike Hartwell of the Vunderville Church of God and Coordinator of Appalachia Dream Center for Operation Compassion, began mobilizing efforts to bring relief to the suffering people of West Virginia. Pastor Hartwell partnered with six West Virginia Churches of God – Princeton, Vunderville, Logan, Northfork and MacArthur – and utilized the resources of Operation Compassion. David Lorency, International Director of Operation Compassion and his staff began shipping semi-trucks loaded with cleaning supplies, bottled water, mattresses, clothes, food and blankets.

For the next four weeks, Operation Compassion and the Appalachia Dream Center delivered sixteen semi-trucks, housed numerous teams from Men/Women of Action and over two hundred volunteers. One Men/Women of Action team remodeled one of the damaged fellowship halls and replaced their heating and air conditioning system. Over five thousand families and thirteen Churches of God and parsonages, damaged in the flooding, were supplied emergency relief.

Along with Pastor Hartwell and David Lorency, David M. Griffis, Administrative Bishop for the West Virginia Churches of God was instrumental in the relief process. Before the floodwaters could recede, Bishop Griffis mobilized a committee of ministers to survey the damage and immediately allocated and released emergency funds. Feed the Children also responded to the disaster by providing the cleaning supplies. Donors from all over the country started sending in funds to support the relief effort. However, there was one anonymous donor that provided funds to cover the difference between the insurance coverage and the actual loss so that every Church of God and parsonage was restored to pre-flood condition.

Six months later, some of the worst flooding in the history of West Virginia is mostly a memory. In reflecting upon this disaster, Pastor Hartwell said, “The flooding and subsequent relief effort was a breath-taking and life-changing experience. I’ll never be the same!” David Lorency remarked, “Never, in the history of the Church of God, has the church responded so completely.”

The question posed by the state representative, “Who are you people, Operation Compassion?” was not answered in words but in deeds, the deeds of every man, woman, child, church and pastor that responded to the call for help.

Comments are closed