The curtain has come down on Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child (OCC) 2017/18 – the shoebox appeal. The Harlow management team, Pat Greenhill, Chris Hopkinson, Andrew du Boulay & Bob Barker, are very grateful to all members of Christ Church who have helped! The good folk of Christ Church made an outstanding effort in the campaign in many different ways. This contribution is essential to the success of the annual operation! Thank you. Please carry on again later this year if you are able, we will need your help again!
The warehouse at Harlow processed 11,060 shoeboxes. Along with the shoeboxes from other processing centres in London and Hertfordshire we exported 28,221 to; Liberia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Two members of the Harlow processing team went on a distribution of the shoeboxes and saw just how much joy the boxes bring to children in less privileged countries. These shoeboxes make a real difference to many children across the world.
Thank you Christ Church!
One thing leads to another.
Having finished fulltime work, I became more involved in Operation Christmas Child at Harlow. During the 2013 campaign I was asked if I was interested in DART? Samaritan’s Purse have an international Disaster Assistance Response Team deployed around the world after natural disasters or other major incidents strike.
In 2014 I was sent to Serbia after the severe floods, I went to Nepal in May 2015 following the earthquake and in January 2016 after very heavy rainfall I spent three weeks in Yorkshire & Scotland.
In autumn 2017 I was deployed to Antigua as part of the disaster response to the devastation caused by hurricanes ‘Irma’ and ‘Maria’. While Antigua was not affected both Barbuda and Dominica were severely damaged. Barbuda, just twenty eight miles away, was evacuated immediately after ‘Irma’ passed through. When I was there only a limited number of people had moved back onto the island. Barbuda is a very small flat island and ‘Irma’ damaged most buildings to a greater or lesser extent leaving many homes uninhabitable. Samaritan’s Purse supplied bottled water and desalination units for drinking water and generators to provide electricity to aid the island’s recovery.
A cog in a machine
As one of a team of thirty, mainly Americans, two from Australia and two other British guys, I was given the job of managing the warehouse on Antigua. I felt like a cog in the Disaster Response machine supporting the operations on Barbuda & Dominica, receiving the NFI (Non Food Items) for distribution and tools for the rebuild stage. Then getting them ready to be flown to the two islands. When the items arrived on the DC8 jet owned by Samaritan’s Purse, it was an indication of just how big Samaritan’s Purse is worldwide.
We received tarpaulins, electricity generators, cleaning kits, mops and brooms by the hundred, together with power tools, for distribution on the two islands. All items had to be weighed for the flights. The load depended on how many passengers were booked on the flight.
I developed a new skill, driving a fork lift truck. I was trained by a person who had been trained the day before! Caution was the name of the game when driving the fork lift near the planes. You can do considerable damage to a plane with a fork lift; putting the forks through the fuselage or reversing into a wing would not have made me popular!
Two pallet loads of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes arrived from America to distribute to the children on Barbuda.
The Tarpaulin Team flew to Barbuda daily as Samaritan’s Purse had not been able to locate a base on the island. The team worked in the heat covering roofs with the distinctive blue Samaritan’s Purse tarpaulins.
I spent a day working the team – a challenging but very satisfying day. At the end of the day we had to clear the runway of horses so the plane could land on Barbuda to collect us.
Church by Aeroplane
On Sundays the team flew to Barbuda for church. The service was in the Pentecostal Church. There was no electricity and the windows had been blown away by ‘Irma’ which helped the breeze through. Singing was unaccompanied, followed by testimonies from the members of the congregation. The theme was God is so good – we may have lost our possessions in the hurricane but we are alive by God’s Grace! A number of the congregation had experienced hurricanes on the island but ‘Irma’ was on a different scale! There was a plea to those Barbudians present to encourage family and friends that had not returned to the island to do so. They wanted to get the school and other services open again. The pastor did caution the congregation that some folk may need longer to deal with the situation and would take more time to return.
After the service our Barbudian hosts treated us to the most amazing hot buffet lunch! Chicken, seafood of many varieties, vegetables and sea food chowder (a meal in itself). Wonderful, bearing in mind what had happened and the conditions on the island!
I had a conversation with a lady, Roma. She had five daughters and five grandchildren. Overnight the hurricane had blown away her wash house and washing machine. The island was fully evacuated after the hurricane because of the damage. Like others she was grateful to survive with her life and praised God for his goodness.
The hurricane did cause one fatality on the island. Parents of a two year old boy were running for shelter when the wind ripped the boy away from his mother’s hand. When they found him in the morning he had died.
It was manual work in very hot and humid conditions. I had to constantly remind myself to keep hydrated. It was a great opportunity creating many memories. Samaritan’s Purse have wide experience of working in such situations. When I was there they were moving from the immediate response stage after the hurricane to the recovery and rebuilding programme. Samaritan’s Purse know what is required and make it happen. For example, on Antigua we took delivery of 400 generators. Within twenty four hours 250 had been flown to Dominica and Barbuda ready for distribution.
A strong memory is the sight of the blue Samaritan’s Purse tarpaulins on roofs across Barbuda as we flew to and from the island (see photograph above).
Supporting and helping folk who have been through difficult or disastrous situations is known as, ‘The Ministry of Presence.’ I saw the appreciation shown by the people of Barbuda. They were very grateful for the generators, tarpaulins and other items, and the practical support. What also struck me was the gratitude to Samaritan’s Purse for being there and helping them on the road to recovery and standing ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with them in a time of adversary. Barbuda has a long way to go, I expect it will be a difficult road!
Bob BarkerTags: Magazine, Samaritan's Purse