Mount Pisgah volunteers eager to do 'all the good' they can
Mount Pisgah UMC members Sonny Forsberg, Brett Ray, and John Ashall must have been taking good notes when the pastor quoted John Wesley’s words, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
When tornadoes struck the southern U.S. in the spring of 2011 Forseberg and Ray were there in Apison, Tenn., doing all the good they could for people in need. "Even though we're over a hundred miles away, we consider these people our neighbors. They're in need," said Forsberg at that time.
Last month when Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast entire coastal towns were underwater, millions were left without power, New York City was paralyzed and Forsberg, Ray, and Ashall were making plans to do all the good they could to answer the call of their neighbors in need once again. This time the call to action was a little farther north than Tennessee. It was to Sea Bright, N.J.
Leaving their families to serve God in a place far from home during the Thanksgiving Holiday was not what they planned to do – but it was something they were compelled to do. Using Ray’s Chevy Avalanche and pulling the newly renovated and restocked Mount Pisgah Disaster Response Team trailer they pulled out of the parking lot two days before Thanksgiving for a 16-hour drive to Old First UMC in Long Branch, NJ – their United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) coordinating sponsors for relief in the devastated area.
The next day the three men worked with Marty and Gloria Garland of Old First UMC, whose home was flooded by Hurricane Sandy. The streets were eerily quite in the work area as few homeowners had yet to return to their properties. Work crews were sparce.
With severe flood water damage, the Garland’s house was first on the list and the work to pull appliances to the street, unhook and secure power and gas lines, and pull drywall down began. Amidst the piles of rubble and debris Forsberg, Ray, and Ashall worked with UMCOR personnel to access and organize relief efforts. They worked all Wednesday until the police-enforced curfew of 5 p.m. Then it was off to a dinner prepared by the local fire department for volunteers and residents.
“The UMCOR Emergency Response Training (ERT) we received this past summer was invaluable, but experience is still the best teacher,” Ray said.
The next day was Thanksgiving and all three men were up early and focused on the task at hand. This day they met Janet Settile, a hospice nurse whose husband died six months prior. Settile’s job responsibilities did not allow her time to prepare for the storm, so she and her teen-age son needed all the help they could get. And some of the best help came in ways other than the physical labor. While victims like Settile and her son benefit from the helping hands of UMCOR volunteers they also realize what a difference a listening ear and a giving spirit can make in a hopeless situation. And to volunteers like Forsberg, Ray, and Ashall that's more than worth their time and energy.
Back at home the men enjoyed a more-than-thankful, but belated Thanksgiving. They have plans to go back to Sea Bright, N.J., in a few weeks and reach out to those affected by disaster so they know that God loves them and hasn’t forgotten them.