Early word: Locals bring water and hope
Television news features non-stop coverage of Gulf Coast devastation: homeless refugees, hit-and-miss rescue efforts, and bumbling politicians. It's disheartening to watch. But for Chad Myhre, 35, watching wasn't enough.
By Wednesday, August 31, just two days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, Myhre had reached Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and was distributing tarps and water.
Why spend two and a half months of your budget, drive hundreds of miles, and possibly put your lives in danger? "Because we are the only answer we can give," says Myhre, pastor of Calvary Chapel and organizer of the "Go Ye Project."
Myhre and three other Calvary Chapel members, including assistant pastor Dave Hanson, set up their distribution center near a local middle school where up to 300 displaced families had been living. Under a banner promising "Free Water," Go Ye handed out about 200 cases of bottled water in 20 minutes.
"There was no hope," says Hanson. "I've been all around the world [on mission trips], to Nepal and Sudan, but I've never seen such desperation."
Further inland than the more familiar scenes of coastal mayhem in Biloxi and Gulfport, Ocean Springs was struggling to cope with its own devastation, with boats strewn across and roads and countless houses without roofs.
"It looked like a little toy city, and somebody had come by and kicked it," Myhre says. The group drove past a local Burger King, but they didn't see the sign for another five blocks.
The Go Ye Project, supported by the church budget and donations, left on a second trip to Mississippi Thursday, September 8. Armed with supply buckets (packing bug repellant, diapers, towels, and toiletries), the group was headed back to Ocean Springs and planned to venture further into Mississippi, reaching the northern areas getting less attention.
Bibles are also in the buckets, but the members of Calvary Chapel say they aren't trying to convert the needy just yet. "We want to hold services, but we need to earn the right to be heard. So right now, we just need to take care of their basic needs," Hanson says.
After making connections in Alabama and Georgia to facilitate the transportation of relief supplies (they can even get wholesale water for just 13 cents/bottle), the Go Ye project is looking to the future. That means going door to door to help survivors without a car and making sure perishable goods make it to Mississippi every couple of weeks.
"People were saying it was too early," says Hanson, "but it was almost too late."
To donate money, time, or supplies to hurricane relief through Calvary Chapel, call 975-5420.
"...we are the only answer we can give," says Chad Myhre, pastor of Calvary Chapel.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO