Submitted by the Rev Lorrie Slaymaker, member of the Arkansas Episcopal Disaster Relief Team.
A “walkabout” in Australia is going into the desert to find your soul. A walkabout for the Arkansas Episcopal Disaster Relief Team means visiting the neighborhoods a few weeks after the catastrophe to offer help and support to those affected.
After the Vilonia tornado, for example, teams from Christ Church, Little Rock; St. Nicholas’, Maumelle; St. Peter’s, Conway; St. Matthew’s Benton; St. Michael’s, Little Rock; and St Margaret’s, Little Rock gathered in the affected neighborhoods and received instructions. Then they were sent to talk with and listen to people. The conversational aspect of the visits are important because it gives people yet another opportunity to sort out their lives in the retelling of their stories.
The walkabout teams also can offer gift cards that let the people purchase what they need most – gas, food, tarps, clothing. The cards from our diocese came in an envelope with a simple prayer and a blessing of hope.
The response from those receiving the card and conversation was sometimes tears, sometimes joy. One person who stood on an open lot of rubble said, “Its my daughter’s birthday tomorrow. I had no idea how I was going to get her a present.” Others said, “Bless you,” and, “Thank you.” Most asked again where we were from. We were proud to say the Episcopal Church in Arkansas, and humble to be the bearers of gifts that would not have happened without the entire diocesan support through the Bishop’s Discretionary Fund.
If you are interested in training to do walkabouts, email AR-EDRT@gmail.com. We hope to offer training in 2015 to ready folks to respond to disasters as pastoral care givers.