Providing disaster relief provided two local men with so much more in return.
Craig Luginbill of Millington and Chuck Johnson of Sandwich, both members of the Federated Church of Sandwich, joined with seven other volunteers in November to form an American Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief Team. Nine men in four trucks loaded with supplies hit the road for Red Bank, N.J. on Nov. 15 for a five-day mission.
While their only job was to clear trees felled by Super Storm Sandy, Johnson said they spent time with the people they served.
“We make no bones about the fact that we are Christian missionaries. We don’t hide that part of the agenda. We go to interact with the people as much as cleaning up their yards,” Johnson said.
Luginbill believes their mission was successful.
“When you have it in your heart and you have that mission, you feel fulfilled, uplifted in ways that words can’t describe,” Luginbill said.
He said it was gratifying to hear about neighbors helping neighbors, as well.
“It was not just help from people like us a distance away, but people next door or within the state are helping each other. The faith-based community really comes together when it comes to this kind of disaster,” Johnson said.
He said there are thousands of faith-based volunteers who pitch in to help with no media attention.
No stranger to mission work, Luginbill said he has been on short-term missions both in the country and internationally, including a recent trip to Haiti. He said this was his first experience with American Baptist Men.
“It’s fun to join a different group of men. There is a lot of camaraderie and laughter and we accomplished a lot,” Luginbill said.
He plans to do even more missionary work now that he is retired. Johnson is self-employed.
Other members of the team were the Rev. Joe Mitchell of DeKalb, Alex Sroczynski of Shabbona, Terry Maurizio and Cliff Ruyle of Jerseyville, Sean McConnel and John McConnel Jr. of Mount Carroll, and John Hoenig of Edwardsville.
American Baptist Men
According to the group’s website, abmen.org, it is a faith-based not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing resources and support to men throughout the American Baptist USA denomination and beyond.
The organization’s mission is to bring men and boys into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, and its vision statement is to enable men and boys to strengthen their relationship with Jesus Christ so they will become biblical men for mission and outreach.
Along with disaster relief missions, the organization also has an ongoing Arizona Hopi project. The organization is based in West Virginia.
Luginbill said that denomination is not important when volunteering with the organization. “I would encourage people to answer the call when there’s work to be done.
“There are a lot of opportunities in local churches, too,” Luginbill said.
JBJ Soul Kitchen
The physical labor provided by the volunteers was not without a physical reward. Luginbill said they were able to eat at JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank. Established by the JBJ (Jon Bon Jovi) Soul Foundation, Luginbill described it as a “five-star soup kitchen.”
“There are no prices on the menu. Whether you pay or not, nobody asks. You might see a guy pull up in a BMW and sit down to eat with a homeless man,” Luginbill said.
According to the Soul Kitchen’s website, “All are welcome at our table. At the JBJ Soul Kitchen, a place is ready for you if you are hungry, or if you hunger to make a difference in your community. We believe that a healthy meal can feed the soul.”
If a diner can afford to pay, the price of a meal is $10. If the diner can afford to pay more, the cash is welcome. If a diner cannot afford to pay, volunteer opportunities exist.
Diners are encouraged to introduce themselves to people seated beside them or across the table. A three-course meal is served starting with the choice of soup or salad, followed by a meat, fish or vegetarian dish and a fresh-baked dessert.
“It was a neat experience,” Luginbill said.