Pastors, churches have friendly ‘throwdown’ to help tornado victims

By Martha S. Taylor Special Contributor It didn’t take much for the gloves to come off. And when you consider that the chief instigators were the Rev. Pat Bodenhamer and the Rev. Angie Gage, the outcome of the Tornado Tub Throwdown was really never in doubt. It seemed logical for Bodenhamer, pastor of Diamond City and Omaha UMCs in the Northwest District, to look east to Gage, pastor of Cherokee Village UMC in the Northeast District. With both pastors located in the same geographic area but with a district boundary separating them, a friendly competition seemed appropriate. Those who know them know that underneath their serene, pastoral countenances lie two competitive spirits. Especially when it comes to helping others. The throwdown, issued through Facebook and the districts’ email distribution lists, called for each district to collect the most tornado tubs and gifts for those whose lives were tossed upside down in the April 27 tornado. The prize would be bragging rights. Over the course of 10 days in May, pastors and laity located in both districts collected tubs, the items to fill them and financial gifts. Spurred on by some (Christian) trash-talk, at least 22 churches participated. The results speak for themselves: 161 Completed Tornado Tubs (plastic totes filled with specific supplies to help with clean-up following a tornado, and valued at $55 each) 281 Empty Tubs (valued at $9 each) $12,911.99 and an additional $3,500 sent to the Arkansas Disaster Relief Fund   The Revs. Dave Smith and Don Creamer take a break from loading some of the the tornado tubs donated during the 10-day Tornado Tub Throwdown. Not including volunteer hours,close to $28,000 was donated. COURTESY PHOTOSIn all, in-kind and financial gifts came to $27,795.95. This total was in addition to the reported 425 volunteer hours spent in hands-on service in the affected communities; distribution of 20 dozen freshly-baked cookies; and pizza purchased and delivered to volunteers working in the Mayflower area. “I know our churches would have responded to the need even without a challenge,” Bodenhamer said. “I believe it has brought an awareness to all our churches that we can do great and mighty things for the Kingdom when we all work together.” Always up for a challenge, Bodenhamer thinks that Conference members should not be surprised if more challenges arise in the future. “Our pastors and churches dug deep to help our brothers and sisters who have lost so much,” said Bodenhamer. “We did it because that is what God would want us to do. We were, and are, the active body of Christ!” Bragging rights were important in the beginning, but as the totals grew more impressive, the “winner” seemed to matter less. In the end, they called it a draw. Both pastors agree that the fun, creative element of the challenge motivated some to participate, but stress that the primary goal was to get people involved in missions for the purpose of honoring God and loving neighbors in need.