Mission to North America (MNA), a Permanent Committee of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), is assigned the task of coordinating the PCA response to disasters in the US and Canada. MNA accomplishes this vital task through dedicated staff members of MNA Disaster Response (DR) who mobilize presbyteries, churches and individuals to use their time, talent and treasure to prepare for and respond to disaster.
During the Hurricane Katrina response in August 2005, MNA DR established 13 relief sites. It quickly became clear that having a centrally located warehouse full of pre-positioned supplies and equipment ready to send to these relief worksites in devastated communities would result in a faster and better denominational response to every future disaster. Volunteers, churches, presbyteries, those who had been helped, trusted advisors and staff began to pray that a plan to meet this need would be developed. Where would be the best place in the PCA to establish a first warehouse? Where would the funding come from? How would it be operated? Should we rent? Could we purchase and renovate a blighted existing building? Would we build? Was the denomination ready to support such an undertaking?
The answers to those questions did not come easily or swiftly. Some folks thought that the involvement of the PCA in disaster response would fade after the Hurricane Katrina response, but that is not what happened. The robust mobilization of God’s people to Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana ignited a fire that continues to burn and grow brighter. For some folks in the PCA this was their first experience to undertake mercy ministry with the Gospel fuel of love-driving sacrifice.
During the ensuing years, MNA DR continued to tend to the Hurricane Katrina worksites while launching new responses to hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes and floods which occurred all across the country. The PCA continued to look to MNA DR for leadership and guidance and the core of now seasoned volunteers began to develop team structures, establish budgets, acquire equipment and train to be prepared for future events. It was obvious that we were together building a ministry for the long haul; we were learning in profound ways that once we started this work we couldn’t stop. Soil once planted needs tending, then harvesting, then tilling and replanting. Experienced volunteers were seeking more resources as they became more skilled in various responses.
If MNA DR was to have one warehouse it was clear the Chattanooga / north Georgia area was central to the majority of the churches in the PCA and also central to where the majority of our responses had occurred. The area is within eight hours of most places east of the Mississippi River with several interstates that access the area from Florida, the Midwest, the Gulf, and the entire Eastern Seaboard including the northern-most region of the country.
While continuing to pray for wisdom, we began raising funds to establish a warehouse while investigating site options. Grace Presbyterian Church in Dalton, Georgia committed several acres of property of their spacious campus to build a new warehouse if adequate funds would become available, but after much prayer and careful investigation it was evident that the cost to purchase an existing warehouse was in our best interest.
In January 2015, MNA DR became aware of a property in Rome, Georgia that would adequately meet our needs, was in the target corridor and was within our original budget. On May 1, 2015, MNA DR purchased the warehouse and renovations began immediately. More than 40 mission teams served in renovating the property which included the creation of dedicated training areas, warehousing space, equipment maintenance bays and secure outside storage of large specialized response trailers. The campus was dedicated to God’s glory during the fall of 2018. PCA ruling elder Mike Kennamer was called to serve as warehouse manager.
Arklie Hooten, MNA DR Director