My wife and co-pastor, Rev. Rachel Berry, kept hoping one of our children would have kids and want to use our beloved Coleman pop-up trailer to take their children camping like we did over the years to visit places like Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Yellowstone, etc.
But our youngest only recently became engaged and our two older married children seem several years from producing grandchildren. Meanwhile, the pop-up with so many fond memories sat unused in our back yard in Venice, Florida.
As Rachel read stories of homes destroyed in Panama City, Mexico Beach and elsewhere from Hurricane Michael, God whispered in her ear: Why not spruce up the trailer and donate it to the relief effort to provide housing for those in dire need?
Being a retired UM Pastor, Rachel decided to call the Florida Conference and was referred to Recovery Coordinator Laura Ice.
Laura checked with some pastors in the Panhandle and received a positive response from the Rev. Dr. Themosticles “Themo” Patriotis of First UMC Apalachicola.
On short notice, we contacted Jim Smith of Smitty’s Mobile RV service in Sarasota, who agreed to help us renovate the trailer—free of charge—for the 8-hour drive to Apalachicola. Rachel lovingly cleaned the tent trailer to operating room standards!
|John Kraps (left) and Rev. Themo Patriotis and the Coleman pop-up tent trailer.|
He welcomed us warmly saying, “We don’t call you snowbirds. You are our winter church family!”
Rev. Themo said thousands of people still live in tents on the beach. The trailer could give some families safe and more comfortable transition housing.
Seven Grogan, the church’s Children’s and Outreach pastor, and his children, Corban, Gunner, and Fenix, helped us set up the trailer for viewing by the congregation as they arrived for worship service.
For the first time since before Michael hit, the church was not in disaster recovery mode. There were no supplies to distribute and no volunteers to feed and house.
The church service honored vets, and said goodbye to Micah Patriotis, the son of Rev. Themo‘s and Amy. Micah grew up in the church and left that afternoon for basic training in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Rev. Patriotis told the congregation the first stage of recovery—clearing downed trees, stringing electrical lines, repairing roofs—was winding down. The church and surrounding recovery organizations have begun planning the second phase of a massive outreach to help restore a ravaged area.
While we left our dear tent trailer with him and his congregation, we took our camping memories and our new church family friendships with us. Even more important, people in need were helped.
John and Rachel Kraps are retired from the California-Nevada Conference, where they served various churches in Silicon Valley, Mendocino County and Salinas County. They also were ordained elders in the Northern Illinois Conference.