SOS Buckets for Harvey Victims are “First Aid Kits for the Soul”
By: Sherri Gragg
Throughout his ministry, Henri Nouwen served as a professor of theology on the campuses of some of the most prestigious universities in the world, but toward the end of his life the renowned priest and author returned to his truest calling- the pastorate. His chosen parish was L’Arche Daybreak, a community for the profoundly intellectually disabled in Toronto, Canada. Nouwen’s writings from his tenure at Daybreak reflect his deep belief that grief must be healed in the presence of God. “By inviting God into our difficulties,” wrote Nouwen, “we ground life—even its sad moments—in joy and hope.” This conviction, that we navigate the landscape of grief by walking with God through times of loss, is at the heart of Unleashed’s SOS Bucket ministry.
First Aid Kit for the Soul
Unleashed is a ministry focused on helping individuals discover and respond to God’s call, but when Hurricane Harvey struck, the team found themselves putting their teaching into practice as an organization. As Harvey barreled toward the Texas coast, the Unleashed team was busy preparing for a full schedule of retreats but their careful plans were swept away with the rising flood. All around the country, especially in Texas, United Methodists were turning their attention away from their day to day ministries and toward the immediacy of recovery. As thousands of congregants began assembling UMCOR flood relief buckets to meet the most urgent physical needs of flood victims, the Unleashed staff answered God’s call to use their gifts to minister to families grieving the loss of their belongings and homes. “We came up with the idea of adapting the concept of prayer stations in order to facilitate the process of restoration for the hurricane victims,” said team member Haley Brown. “We wanted to offer them a quiet moment to wrap their head around what had happened.” From that vision, the Unleashed team developed SOS Buckets, “emotional first aid kits” designed to usher the brokenhearted into the healing presence of Christ.
Brown chose the “SOS” symbol, universally recognized as a cry for help, to reflect the ministry’s mission- “Searching Our Souls for What Feels Like Home.” Each kit is packed with a variety of tools to guide the recipients through various devotional experiences that have been carefully tailored to speak to their season of loss. The buckets contain scriptures passages, a journal, prayer prompts, hands-on activities, and simple instructions of how to use the contents. SOS Buckets also include six thoughtfully curated playlists of songs to minister to recipients during their season of grief.
Comfort for All Who Grieve
To date Unleashed has distributed more than 200 hundred SOS Buckets to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. As the ministry begins assembling 200 hundred additional buckets for the next stage of distribution, they are also planning for the future. The SOS Buckets have been so well received that the team hopes to broaden the ministry focus to include anyone who is struggling with grief. Unleashed hopes the SOS Bucket ministry will continue to assist a wide range of people to invite God into their sorrow and find a “place that feels like home.”