The Deseret News follows a group of Episcopalians and members of other churches as they head to Alabama to help a community after a tornado to see how service brings religions together.
For the past few days, Kelsey Tokunaga and Ashley Vomund have been happily wielding paintbrushes and sporting smudges of khaki green, gray and brown paint in their hair and fingernails.
The teens, ages 18 and 17, are volunteers with a group from St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Incline Village, Nev., and have spent their spring break helping a small Alabama town recover from last April’s devastating tornadoes.
It’s the first time the teens have been to the South, been addressed as “y’all,” and worn shorts at night without freezing. But giving service? That’s nothing new.
“Our church focuses on service,” says Vomund. “And my family has always pushed for volunteering constantly. That one moment where you see someone smile because of something you’ve done, big or small, that makes it all worth it.”
Throughout the country and around the world, religious organizations and their volunteers are constantly rushing to aid and empower victims of natural disasters, war and civil unrest.
Working alongside devoted government and private organizations, these religious group volunteers haul branches, mop up floodwater, feed and shelter entire communities and empower victims to rebuild. And while their individual faiths prompt them to act, Mennonites and Mormons, Baptists and Buddhists will put aside doctrinal differences and just go to work — having discovered that they work better when they work together.