Gutterman keeps work teams busy

2/15/2006

By Woody Woodrick

Advocate Editor

Al Gutterman knows what to do when work teams come his way, and the United Methodist pastor is making the most of their time and skills.

Gutterman is pastor of Byrd Chapel and Wesley Chapel United Methodist churches near Carriere in Pearl River County.

“I’ve been working with UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) since right after the (Aug. 29) storm to get work crews to clear the church land,” Gutterman said. “We’ve been able to get five work crews to clear land and the cemetery.”

That’s not all. Gutterman has coordinated sending teams out into the community to remove debris, repair roofs or whatever else needs to be done.

“From what I’ve seen, when he got (help) he took off and ran with it,” said Kevin Hughes, a construction facilitator for Mississippi United Methodist Katrina Response. “I think he’s done a wonderful job.”

Working with folks and setting priorities aren’t new to Gutterman, who spent 22 years in the Marines. “I’ve had to coordinate work teams and have been a drill instructor,” he said. “I’ve learned how to prioritize the work and get the most out of the workers we have and the minimal time work teams have. I maintain control and delegate the work so more can get done.”

Hughes said that makes his job easier. “People helping out makes a world of difference,” he said. “That’s one less area where I have to perform those functions. It frees me to look at areas that need more attention.”

While Gutterman has been the catalyst for recovery in his area, he insists it’s not been a one-man project. He credited Hughes and members of his churches with pitching in and making sure those who need help get it. He also praised the work teams, particularly a crew from Deerfield United Methodist Church in Boone, N.C., and a group from Pelham, Ala. In addition to doing the physical work, Gutterman said some teams have made cash donations.

Gutterman has built good relationships with the teams. One group slept in tents in the parsonage yard, so he cooked breakfast for them.

In addition, Hughes said Gutterman has agreed to allow a temporary shower facility for use by work teams to be built behind the parsonage.

Gutterman, a full-time local pastor, said the last five months haven’t been easy. His family lives in Long Beach. He drives to Carriere on Sunday morning and returns to Long Beach on Thursday night. He spends five days helping his parishioners and others in the community, and then spends two days working on his own home.

He said he turns to Psalm 46 for strength. “Many times when I get discouraged and wonder what I’m going to do, the Lord says ‘I am with you and will sustain you.’”

“The Lord just keeps me going. It has to be done, and I’m just chugging along,” he said.

While the work has been and will continue to be hard, Gutterman said he sees many blessings amid the hardship.

“We preach about loving God with all our heart, soul and might and to love our neighbor as ourselves,” he said. “(The congregations) have seen that in operation. These people didn’t even know us, and they came down and helped rebuild our homes and our churches. They give us monetary donations to help us. They have seen ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ in action. I praise God for that.

“Churches are helping each other and helping out the community,” Gutterman said. “All the work being done is through churches. Other churches are helping in different parts of the community. It’s just been wonderful. They see that and it makes them proud to be a Christian because the love of God is there and they can see that.”