By Woody Woodrick
PASCAGOULA — Many residents of the Gulf Coast lost everything in Hurricane Katrina.
Dee and Jack Boreing gave up everything because of Katrina.
The Boreings are working in Pascagoula as site coordinators for work teams helping in recovery efforts. They came to Pascagoula from Douglasville, Ga., where they had lived all their lives.
“We have been in the mission field for many years and knew for the past three years that we wanted to be doing something full time,” said Dee Boreing.
The Boreings, who are members of New Covenant United Methodist Church in Douglasville, have made five or six mission trips to Mexico. However, family obligations put full-time work on hold. When that situation changed, the Boreings were ready.
“We told God we were ready to go to Mexico for two years. Nothing came about,” said Dee. “We changed our prayer to say, ‘We’ll go where you want us to go.’
“Less than 24 hours later we got a call asking us to come to Pascagoula.”
The call came from the Rev. Nick Elliott, executive director of the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission for the Southeastern Jurisdiction. He asked the Boreings to come to the coast for three months. They arrived in January and have agreed to stay through August.
“Knowing their deep faith, their knowledge and organizational skills and their commitment to Christian service, when we received the urgent request from the Mississippi volunteer office for coordination assistance it was a ‘no-brainer,’” said Joe Hamilton, UMVIM SEJ associate director. “The staff almost simultaneously said their name and placed a call.
With their expressed commitment to volunteer service their reply was effectively ‘here am I, send me.’”
When the Boreings accepted the call to Mississippi — Jack said he had already said yes before even knowing where Pascagoula is — they owned an embroidery business, home and land. Dee said two weeks after agreeing to come to Pascagoula, a neighbor called and asked about purchasing their home and land. That deal was struck without even advertising then property. It wasn’t easy; Dee had lived all her life in the house her grandfather had built.
A week later, a former employee visited Dee. She shared their plans to enter the mission field, and the man said his daughter might be interested in buying the business. They agreed to a price and week later the sale was complete.
“We gave away everything else,” Dee said. “We paid off everything we owed, packed up and came to Mississippi.”
The Boreings purchased a travel trailer and a new truck before hitting the road. Now, the trailer sits behind First United Methodist Church and is the Boreings’ home.
The Boreings point out they do nothing without first praying for God’s guidance. They also search the Bible for additional direction. At the urging of a friend, they created a ministry, Side By Side Ministries. They base the organization on the third chapter of Nehemiah. In that section of the Bible, Nehemiah rebuilds the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days.
“The only way it could be done was if all the tribes worked side-by-side, the greatest priest and the have-nots worked side-by-side. That’s the way we do everything, working side-by-side with the Lord,” Jack said.
“It doesn’t matter what denomination or what race someone is. This is the way God told me the Gulf Coast would be rebuilt,” Dee said.
Long days, hard work
The Boreings’ days are long. Both are up early and usually don’t get to bed until about 10:30 p.m. They eat most of their meals at Pascagoula First UMC with the work teams. The Boreings coordinate and assign teams to work sites and then spend the day going from site to site making sure the teams have the materials they need. The Boreings also meet with homeowners seeking help. The Boreings assess the needs for repairing the homes.
“It’s basically a seven-day-a-week job. There’s scripture to cover that. If your neighbor has an ox in the ditch, you’re going to stay there until he’s out. I consider this an ox in the ditch,” Jack said.
Little direct training exists for hurricane recovery, but Jack said he found he had many of the necessary skills for jobs such as mucking out homes and spraying for mold. He spent 33 years as a mechanic for Delta Airlines and that included some hazardous materials training. He received some damage control training in the Navy, and his grandfather was a fire chief in Georgia. Jack said he learned from him and working for the Civil Defense, which formerly carried disaster first-response duties.
“Dee and Jack bring outstanding leadership skills and a deep faith in Jesus Christ to their role as UMVIM volunteer coordinators,” said Hamilton. “Their gracious gift is empathy and compassion for the survivors of disaster that serves them extremely well in bringing hope to people who may well feel abandoned. They are people of their word, they do not make promises lightly and the promises they do make are fulfilled.”
Dee Boreing runs the “office,” a couple of conference tables set up near the kitchen door of Pascagoula First UMC’s Family Life Center. Buzzing around town in her bright yellow Jeep, she also delivers materials to work crews, handles scheduling and lends a hand wherever needed.
The site averages about five teams and 70 workers per week. During the spring break period, the site hosted about 125 workers. They eat and sleep at Pascagoula First UMC.
For all this work, the Boreings receive no pay. They are volunteers working out of their love of God.
“We weren’t prepared for anything we’ve had to do, but God has provided,” Dee said.
The Boreings don’t get much time off. Jack laughs while saying they recently took four hours for themselves. They’ve taken weekends to visit children and grandchildren back in Douglasville, Ga., and the grandchildren have visited Pascagoula.
Dee said that her weekly trip to Sam’s Warehouse in Gulfport is her “day” off. She turns off the cell phone and drives to and from Gulfport alone.
They plan to take off a couple of weeks in July — to join a mission trip to Mexico to complete construction of a church.
While the work is hard, Jack Boreing said the rewards make it worthwhile. “My satisfaction comes when someone comes in so stressed they are losing hope, and we’re able to sit down and talk to them and they see there is hope; something will get done,” he said. “Our outreach to people is to let them know God loves them and is here.”
No arguing with God
When the end of August arrives, where will the Boreings be headed? Jack and Dee say they’re not sure. The express a desire to stay in Pascagoula until the work is done but don’t know when that point will be. Mexico is still a possibility. UMVIM has a two-year position open. Hamilton said folks such as the Boreings are vital to mission work.
“Without such volunteers, UMVIM would not exist. Each year, thousands of UMVIM volunteers, both short term and long term, are the glue that binds a community of hope together in service to Christ and His church,” he said.
Wherever they go, the Boreings say it will be where God leads them.
“We never question what God wants us to do,” Jack said. “I’m not about to argue with Him. I’ve done that before, and I end up losing.”