We are one body
The value of teamwork when times get tough
By Sally Dubroc
For most people, the BP oil spill is something happening “over there,” but for others, this event has been life changing. My job as conference coordinator for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux in Louisiana places me at the heart of the oil spill. Our largest event, Steubenville on the Bayou, brought 3,200 participants to Houma, La., June 18-20, 2010. Housing has never been an issue because of the large amount of hotel rooms in the city as well as dorm rooms at a university in neighboring Thibodaux.
About four weeks before this year’s conference, the Office of Homeland security, along with officials from BP, informed local hotels that, regardless of any prior bookings, the rooms in Houma were now reserved for the BP cleanup crew and others affiliated with the oil spill. The Houma-Terrebonne CVB, along with several hoteliers, called to inform us of the development immediately.
While the news was somewhat surprising, we focused on the fact that God had ordained this event and wanted it to happen. The area would benefit in many ways, especially spiritually. He had a plan and our role was to listen and adhere to it.
Our amazing staff was ready to serve: our bishop, a man with a heart for evangelism and an unfailing faith; the priests and conference staff, a hardworking, faithful group who readily accepted any challenge; and the chairpersons committee of 42 individuals granted my requests with ease. In addition, the 250 volunteers registered to help with the conference were willing to serve regardless of the task. The local tourism bureau worked with bureaus in the surrounding area to help us. Most importantly, a large group of intercessors committed to daily prayer for our staff, volunteers and our events.
Within two days, the potential crisis was averted. An e-mail was sent to local pastors, and churches quickly offered to house youth groups. Some of the local youth groups who originally planned to stay in hotels canceled their reservations so that groups coming from farther away could have the rooms. Calls were made to tourism bureaus up to 50 miles away. In no time, we received names of available hotels eager to help. Some of the local hoteliers worked diligently to free as many rooms as possible. Although an extra strain was put on some attendees, we did not have one cancellation.
God also reminded me of a few other things:
This was not happening to us. Perhaps things seemed stressful for a day or two, but this crisis happened to the families who lost loved ones, those who are now jobless, to the businesses that have fewer customers, and to people who have lived and worked along the gulf for generations. Losing our hotel rooms meant that the people helping in the oil spill had a place to stay, not that the people coming to our conference were “kicked out.”
The lesson of perseverance as a key to coordinating any event was also reinforced. There will always be things that block us from doing what we feel called to do but if we push through, we get to that light at the end of the tunnel. (Hebrews 12:1)
Finally, I was reminded that I don’t have all of the answers and I am not supposed to. As conference coordinator, my job is to bring all the parts together so that the participants experience a dynamic, spirit-filled event. Thankfully, God has placed people in key positions who know much more than I do about the various elements and I am happy to defer to them when necessary. The answers lie in Him and not in us. We are all instruments.