In the fall of 1989, Brad Shelly had the opportunity to spend a week in Charleston, South Carolina, with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) after the devastation of Hurricane Hugo.
The experience changed his life. So, now he wants to give back to MDS by riding his bicycle in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and raising funds so someone else’s life can be changed.
As with any MDS assignment, that week in 1989 was busy and in Shelly’s case required some hard physical labor assisting with numerous roofing assignments.
Several weeks after returning to his home in Pennsylvania, Shelly discovered he had developed an inguinal hernia. “Whether it was a result of my time working with MDS, I’ll never know,” Shelly said.
So he scheduled an appointment with a surgeon to have the hernia repaired and spent time questioning the doctor as to the cause.
During the course of the conversation the surgeon referred Shelly to another physician who ran additional tests and discovered that Shelly had a tumor on his left kidney.
The finding came as a complete surprise to Shelly and the physicians. So, not only was the hernia to be repaired, but now Shelly needed additional surgery to remove what was a cancerous tumor.
Today, 25 years later, Shelly remains cancer-free. And that is something to celebrate.
Throughout the years Shelly could have dwelled on a series of “what ifs” beginning with the MDS assignment. What if he hadn’t gone to South Carolina, what if he didn’t suffer the hernia, which means the doctors would not have discovered the tumor?
But Shelly didn’t dwell on “what ifs”. Instead every five years for the past 25 years, “I have chosen to celebrate God’s goodness to me by combining my love for biking with an effort to raise awareness for organizations that have been a part of this journey,” Shelly said. “In the past I have organized rides to raise funds and awareness for the Kidney Cancer Association and this year I’m planning a ride to highlight MDS.”
Shelly is hoping to raise enough funds to prevent a tragedy from happening for people living in Tornado Alley. All donations in support of his bike ride will go toward the MDS storm shelter project.
The project will place storm shelters in or near all of the new MDS-built homes in communities across both Tornado Alley and Dixie Alley areas frequented by tornados in Mid-west and Deep South states, including Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arkansas and Mississippi.
The presence of a storm shelter inside or outside the home increases the possibility of families and individuals surviving even the most potent tornado and high winds.
This year’s ride will take place during Labor Day weekend, Sept. 4-6. The 2-day, 180-mile trek from Granby to Steamboat Springs will include members of Shelly’s family and biking friends from First Mennonite Church in Denver, Colorado.
Each of the riders will be making a contribution to MDS by joining the ride. The hope is that others around Colorado and the US and Canada will help sponsor the ride to raise funds for the MDS Storm Shelter Project.
Each storm shelter costs around $5,000 and Shelly is hoping there are enough sponsors to reach that amount. Shelly is planning to raise $1,000 with the other bike riders, so he is well on his way to his goal.
Sponsors can partner with the riders by donating online to Silver25 Cycle for Storm Shelters on mds.mennonite.net.
Mennonite Disaster Service at Mennonite World Conferece
At the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) in Harrisburg, PA, songs and prayers ring through the buildings inside, and outside you can hear the ringing of hammers. Conference attendees had the opportunity volunteer to help build two homes through MDS’ Partnership Home Program (PHP). The house panels constructed at MWC will be transported to Pilger, NE, and Crisfield, MD, then reassembled into homes for two families who lost their homes to disasters. MWC attendees also toured the work site, learned more about MDS and wrote notes of encouragement that will be delivered to the new homeowners.
MDS and the Gulf Coast Recovery now in paperback
The 2014 book titled “Mennonite Disaster Service and the Gulf Coast Recovery“ by Brenda Phillips, PhD, Associate Dean at Ohio University in Chillicothe, is now available in a paperback edition from Lexington Books. A long-time friend of MDS, Phillips is an award winning and widely published author on disaster recovery and socially vulnerable populations. Phillips is donating all royalties from book sales to MDS.
The book can also be purchased through your local bookstore or favorite online bookseller. Make sure you have a copy available for your church or school library.
“Mennonite Disaster Service brings into clear focus one of the most powerful examples of faith-based volunteer service…” Shirley Laska, University of New Orleans.
“What do faith-based organizations contribute to post-disaster recovery work? And, ultimately, how can communities rebuild to be stronger and better…? This is a fascinating read.” Lori Peek, Colorado State University.
“This important book is a valuable resource not only for students and academics, but…for anyone who wants to understand and appreciate giving and receiving in disaster recovery.” Maureen Fordham, Northumbria University.
MDS featured on NBC Nightly News! MDS was featured on the NBC Nightly News on March 29, 2011. To see the story that features our Diamond, La. project, click on the link below:
MDS on the News