When disasters strike, the call is usually put out for people to come and help in any way they can. The priority is on simply rounding up willing and able volunteers — regardless of what special gifts or talents they may have to share.
But for Paul Sofka, Culinary Services Director at Houston's First, he is able to use his unique gifts and training to help those recovering from the tornado that struck Moore, OK.
Paul is on the scene this week with Mercy Chefs, a non-profit, faith-based organization "committed to serving high quality professionally prepared meals, during local, state and national disasters and emergencies."
Along with other chefs, Paul is providing meals to people working to help the community recover from the devestation — from local citizens to fellow volunteers from out of town.
"The first day here was a little challenging because, not knowing the flow of operation, I wasn't sure what to do," Paul reports, "so I just jumped in the kitchen and started cooking." That service-minded perspective is to be expected from the guy awarded as the 2013 Chef of the Year by the Houston chapter of the Texas Chefs Association.
After he learned more about how things work, Paul realized it was very similar to relief efforts that were set up in the west parking lot of The Loop Campus following Hurricane Ike in 2008. The main difference in this project is that the chefs focus more on quality and flavor to provide an extra blessing to those they're serving.
The church where the team is based, Southgate Baptist Church, is about a quarter-mile from where there are no houses left standing — "just piles of sticks and trash." However, the church received no significant damage in the storm.
"This church is doing an incredible job, and the pastor is doing a great job organizing the chaos," says Paul. He adds that there is a large Mormon community in the area, and that the team with Mercy Chefs and members of the church "have been feeding them and loving on them in the name of Christ."
What does Paul's wife, Christine, think about his leaving town right before Memorial Day weekend? "Well, I was hoping for a little pool time with my sweetie," she admits, "but as it turns out he's doing what he does best — serving his fellow human."
Thinking about his time there in Moore this week, Paul shared that "the days are long and hot and I'm on my feet all day, but we're here to cook and clean for Jesus!"
How are you using the unique gifts and passions God has given you? Have you found a place to serve? It doesn't have to be in a crisis situation; there are ongoing opportunities to give life away. Explore the volunteer opportunities at Houston's First, and take the free online spiritual gifts assessment, too. These can be the next steps toward finding a place where you can "cook and clean for Jesus" — no matter what it may be!