It was a devastating disaster that led me to meet Joe Dudney. I’m sure that’s true of a lot of people. As director of the very successful Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort there were many people who knew Joe because they had suffered through tragic circumstances. Ours was Hurricane Katrina. And Joe was ready, with all of the resources available to him, to come to our aid.
Eighteen wheelers loaded with washers, driers, beds, cleaning materials, and food boxes were sent to the Mississippi Coast. This was all sent by the generous donations of Christians around the nation. The clearinghouse of this amazing ministry in Nashville was providing relief to people nationwide. It really is surprisingly efficient. Everyone would admit that Joe was a major part of that.
We were blessed to travel to Nashville ultimately and meet with the missions committee of the Brentwood Hills Church of Christ, where Joe was an elder. He and his dear wife took us to the COCDRE headquarters and we were amazed at the amount of volunteer work that was done in that place. There was a great responsibility to use the funds that were given with cautious stewardship. In addition he needed a savvy sense of operations, acquiring materials when they were available for the best price, and seeking donations from corporations and individuals. He was quite an amazing man, and very hospitable and kind.
But we weren’t expecting that.
In fact, we were dreading meeting him. Our introduction to Joe was on the phone. In our conversations on the telephone Joe was direct, unyielding, and very specific on how these donated materials would be used. The COCDRE is, first of all, a ministry. These donations are meant to be used as outreach into the community. Joe not only was very direct in the way that he spoke to us, he also followed up with calls to be sure things were going well.
Sometimes one of my partners in relief outreach would look at his phone and say, “It’s for you.” It was Joe! Of course we were smiling. The truth is that Joe Dudney took his work seriously – and he should have. On the phone he was a tough businessman, in person he was a prince. I appreciate both of those perspectives.
That’s my extent of knowing Joe Dudney. I’ll always be grateful to him. After Katrina I ate at a table he provided and my family slept in beds that came through his work. We washed our clothes – filthy from helping others – in a washer he gave us. We dried them in a dryer he gave us (and we still do). When I say he gave it to us, I mean that the Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort provided these indiscriminately to anyone in our community who had lost these items in Katrina. Hundreds of them.
Joe died this week.
If it just takes giving a cup of cold water to a stranger to please our Father, I imagine Joe had quite a reception. I’m thankful for the life he lived and the heart he had.
Thanks for reading, John.