‘Operation Oreo’ ~ A Way to Remember 9/11


‘Operation Oreo’ an on-going effort at area church
Written by Larry Limpf
Thursday, 08 September 2011 15:19

All but a few pews were full at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church near Elmore the evening of Sept. 11, 2001.

A prayer service brought together members of Bethel United Brethren Church, St. Paul Trinity United Methodist Church, St. John’s United Church of Christ, as well as Grace Evangelical.

Asked by the Rev. David Nevergall, of Grace Evangelical, for their ideas on how the churches could respond to the tragedy, those attending suggested writing letters of support to first responders involved in rescue operations, the military, and victims’ families.

Donating blood to the Red Cross and contacting churches in the New York area to offer assistance were also suggested.

The roar of a military jet overhead could be heard while the suggestions were being discussed.

Reflecting on that night, Rev. Nevergall last week said many congregants reached out to members of the military.

“Shortly after the attacks, as the first troops were sent to Afghanistan, Grace became aware of the need for a ‘touch of home’ for troops stationed overseas,” he said. “Our initial contacts with a unit of the 81st Airborne told us that of all the things they missed it was the simple, everyday stuff which seemed to be most important  – things like Oreo cookies. From that response ‘Operation Oreo’ was born. And since the fall of 2001 we have sent literally hundreds of goody boxes – each of them containing a full-size package of Oreos – every other month to troops deployed overseas.

“In the months when we don’t send a box, we send a letter or card. The idea is that, at least for the troops on our Operation Oreo list, there is always a regular touch from home reminding them that there are folks back here loving them, praying for them, and appreciating the sacrifices that they are making. And we are committed to continuing this effort until all the troops are back.”

Two members of Grace Evangelical as well as several relatives of members have served multiple tours in front line positions, he said. “We know what it’s like to weep when a soldier leaves, to pray for his or her safety, and to rejoice at his or her homecoming. That has a deeply personal impact,”

A colleague of Rev. Nevergall’s worked as a chaplain at the Twin Towers site during the clean-up operation. Stories he recounts of his experiences there “will move your heart.”

The attack and its aftermath have made him and his congregants more aware of the service of local emergency personnel and the sacrifices they make.

He’s changed in other ways, too.

“If nothing else, the attacks made clear the objective reality of evil in the world. That there are forces arrayed and working against good can hardly be a question in a post 9-11 world,” he said. “Such knowledge adds a sense of urgency to our desire to respond to and live out God’s call in our lives.”

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