Carl Rudek has always been a people person. It’s what drew him to pastoral ministry. But just one month after he retired from full-time ministry, his wife said to him, “We need to re-evaluate your retirement,” Rudek recalled with a laugh.
So he got a job working in the cafeteria of a local school.
And then one day he saw a video of the destruction following a natural disaster.
“I saw this video and I thought about all those people who must be hurting, and I thought, ‘I should do something with the way I feel,’” he said. “So often we say things like, ‘Oh, that’s so sad,’ but there’s a point where we have to do something.”
For Rudek, that something was getting trained for Disaster Relief work through the General Convention of Oklahoma Baptists. That was several years ago, and he’s currently serving as the chaplain at the Incident Command Center in Bayou Vista, Louisiana.
“This work is tiring, but in a good way. It’s revived my spirit,” said Rudek, who’s been able to share devotionals with his fellow volunteers every morning.
After Rudek retired, he moved to Shawnee, Oklahoma, right around the time that COVID-19 shut down much of Americans’ daily life. Because he’s had trouble getting connected, he hasn’t preached a sermon in a year and half. But with Disaster Relief, he gets to serve his fellow volunteers and the local residents in a more pastoral way.
“I’ve gotten to talk to people who’ve been hurting, and you get to pray with them,” he said. “When I see someone new I try to do what my grandma used to say and ‘jump on them like a chicken on a June bug.’”
Rudek and his wife, Shelba, serve with Disaster Relief together, and they’ve even been able to get their four sons involved.
“No matter what situation you’re in God’s got you there for a purpose,” he said.