At the age of 25, Colleen Fabling is leading teams of thousands to provide humanitarian aid in Richmond, VA, and across the U.S.
This month, she helped deploy a rapid response team to the Lake Charles area to help clean up and rebuild after the storms that have devastated the area.
“All of this started when I got saved at the age of 16,” Colleen says.
“I grew up in a church family but it was when I was a teen that I hit rock bottom for myself. During that time I was invited to join an outreach through Resurrection Disaster Relief, a non-profit based in Richmond, VA. That was when I first understood what God can do with brokenness.”
Colleen watched dilapidated houses be stripped to the studs and rebuilt into habitable spaces. It resonated with her as a visual representation of what the gospel does in our lives.
“Other individuals in the group shared testimonies of salvation and blessings, and members of the community were helping in ways I had never seen before. I thought, ‘This is real. This is what I want!’ That is when I gave my life to the Lord.”
Colleen remained active in humanitarian relief efforts throughout her college years, and she even led a trip from TBC to Houston in the aftermath of hurricane Harvey (2017).
In the spring of 2018, graduation was looming. Colleen was searching for a job, and nothing was panning out.
“I knew very specifically what God had called me to. I was so discouraged. So, one night I just laid it all down: my dreams, the applications I had filled out, my desire to be based close to family, my passion to be in full-time humanitarian ministry, everything.
Literally two days later I got a call – out of the blue – from the director of Resurrection Disaster Relief. He said, ‘Colleen, I’m getting older, I want to turn over the ministry to someone who is young and passionate. I want to know if you would be interested in being the director here. Would you pray about it?’ I was like, ARE YOU KIDDING?! I already prayed about it, YES!”
It was such a wonderful moment. I could hardly believe it. It was literally my dream job, and I would get to be home in VA, where I could watch my nieces and nephews grow up. I was over the moon.”
As Director of Resurrection Disaster Relief, Colleen oversees and organizes local fundraising and event planning, and meets with homeowners who have been nominated for aid.
Many RDR projects center around home repairs for widows, single mothers, disabled individuals, and those seeking employment.
For the past two years, Colleen has put her heart and soul into her work. And then 2020 hit. At the beginning of lockdown, every single project came to a screeching halt. Looking back, Colleen laughs,
“Now, when you tell a doer they can’t do, they immediately work on figuring out what needs to be done to make doing possible!”
Deeply discouraged, she spent a lot of time in heart-to-hearts with God.
“Lord, I can’t just do nothing. You created me to meet needs, and right now there are so many in need! There’s only so much paperwork… I can’t just sit here!’
“He took me to John 15… this passage emphasizes abiding in Christ because without Him we can do nothing. I realized that if I wanted God to teach me through this it would have to flow out of deep, purposeful abiding with Him.”
So that is what Colleen did. She spent her days praying and reading the word, pleading for direction. In time, she found clarity on ways to move forward with her mission to help others.
As soon as they could, RDR shifted gears from manual labor to delivering groceries. They dreamed up creative ways to fundraise and assess needs. The first time out they delivered groceries to over 100 families and it grew quickly from there. The last two scheduled deliveries they served 250 family units!
Each grocery delivery event costs approximately 11K-12K, financed by donations and fundraisers.
Currently, restrictions have been lifted so RDR is able to resume home repairs, but now they have an entirely new branch of ministry in place!
Each project weekend consists of gospel training in the morning hours followed by hands-on service in the afternoon. Teams scatter all over the city to deliver groceries or work on homes. They’ve ministered to families living in motels, single parents, shut-ins, and refugees.
Colleen is excited to see RDR continue to meet needs in the community and expand to welcome a whole new demographic of volunteers.
“Some people feel they can’t necessarily swing a hammer or climb up on a roof. But they can deliver groceries and have conversations. They are learning that they can still serve their neighbors in a very practical way and it opens doors to share the gospel. It has been amazing to watch.”
In addition to her role as director at RDR, Colleen also serves as a crew leader and worship leader for a separate national non-profit, Eight Days of Hope.
This organization serves all areas of the country and mobilizes emergency response teams as well as rebuilding teams.
Between the two organizations, Colleen is constantly leading everything from massive projects (sometimes with groups of over 4,000 volunteers), to small teams of 5-6 individuals. Her happy place is getting into the thick of it and working one-on-one with those in need. Her personal favorite is roofing!
Leading humanitarian aid on such a large scale requires structure, strategy, and planning. Lots of planning.
As you can imagine, everything has to be ready well in advance when a team goes into a devastated area – nothing is available where they are going!
Planning takes months. Eight Days of Hope has over 40k volunteers in their database and from all across the country. Many volunteers plan their vacations around when they can join a team! Colleen loves the family-friendly aspect of the outreach.
“We do trips for 8 straight days and they’re open to families of all ages and sizes, church groups, business groups, you name it. Some families pitch tents or bring a trailer so they can serve as a family with their toddlers and elementary kids. These groups come in after the rapid response team, so they can muck out houses and rebuild.”
Colleen plans to create new ways to involve individuals and families at RDR.
One of her dreams is to connect families and small groups with one individual or family in Richmond. The idea is to serve that household for an entire week: get to know them, do home repairs, yard work, deliver groceries, clean, whatever needs to be done. The end goal is to create a lasting connection that goes far beyond a short-term humanitarian aid project.
There are so many ways to help on both the national and local level.
Are you local to Richmond? Check out the Resurrection Disaster Relief website to learn more or to sign up! >>> https://www.resurrectiondisasterrelief.org/
Eight Days of Hope is a national organization that is open to all ages and group sizes. There is always a wide variety of projects on the list – check out more information on their website here >>> https://eightdaysofhope.com/