In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and O’Deens was a first responder.
“I flew into Houston [and] drove to Baton Rouge, which was the headquarters for the project,” he says. “I had the opportunity to go down into New Orleans. But I heard that they were looking for leadership in Shreveport [another three-and-a-half¬hour drive]. That’s where they were busing all the people.”
He arrived in Shreveport after midnight and talked to an elderly lady at the headquarters. She told him to get some rest and come back the next morning. When he did, she said she had already talked to the captain of the Red Cross in Shreveport about him.
“I don’t know who you are,” she said. “I just know that you’re the person to lead our operation.”
So he did.
“I just took charge,” he recalls. “I cleared out an area. I made it my Op Center. I created my own system. We were still receiving busloads of people, displaced people. [They had been] in waters with dead bodies and everything else. We had to take them through the whole triage class.”
During the time he helped with the Katrina disaster, O’Deens led 10 counties and eight major mass care shelters in the relief efforts. It was not only a learning experience, but a glimpse into his future.
A Challenging Observation
Around that time, someone remarked that O’Deens had done the work in Shreveport on his own, and that was good. The individual also said that others were sending out people from their churches. It was an observation that challenged his thinking.
“What that said is that I believe that the church is the hope of the world when it’s working right,” O’Deens says. “And I don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing things on an island unto myself with the Red Cross just because I can. How can I do what I do and leverage it for the church?”
The idea for a compassion ministry began to form. The result was the birth of CPR-3. He chose CPR, a phrase used most often for cardiopulmonary resuscitation that captures the essence of the ministry: “breathing life and hope into the world.” The “3” represents the stages of a crisis or catastrophe: relief, rehabilitation, and development, according to O’Deens, who resigned his pastorate in mid-2010 to devote his time to the new organization. He began to raise his own support, as the ministry is funded by donations.
“CPR-3 exists to come alongside individuals or groups to align them to missional and incarnational ministry that balances both sides of the cross: caring for physical and spiritual needs,” he explains.
“Our focus is on relief (from the point of a crisis to the stoppage of bleeding), rehabilitation (from the stoppage of bleeding to where the affected area was prior to the crisis), and development (an area reserved for developing countries).
“My passion is to train and prepare churches and other groups so that they’re ready to be deployed in the face of a crisis,” he adds.
“I’ve created a structure so that bureaucracy is not going to slow down the process. In crisis, you have to make a decision now. You can’t wait forever.”
The aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti provided the newly-organized CPR-3 with a perfect opportunity to help. After only one year in Haiti, CPR-3 has been instrumental in building 550 homes and shelters, plus developing four training centers, new schools, and a Bible Institute.
Not only are physical needs being met, but spiritual needs as well. Hundreds of Haitians have made decisions for Christ, and O’Deens is currently working with three families who are raising support to go to Haiti as career missionaries.
One major step for the new organization took place at the 2010 annual conference of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches (FGBC), when CPR-3 was accepted as a Cooperating Ministry of the Fellowship.
O’Deens thinks that “the greatest part of the FGBC is that we are family. Grace Brethren churches can get involved [in CPR-3] because CPR-3 has a proven model now that is working. A church can partner with a Haitian village and pastor. Together they can work and serve and learn from one another.
“CPR-3 is training pastors in its Bible Institute and we can work out the logistics for groups to travel and invest in a growing number of ‘sustainable’ mission opportunities,” O’Deens notes. “You would be surprised how a small investment can be multiplied in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere— Haiti!”
He sees partnering as the greatest opportunity for Grace Brethren people: a church can partner with a Haitian church; a business with a business; a school with a school in Haiti.
Haiti is not the only country that CPR-3 is targeting. “We will be moving into Kenya as the Lord opens those doors,” he says.
Joe Caruso, pastor of mobilization at Grace Church, a Grace Brethren congregation in Akron, Ohio, says, “CPR-3 is challenging our people to think beyond the normal types of aid, to go beyond relief and even rehabilitation, and think about the development of a people typically overlooked.
“CPR-3 works to network all types of resources, from other on-the-ground organizations to the people traveling on their trips. They do a great job of using what’s available to be the most effective, efficient, and God-honoring.”
Honoring God and helping His people. They’re simple goals with unlimited possibilities.
“I’m here to serve,” O’Deens says. “The opportunities in our world are great. I want to serve my Fellowship. It’s my family. I need people to come alongside as partners who have a heart and a passion.”
A young boy enjoys breakfast in the orphanage operated by CPR-3.
Dr Eric Brown, from Grace Church in Akron, Ohio, cares for a child in what will soon be a hospital in Haiti.
Joe Caruso and a team from Grace Church in Akron, Ohio, distribute Sawyer Water Filters in partnership with Convoy of Hope.