How do you categorize a disaster? Mainstream media tends to use statistics and numbers to express the impact disasters bring. In reality there is no way to quantify devastation when human lives are lost. Storms can be scientifically measured and destruction may be claimed, but what the human soul endures and how it copes can’t be measured.
It has been two months since the tornados of May tore through Oklahoma, and yet the damage left in their wake is still noticeable. However, the damage would be much more noticeable if not for the volunteers of the many organizations that aided Oklahomans in their time of need. Devoted people such as the trained volunteers of the Southern Baptist Disaster relief call-out crews offer stepping stones for rebuilding. Under the direction of Sam Porter of the Oklahoma Baptist General Convention, the disaster relief call out crews combined their efforts with other state Baptist conventions, including those from Idaho and Utah to methodically help the Moore and Shawnee areas. Amidst the chaos of destruction the state conventions worked closely with the Red Cross to orchestrate restoration, which provided a light at the end of the tunnel for many Oklahomans.
The Southern Baptist Disaster relief ministry began in Texas in 1967, creating a mission to share the love of Jesus Christ with those who have been impacted by a disaster. Within ten years, nine other surrounding states also developed disaster relief ministries of their own. The Southern Baptist disaster relief ministry now consist of over 80,000 trained volunteers nation wide, making them the largest group of trained volunteers for disasters in America. Their relief is broken down into two areas including both mass care and recovery operations.
Mass care consists of feeding, sheltering, and counseling those affected by disasters. In conjunction with the Red Cross, the Southern Baptist Disaster relief provides meals with their highly effective mobile kitchens. In fact nearly 95% of Red Cross meals come from their mobile kitchens.
The second phase of their relief efforts is recovery operations. This is where they assist homeowners start their rebuilding process. They do this by cleaning up debris with chainsaws and heavy equipment. Mark Madison has worked countless disasters. As the Director for Disaster Relief for the Salt Lake Baptist Association, he has seen the impact of using heavy equipment during the relief progress. He commented on the use of heavy equipment for their recovery operations.
“Donated equipment is critical to our clean up effort. Logistically, equipment is essential because it can get a lot done with very little man power. The benefits of having donated equipment such as the Kubota skid steer from Great Plains can’t be stressed enough. I’ve seen everything from Kubota tractors and backhoes to the skid steer that were used in Moore, all of which are important for safety and productivity,” Madison stated.
Don Nesbitt has been on call out crews for this ministry since 2006. His recent deployment to the Moore, Okla. area lasted about a week. During this time he served on a chainsaw crew and primarily cut down trees that had fallen on houses. As a volunteer for both the Southern Baptist Disaster relief and the Red Cross, Nesbitt’s life focuses on being prepared for the next chance to serve, no matter what the need might be. Nesbitt commented on the joy he gets from being a part disaster relief call-outs crews.
“I think people appreciate knowing someone has made time and effort to help, both with physical cleanup and the concern for them personally. This has been the common response in every disaster relief I’ve been on, and it was true for Moore as well. I really like seeing a big mess cleaned up. Even more, I like getting to know the people we help. Being a Christian, my greatest joy is to see how someone’s life has been blessed because Jesus called to serve. I can not give to any effort more than what I receive. I am very blessed to be able to help,” said Nesbitt.
The help offered by volunteers during these times goes beyond shelter and cleanup. It literally saves lives. A recent letter accounts where one team was working with a woman whose home had been demolished and she was obviously very depressed. This was
a large job that took several days in which this team
prayed with her, shared with her, and listened to her. On the last day the woman confided to the team that she was alone and previously believed that no one cared for her, not even God, and that she had decided to commit suicide. She testified that it was their ministry and caring that ultimately changed her mind.
Perhaps the most important disaster relief this organization provides is relief of the soul. Long after the clean up crews have gone and houses have been rebuilt, the love of Jesus Christ shared by these volunteers will still be there. Among all the volunteered groups that organize and combine efforts the one true credit goes to whom they serve, Jesus.
It is said that the best things in life are free. The cleanup efforts of the volunteers are certainly free to the recipients, but costly to the volunteers who sacrificed their time and money to help others. The message of spending eternity with God shared by the volunteers was also free, but came at a great cost to God as he sacrificed his son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins. The relief of the soul comes from the simple acceptance of this ultimate sacrifice.
By Reed Boettcher – Great Plains Kubota