As I passed through mile after mile of
destroyed coastline, decimated neighborhoods, and entire cities in shambles
after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I was reminded that for every ruined house,
every business rendered useless, lives are shattered into pieces. Moments like
that boil life down to the basics-faith in God, love for family and commitment
to community and friends.
What an encouragement it was to witness God's hand in the work of Southern
Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers. Their yellow hats and shirts were the
colors of hope in storm-ravaged places that otherwise looked so bleak and
desperate. And here's what amazes me: people who give themselves away turn out
to be the happiest people I know.
I visited Covington, Louisiana, four days after Katrina made landfall and
spoke with volunteers staging operations from the parking lot of First Baptist
Church. That's where I met Freddie Arnold, a "blue hat" supervisor. Like
others, he was working in pretty rough conditions during those early days of
the relief operation.
When I asked how his own home had fared, he told me it was under 18 feet of
water. But then he added: "Where else would I be? I have my faith, my wife and
my health-I've got everything I need. It's not much, but I'm giving all I've
got to help others in need." Even facing such huge personal loss and tragedy,
Freddie was there, helping others and serving his Lord.
During a later visit to Mississippi, I met a couple who had served in the
field for three weeks straight. "When will you take a break?" I asked. They
told me they were heading home that weekend to clear trees from their own
property but would be back with their disaster relief unit the following Monday
to continue serving. The love of Christ is shining through Southern Baptist
volunteers like them, and it's a love that's making a difference.
Near Mobile, after a group of volunteers cleared his driveway of trees so he
could get to work, a man was overcome with the kindness. Instead of racing off
to the office, he knelt in his yard, still soggy from hurricane rains and
prayed to receive Christ.
The summer's hurricanes provided dramatic examples of the difference
volunteer mission efforts can make in peoples' lives, but they are by no means
the only way to serve. Each summer we need thousands who can assist new church
starts and help existing churches reach out more effectively to their
In our Strategic Cities like New York and Miami, we need volunteers who can
participate in special evangelistic efforts ranging from sports camps to
painting schools to making door-to-door visits through neighborhoods. It's all
focused on demonstrating God's love and developing opportunities to share the
salvation only Christ can bring.
How can you get started in the volunteer missions adventure?
First, be available. We live in a hurried society with competing priorities,
and it's hard to even imagine finding time to help others. But when we make
ministry service a priority and are willing to set other things aside, we're
demonstrating to God and people who know us, what truly matters in
Second, be prepared. When disasters like Katrina and Rita strike, only those
trained in disaster relief are called to be first responders. Contact your
state Southern Baptist convention (listed at www.sbc.net) to find out when they offer Disaster
Relief training. And be prepared spiritually. For any mission trip, know how to
share your faith and start praying well in advance for God to give you
opportunities. The better prepared you are through training, prayer and your
personal walk with God, the more opportunities He will give you to share
Finally, be active. Visit www.namb.net to
learn about volunteer mission opportunities throughout the United States and
Canada. Contact your state Southern Baptist convention office to find out about
mission opportunities in your state. You will be amazed at the many
opportunities awaiting you.
Jesus said: "The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. Pray to
the Lord who is in charge of the harvest, and ask him to send out more workers
for his fields." As Christians, we don't have to wonder if we are to be among
those workers-Jesus commands us to go. Pray that we'll be faithful to the call
and that others will follow.
Don't wait for the next disaster. Jump into the missions adventure today and
watch what God will do.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC