Photography by John Swain
Clockwise from top left: A Disaster Relief volunteer
helps remove uprooted trees in a Brandon, Mississippi, neighborhood. Chaplain
Ed Creech and his wife, Emily, of Sneads Ferry, North Carolina, comfort
hurricane victims in Meridian, Mississippi. Disaster Relief volunteer Roy
Brogden of Hendersonville, North Carolina, distributes meals in Meridian,
Mississippi. Faye Gable serves dinner to residents of Slidell, Louisiana. Jerry
Marshall of First Baptist Church, Cookeville, Texas, takes a break from
removing tree limbs and branches from residents' homes in Slidell,
everyday necessities we take for granted. Take those away and you have the
reality of people who were left vulnerable in the aftermath of this year's
Hurricanes. As katrina's victims groped for light in that dark moment, Southern
Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were there to provide a meal, a hug and,
most of all, hope.
When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita unleashed their fury along the Gulf Coast
in August and September, they left behind paths of destruction stretching
across four states. In their wake hundreds of lives were lost and countless
families lost their homes. As the nation watched helplessly in the days and
weeks after the storms, modern-day heroes in
yellow hats made their way to the affected areas bringing with them much needed
food, supplies and manpower to begin the long journey to recovery, clean-up and
the rebuilding of lives.
"Whenever I hear about a disaster, no matter where it is, I'm ready to go
and serve," says Rollo Moses of Redmond, Washington. Moses is the "blue hat"
supervisor with the Northwest Disaster Relief team stationed in Wiggins,
Mississippi. "All I want to do is help."
Volunteer Sam Galindo of Elizabethtown, North
Carolina, clears debris from a home in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Since the first days of response, the scope of Southern Baptist Disaster
Relief efforts has expanded to include water purification, childcare, chain saw
and recovery crews, shower units, laundry facilities and chaplaincy.
"This is not a sprint, this is going to be a long-term effort that has
to be sustained," says Jim Burton, director of Volunteer Mobilization at the
North American Mission Board (NAMB). "Victims of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and
Wilma will need our assistance for months to come as they begin the process of
cleaning up communities and rebuilding homes and lives."
And that's just what these volunteers aim to do. These on mission
Christians bring help, but they also bring Christ. Volunteers wielding chain
saws attack trees that have cut houses in half. After taking care of physical
needs, they pray with residents and reassure them that there is a God who loves
them and cares.
"A warm smile is so uplifting, a gentle pat is so welcome-especially when
the recipient feels broken and lost," says Dr. Bob Reccord, president, NAMB.
"These volunteers are doing vital work, the effective combination of ministry
Ben Styles, pastor of New Canaan Baptist Church in Somerville, Alabama,
recounted that the mother of one of his church members, who lives in Covington,
Louisiana, was relieved when Southern Baptists arrived "almost immediately
after the hurricane, and they came with their chain saws and food."
At the time Baptists were the only group helping in hard-hit Covington.
"Both the mother and the daughter were thrilled with the response of Southern
Baptists," says Styles.
Renee Sullivan (left)and Caitlin Scanson (right)
of Billings, Montana, help prepare meals for Biloxi residents.
"We've known of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams for years and
have personally known some of their members," says Don Mackens of Hattiesburg,
Mississippi. "But this is the first time we've seen them in action or needed
them. We cannot begin to express our gratitude for all they are doing to help
Mississippi recover from the aftermath of Katrina.
"They were first on the scene and seem to be everywhere, even in areas where
no one else has gone yet. What a testimony you have been for our Lord. It makes
us proud to be Southern Baptist."
As the situation worsened in New Orleans and other affected areas, disaster
relief volunteers faced their own set of challenges as they assisted people
without the most basic needs. Because the destruction was so widespread,
disaster relief units were stretched further than they had been in previous
"We were hit with a lot of challenges at the onset of our response," Burton
says. "The mass of this disaster, plus the road conditions, the heat and the
trauma continued to exasperate our efforts. However, it did not quench our
resolve. Even under extraordinary conditions, our volunteers are committed to
completing this task and helping the people who are hurting."
The day-to-day operation of a disaster relief unit isn't easy. Volunteers
work 18-hour days and then lay their heads wherever they can find space. They
sleep on the ground, in churches, RVs, community centers, even jails.
But the sacrifice is worth it when you see the gratitude of those we're
serving, say volunteers.
"We're where we need to be," says Steve Stancil of North Carolina. "God has
us here for a reason."
Jim Futral, executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board,
says that Southern Baptist volunteers are carrying the light of Christ as they
serve those devastated by the storms. Mississippi is among the Baptist state
conventions activated to provide disaster relief services following
"We're not having folks saved only on Sunday, we're having folks saved day
after day after day. In the two weeks after Katrina one of our churches helping
displaced folks had more than 50 people saved," says Futral. "Thousands of
people are experiencing what it means to be touched by people with the love of
Jesus... and Southern Baptist volunteers are doing it."
According to Burton, Southern Baptists will have plenty of opportunities to
serve and offer hope to the victims of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
"Clean-up and recovery operations continue to grow," he says. "With both chain
saw crews and mud-out crews, we anticipate a rise in activity that will
probably remain steady throughout the year."
Volunteers will continue to carry the light of the gospel through the Gulf
region, and those who are touched along the way will always remember those
heroes in yellow.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has more than 600 mobile disaster response
units and 30,000 trained volunteers ready at a moment's notice to respond when
disaster strikes. If disaster relief is your on mission adventure, contact your
state Baptist convention office and request information from the DR director or
Contributions to support the disaster relief response
may be sent to state conventions, associations or churches responding to the
effort, or to the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Fund. Donations to Southern
Baptist Disaster Relief may be made online atwww.namb.net/disasterrelief, or by
calling 888-571-5895. Contributions also can be mailed to
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, North American Mission Board, P.O. Box
116543, Atlanta, Georgia, 30368-6543.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC