By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BATON ROUGE, La. — Nearly 70 Baptist Collegiate Ministries students from three Tennessee campuses (University of Tennessee-Knoxville; Belmont University, Nashville; and Tennessee Tech University, Cookeville) used their fall break to help flood victims in Louisiana.
In addition, a team from Walters State Community College in Morristown did disaster relief work in West Virginia.
The Tennessee college students did mudout in homes in the greater Baton Rouge area following heavy flooding in the state in August.
Rodney Norvell, BCM director at UT-Knoxville, noted the trip was “a great example of Baptists working together. We are the body of Christ and we act like the body when we come together. Young and old; BCM and disaster relief; churches, associations, conventions and ministries; people coming from Tennessee, Oklahoma, and West Virginia all coming to Louisiana when there was a need.
“Our students learned so much in talking with homeowners about their loss and ministering to them. In the church that we helped out I was speaking with a deacon, who actually said the storm was a blessing,” Norvell said.
The deacon told Norvell that the church “had so many sacred cows” before the disaster, “but now God has washed all that away and so they could begin anew.”
One of the houses where UT served was owned by a man (Vincent) that was a health care worker and musician, Norvell related. “We had to haul his piano out on the first day and dump it on the street. He just broke down and cried. The next day was his birthday so our team got him a card, a cake, and a balloon to lighten his burden.
“He said we helped create hope and he knew that we were the real deal. Vincent even stopped by the church on the last day to say goodbye. Our team prayed with him several times.”
The Knoxville students were accompanied by 10 members of the disaster relief flood recovery team from Lyons Creek Baptist Church in Strawberry Plains.
Stanley Roach of Lyons Creek served as the “Blue Cap” for the team which helped get five homes ready for a “rebuild” and fogged 10 homes for mold remediation.
“Along with much hard work, the students took time to prayerwalk the community, share their faith and the gospel with homeowners, and pray with the homeowners they worked for,” Roach said.
“They worked with extraordinary joy, enthusiasm, and focus. The students were a blessing to all, and it is our prayer that some will be able to serve again in disaster relief,” Roach added.
Lou Musland, disaster relief director for Knox County Baptist Association, agreed. “The accolades have been pouring in, praising the students’ hard work and the sincere empathetic way they related to the flood victims in Louisiana,” he observed.
“They brought help, healing, and a message of hope in Christ Jesus to the hurting in Baton Rouge,” Musland added.
The BCM students were trained just like any other disaster relief volunteer, said Wes Jones, who led a training session at the BCM in Knoxville, which was videoed, and shown to students on the other two campuses. Jones is disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
“The students did a fantastic job,” Jones said. He noted that the college students “provide a lot of energy and excitement” to the disaster relief teams they work alongside.
“We hope this is only the beginning of seeing the next generation becoming involved in disaster relief,” Jones added.
Helping the hurricane victims impacted the students who participated.
“The Louisiana trip was so incredible in that we went there to serve others and all went away talking about how much the trip did for us,” said Cameron Cornwell, a student from Tennessee Tech. “The people we met could not and would not stop praising God amongst all their trials and we left only wishing we could do more,” she added.
Haley Hood, a student from UT-K observed that “people lost everything in the … . Their homes were gutted and now lie on curbs all throughout the city, but the Lord showed me that beauty can rise from ashes.
“I met people who lost everything and still had joy unspeakable. I pray today that everyone finds that joy and rise above every difficulty you face. We serve a God who is bigger.”
Tori Quinton, another UT-K student, said the trip helped her really learn what “it means to be Jesus’ hands and feet. I was able to meet families and share the Word of God with those people and grow myself thanks to disaster relief.”
Quinton added that “missions trips really do make all the difference in the world when it comes to opening our eyes and helping families in ways we couldn’t even imagine.”