By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Last week while I was in Houston with David Dawson of our staff providing coverage of our Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers (see stories and photos throughout this issue) Willie Nelson’s song “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” came to mind.
With due respect to Willie, I would have to change “cowboys” to DR volunteers.
Disaster relief volunteers truly are heroes. If you don’t believe it, ask those who have received a hot meal, had trees removed from their houses or property, had their houses “mucked” out and sprayed for mold, a hug at just the right time, or any other number of services that DR volunteers provide.
One of the greatest joys I have had in my nearly 30 years with the Baptist and Reflector has been the friendships I have developed with DR volunteers, past and present. They are some of God’s most dedicated servants.
In my mind I can see faces of faithful volunteers who are now in heaven while people they once worked with are still here, doing what they do best — meeting needs and providing the hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ to those who need it.
Disaster relief volunteers are some of the most selfless people I know. They are willing to put their own lives on hold to go and minister in the name of Jesus. They are the hands and feet of Jesus during times of crises when people are hurting the most.
I know of at least one volunteer who served against the advice of his doctor and another who skipped physical therapy because the needs of others were more important to them than themselves.
Last week I heard volunteers share testimonies of people they had encountered. Many had to stop and compose themselves as the tears flowed as they become overwhelmed with emotion.
I had unformed tears in my eyes as I watched DR volunteer Kathy Henry of Jefferson County provide hope and help to a 93-year-old World War II veteran in Wharton, Texas, who basically lost everything he owned. The thing that really broke my heart was to see him all alone. If it had not been for Tennessee volunteers he may have sat alone in his mold-infested home for days before receiving help.
Southern Baptists often are criticized by the secular world and the media, but no one can ever question the commitment and love that Southern Baptists have for hurting people when disaster strikes.
Southern Baptists excel in disaster relief. We have earned the respect of entities such as the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). When people see those yellow caps and shirts at a disaster scene, they know we will be there when those who rush to be first on the scene have long gone.
Pray for the thousands upon thousands of people in Texas and Louisiana who were affected by Hurricane Harvey. And pray for those who have been or will be affected by Hurricane Irma and others that may form during this hurricane season.
Hurricanes are a visible example of God’s power. Disaster relief volunteers are visible examples of God’s grace and mercy.
Tennessee Baptist volunteers will be needed in record numbers in the days and months ahead. If you have never served as a DR volunteer, pray about your role in disaster relief. If you can go, go. You will be blessed. If health or jobs prevent you from going, pray for those who do and contribute to the hurricane relief efforts.
Become one of our DR heroes. You will make a difference in someone’s life.