BCM students spend part of Christmas break repairing homes, sharing love of Jesus
By David Dawson
Baptist & Reflector
ORANGE, Texas — The recent holiday season was more about spiritual gifts than Christmas gifts for a group of roughly 100 Baptist Collegiate Ministry students.
Traveling to Orange, Texas, during their Christmas break, the BCM group joined Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief teams to help aid the city’s recovery from the effects of Hurricane Harvey.
The members of the BCM group took on a series of assignments — including hanging drywall, installing insulation, and general clean-up — during their week-long stay (Dec. 30-Jan. 6) in the flood-damaged town located in the southeastern corner of Texas. By the end of their trip, the students had insulated and drywalled 17 homes in Orange County.
“It was so exciting to see university students from campuses all across the state that were willing to give up time at home with family and friends to serve Christ,” said Bill Choate, the collegiate ministries director for the TBMB. “We are so glad to have college students discovering disaster relief. It is our prayer that we raise up a next generation of disaster relief leaders and workers.”
In addition to the manual labor that was performed by the college students, the members of the group also were able to build relationships and engage in potentially life-changing conversations with the citizens of Orange. At the end of each day, the 88 members of the BCM group met with the homeowners to pray for them and share Christ.
“We built physical walls while God was busy replacing emotional walls with spiritual freedom,” said Leah Grubb, a student from Austin Peay State University, Clarksville.
For many members of the BCM group, the trip represented their first experience with Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief — and it made a lasting impression.
“Orange, Texas, will always have a special place in my heart,” said Ellie Davenport, a senior at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro. “After all the damage that was done, the homeowners we encountered were the most joyful, positive people I have been around. It is such a joy to see how faithful they remain in God.”
Grubb said the memories of the trip will last a lifetime: “I’ve served on quite a few mission trips, but this was my first time doing disaster relief,” she said. “I was not prepared for how our time in Texas would impact me.”
The students, in turn, made a huge impact on the town as they joined forces with the men and women in the bright-yellow hats and T-shirts to work on the DR projects.
“It was great to see the enthusiasm, heart and attitude that the students had as they served those affected by the hurricane,” said Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the TBMB. “It was very cold that week, but thanks to their efforts, many of the homes were able to be heated once again. The students and their leaders shared Christ and loved on the homeowners and neighbors they met.”
Jones worked alongside the college students for several days during the trip. “To see the next generation picking up the hammers, utility knives, impact drivers, and other tools to serve their fellow man and share the love of Christ was awesome,” he said.
Haley Cowley, associate campus minister at MTSU, said she was impressed that so many students were willing to sacrifice their free time — a precious commodity for college students — to serve others and share the gospel.
“The students took a week of their winter break to help the people in Texas,” Cowley said. “And in the process, a truly awesome thing happened: The college students were the ones who received the blessing. It was amazing how impactful this trip was for them.”
During their stay, the students formed a relationship with a lady named Susan whose house had been badly damaged by flooding. “I was in water up to my knees before I knew it,” Susan told the BCM group, adding that she had to be rescued by boat when the waters suddenly poured into her home. “I was so shocked.”
Despite substantial damage, Susan returned to her home and continued living there amid the destruction. The BCM group was able to help Susan repair much of the damage, and Susan was amazed by the group’s compassion.
“I just can’t believe you guys are here helping me,” Susan told the BCM group. “I am not glad the storm came, but I guess I kind of am. It made me start going back to church and I now have gotten to meet you all.”
Jones, the DR specialist, said the members of the group continuously searched for ways to share the gospel, even in the most unusual of places and situations.
“Many of the homes where the work was being done did not have working bathrooms and the students would have to find other locations to use,” said Jones. “On one project, they were told they could use the restroom in the liquor store nearby. By the end of the day, the students had made a connection with the owner of the store and were able to pray with her.”
The success of the trip was due, at least in part, to the cooperative spirit among the BCM leaders and students from different campuses around the state.
“There is a great deal of unity within Tennessee BCM,” said Choate, “with campus ministers combining their leadership to direct this mission opportunity.”
Jones said he was encouraged to see the college students actively engage in the disaster relief efforts. “It is exciting to see the heart and passion that the younger generation has to go, learn, and serve,” said Jones. “Many of the students had never done this type of work before, but by the end of the week, they were blowing through the job orders.”
Jones said Baptists all around the state can take pride and ownership of the work that has been done in Texas.
“I am thankful for the volunteers and the faithfulness of Tennessee Baptist churches through their giving through the Cooperative Program and Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions and other generous gifts that made it possible to bring help, hope and healing to those affected by Hurricane Harvey,” he said. B&R