CARRIE, Ky. — Generations joined together from Jan. 8-12 to bring help, hope and healing to people who have been displaced since the massive flooding that hit southeastern Kentucky last summer.
A team of 37 volunteers from Knox County Baptist Association and the Baptist Collegiate Ministry of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville spent the week repairing damaged homes and working on six “tiny homes” that had been donated to residents.
For the Knox County volunteers, the week was a labor of love. Since 2016, the group has worked with BCM students on a project at least once a year, said Stanley Roach, DR director for Knox County Baptists.
The group arrived on Jan. 8 so the BCM students could be trained in disaster relief, Roach said. Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief pays for the training for the BCM students, he added.
“I enjoy so much when the BCM students can join with us to serve through disaster relief,” said Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. “I love the mixing of the generations. Each generation encourages the other. We pray that the Lord will call them to continue to serve others through DR.”
The goal is to get them interested in disaster relief so they will want to participate after they graduate from college, Roach noted.
“It’s a pre-training event for future volunteers. …
“It is a great experience for all of us. The students work hard and will do anything we ask them to do,” he added.
“I love working with DR volunteers,” said Emily Carter of Wallace Memorial Baptist Church in Knoxville. “It’s like working with a lot of dads and granddads. They have been so kind and patient in training and teaching us,” she said.
“They teach skills while encouraging us to have great attitudes and to work hard because we are making a difference in people’s lives,” Carter added.
Maggie Cole, a member of Calvary Baptist Church, Elizabethton, agreed. “The DR volunteers have been so great to teach me,” she said.
Through disaster relief, “we are able to show our love for these people because of Christ’s love and His sacrifice,” she added.
DR volunteer Troy Weaver of Cedar Hill Baptist Church, Cedar Hill, noted it was his first experience working with college students. “It’s been a special experience,” he affirmed.
“Their knowledge of the Bible has humbled me. I would work with college students every week if I could. They are so dedicated to the Lord and to the disaster relief work.”
Volunteer Vickie Thomas of First Baptist Church, Seymour, and her husband have worked with college students before.
“We fell in love with working with college students,” she said. “It gives us great hope for the future of the church and our country.
“They are awesome to work with,” she continued. “They have passion and compassion and are very teachable. They are great to be around.”
Rodney Norvell, BCM director for UTK, said that working with experienced DR volunteers is beneficial for the students in several ways.
The students learn that they can do whatever the task is, he noted. “Even if they don’t have the skills, God will provide and they can help others.”
Norvell also observed that the students are able to see volunteers from different churches, who care for each other, come together to help people. “That is good to model,” he said.
Norvell added that disaster relief has helped students “see the reality some people live with. It helps them to be more compassionate.”
The blending of generations through BCM and DR volunteers “is the church working together. That’s what we are supposed to do,” Norvell said.
As for the work itself, the volunteers worked on 13 homes and built a handicap ramp for a lady who had lost both of her legs and had trouble getting in and out of her mobile home.
The original tasks the team was assigned to do did not take nearly as long as local leaders thought, so the word went out that volunteers were available and more work came in.
“God placed us in the right hands at the right time in order for us to make use of the volunteers we had here,” he said.
Yet, so much more remains to be done, Roach said. “It was sad to see a house that we cleaned out last summer and no progress has been made because they don’t have the money to build back or the help to do the repairs.”
Roach predicted rebuilding efforts will take months and even years. “There are homes that have not even had mud out yet. Most of those will have to be torn down, he said.
Homeowners who have been helped by Tennessee Baptist DR volunteers are grateful. The volunteers have given hope, affirmed Tammie Bates: “Without them I could not have done these repairs,” she said. B&R