By Lonnie Wilkey
MOUNT JULIET — Add a couple of major tornadoes in March, sprinkled in with a large dose of unexpected COVID-19, and the end result is a lot of busy Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers.
At the end of July, Tennessee Baptist DR had already contributed 9,045 volunteer days. By contrast, DR volunteers had 5,915 days during ALL of 2019.
Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, noted that actually most of the volunteer hours were put in between March 3 and mid-June.
“And, they are almost double any other total year (since 2015),” he said.
Jones observed that DR work has slowed over the past few weeks which is a blessing because hurricane season has already begun.
Jones noted there are some teams still assisting with COVID-19 response, but, “by and large, we are slower at the moment,” he said.
He added that volunteers need a break before possibly being called out for hurricane relief efforts later this year. “Many of our volunteers needed a break because of the huge amount of work done not only in recent months, but over the past five years.
Jones, who is celebrating his fifth anniversary as TBMB DR specialist this month, noted the past five years “have been an adventure” as numerous DR opportunities have arisen. “I have been amazed over and over at the willingness and tenacity of our volunteers to serve again and again,” he said.
Jones related that he recently was asked to supply some DR statistics over the past few years. “I had never done a year by year comparison,” he said.
“I was shocked. I was tired just looking at the days and hours that the volunteers had put in, and that does not include the work that teams did locally that was not recorded,” he added.
He expressed his gratitude for volunteers from all the state’s associations and churches “as they navigate the pandemic while continuing to make Christ known to a lost and dying world.”
Other notable DR stats since the beginning of 2020 include:
• Ministry contacts: 1,181
• Gospel presentations: 153
• Professions of faith: 8
• Total meals: 31,761
• Assessments: 272
• Debris removal: 267
• Chain saw jobs: 643
• Laundry loads: 88
• Heavy equipment hours: 3,170
Since 2015, Tennessee volunteers and those who have worked alongside them have contributed 31,856 days and made 8,460 ministry contacts. In addition, chaplains have registered 976 contacts. There have been 787 gospel presentations by DR volunteers and 87 recorded professions of faith, Jones reported.
Tennessee volunteers also have provided 307,061 meals since 2015 in addition to other work such as assessments, flood and fire clean up, tear out, pressure washing, mold remediation, cutting trees and debris removal, he added.
Jones can’t say enough about the dedication of Tennessee DR workers. “I have seen volunteers work a disaster site for several weeks, return home for only a few days rest and then set out again to help somewhere else,” he noted.
“They simply won’t be deterred when it comes to using their skills and talents for the Lord,” Jones continued. “And, it’s evident that they aren’t bashful about sharing the love of Jesus Christ no matter where they are. To them, that’s more important than the services they provide.” B&R