By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
SUGAR LAND, TEXAS — Providing comfort to others in their time of need is the primary mission of the Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief teams.
In the process, the team members often provide comfort to each other, too.
Following the death of their husbands, longtime DR volunteers Joyce Curington and Nancy McClanahan relied on the compassion of their team members to get them through the difficult periods.
“Being with the people on our team, and just having the fellowship with them, has been so important to me,” said McClanahan, noting that the support and sympathy of her “teammates” has been vital to her emotional recovery.
Curington agreed, saying that the tight bond in the group, along with the opportunity to help others and serve the Lord, is what she considers the most rewarding aspects of being a DR team member.
“I definitely find it therapeutic to be doing this,” she said.
McClanahan and Curington were among the DR volunteers who were deployed to Sugar Land, Texas, to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
McClanahan, a member of Vonore Baptist Church, Vonore, and Curington, a member of Roseberry Baptist Church, Mascot, arrived in the Houston area on Sept. 3 with their other yellow-shirted friends to serve on the mobilization unit that operated out of the parking lot of Sugar Land Baptist Church.
Their mission was to provide “a cold glass of water and hot meal in Jesus’ name,” said Jim Ramey, the mass feeding coordinator for Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief who helped oversee the team in Sugar Land.
Curington and McClanahan were part of a team that was scheduled to have a week-long stay in the Houston area.
While there, the DR team members start their duties early in the morning, and spend much of the day preparing food. Working together with the local Red Cross, the food is distributed to some of those who have been hit the hardest by the hurricane.
Other DR teams fufilled additional duties, including major repair work on homes in the area, and the removal of tree branches and debris.
McClanahan and her late husband, Sam, first joined the DR team in 2004. They served together for more than a decade before Sam passed away in September of 2016. McClanahan decided to continue to serve on the DR team as a way to remain connected to her husband.
“It makes me closer to him,” she said, choking back tears.
Curington said she, too, feels a special connection to her late husband, Bill, when she is called into duty with the DR volunteers.
“I am right where he wants me to be,” she said.
Curington joined the DR team with her husband, Bill, in 1990. They served together for 22 years before Bill passed away in June of 2012. Curington has continued volunteering in the five years since his death.
“It definitely felt different without him at first,” said Curington. “And I still have my moments when its really hard to do this without him. When I first come in (to a new assignment), that’s the hardest part. But I just have to get through that. Because after that, it’s still very rewarding.”
The members of the DR teams say that their connection to one another transcends simply being co-workers or team members.
“The bond that is formed is wonderful,” said Kay James, a member of First Baptist Church, Tellico Plains, who has worked with the DR team for nine years. “I tell people all the time that I have three families — my blood family, my church family and my DR family.”
McClanahan said her husband was “planning on getting a trailer so we could go out even more” before his death. “He and another man were planning to mud out and do chain saw work and do whatever was needed — because that’s what we did. We did it all.”
Many members of the DR team drove long distances to be at Sam’s funeral, McClanahan said, and a large number of them were dressed in something special to honor Sam’s memory: “There were yellow shirts all over the church,” she said.