By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
MORRISTOWN — Don Owen never ceases to be amazed at what God can do. He has seen it time and time again.
Owen, who became involved in disaster relief more than two decades ago, has seen the ministry in Nolachucky Baptist Association evolve to six ministries (DR, Baptist Builders, Midwest Food Bank, God’s Warehouse Services, Harvest of Israel and Water Rescue) currently under the umbrella of God’s Warehouse Ministries.
Though Owen oversees the general ministry, each individual ministry has a director that makes sure it is functioning and meeting needs. While Harvest of Israel operates out of the warehouse, it is an affiliated non-profit ministry with Dean Haun as president and founder.
“It started with disaster relief. As we have been faithful, God has added more,” Owen observed.
Owen saw God’s Warehouse begin in a former 11-bay garage. When they had to move due to the building being sold, Owen had no clue where they would go.
Out of the blue, he received a phone call asking if they could use a 20,000 square-foot building. Owen replied that the ministry did not have the money that would be needed to maintain such a facility. It turned out to not be a problem. The owner provided the building, including the utilities, taxes and insurance, at no cost.
“That’s how God works,” Owen observed. “It is His warehouse.”
David Hawkins, director of missions for Nolachucky Baptist Association, agreed. “God’s Warehouse is so named because it is just that. It is God’s Warehouse! Only God could have brought together such a multi-faceted mission and ministry center. And He alone is the One to receive the glory, honor and praise for what has been done, what is being done and what will be done,” Hawkins said.
“I believe any association or network of churches can trust God to bless and provide the necessary resources to serve the underserved — be it a crisis situation, domestic abuse case, single parent support or widow and widower assistance.
“Such a warehouse or center is one of the most practical ministries or mission endeavors in which churches can cooperate together (especially Baptists given our ‘cooperative’ spirit) to serve their communities,” Hawkins added.
Though it is a ministry of Nolachucky Association, it also involves volunteers from other area associations and churches that comprise what is known as the five lakeway counties in East Tennessee — Cocke, Jefferson, Hamblen, Grainger and Hawkins. Though it varies daily, Owen estimated that about 150 volunteers work at God’s Warehouse at some point each month.
Over the past 10-plus years, God’s Warehouse Ministries has provided vast quantities of food, supplies, furniture and numerous other items literally all over the world.
As people have learned of the Morristown-based ministry, which is under the auspices of Nolachucky Baptist Association, supplies, material and food arrive at the ministry each year. More often than not, Owen has never heard of or met the donors before they call and ask if the ministry can use whatever they have to give.
The only funds actually budgeted for the ministry are about $14,000 from the association. Gifts, however, pour in from local and area churches, individuals and businesses in addition to gifts from literally around the world. Owen said God’s Warehouse never suffers from a lack of resources when meeting needs.
“God never fails to provide all the funds we need as we need it,” Owen affirmed.
The recent flood in Waverly and surrounding areas and Hurricane Ida have made it a busy time at God’s Warehouse in recent weeks, he noted. In addition to meeting the needs caused by those natural disasters, God’s Warehouse has continued its local ministries and its shipment of humanitarian aid and supplies to Israel.
In cooperation with Jefferson County Baptist Association, an incident command team, led by Brock and Kathy Henry, was sent to Waverly where they served for about three weeks. They also sent other volunteers and supplies as needed.
The association’s DR team and its water rescue ministry have been involved in relief efforts in Louisiana following Hurricane Ida. A large generator was dispatched to one of their ministry partners near Hammond, La., to keep operations going there in addition to two tractor trailer loads of food and supplies, Owen said.
Owen stressed that the ministry does not just meet physical needs. When God’s Warehouse meets a local need, churches “come behind us to fulfill spiritual needs,” he said. In disaster relief work, volunteers are always prepared and ready to share Christ when those they are helping ask questions, he added.
“If we don’t tell people about Jesus, we have blown the whole thing,” Owen said. “People need the Living Water.” B&R