BCM teams join forces with Disaster Relief members to provide aid to hurricane victims in North Carolina
By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
WARSAW, N.C. — Some were Buccaneers. Some were Governors. Others were Mockingbirds, Volunteers, Tigers, Flames, Raiders and more.
But for a few days in January, this group of more than 100 college students — representing roughly a dozen universities from around the state of Tennessee — came together as one team.
And they had one goal: Serving others in the name of Jesus.
Sacrificing part of their Christmas breaks, the big contingent of Baptist Collegiate Ministry students traveled to Warsaw, N.C., to join forces with Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief teams to provide support and aid to those recovering from Hurricane Florence.
“It is always amazing to see students so willing to give time over their breaks to go and serve, but this trip is especially unique and special because we have so many of our BCMs serving together,” said Tennessee Baptist Mission Board collegiate ministry specialist Stacy Murphree, the BCM campus leader at Austin Peay. “Students from all across the state had the chance to meet and work alongside each other.”
The BCM teams made two trips to North Carolina — the weeks of Dec. 29-Jan. 5 and Jan. 6-11 — to help with various rebuilding projects. The first week included BCM students from Cleveland State, UT Chattanooga, the University of Tennessee (Knoxville), Lee University, and East Tennessee State. The second week included students from Austin Peay, the University of Memphis, Southwest Community College, Motlow State, and MTSU.
“It was a great partnership experience, getting to serve with disaster relief volunteers across the state,” said Murphree, who traveled with the group on the second trip.
“It was such a wonderful experience to get to work with these volunteers who give their time to serve alongside our students.”
Working in teams of eight to 10 people, the college students installed drywall, tore out and put in new insulation, and completed flooring and painting projects. Each collegiate team worked with two or three Tennessee Baptist DR volunteers from various parts of the state.
Murphree said the BCM students shared the good news of Jesus amid the devastation and sadness.
DR volunteer Stanley Roach coordinated the first week and Chuck Thacker served as the coordinator on the second trip.
Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the TBMB, also traveled to Warsaw to work with the groups.
“I am grateful to God for the students’ willingness to give up part of their vacations to serve those affected by Florence and share the love of Christ as they serve,” said Jones.
“Seeing the generations work together, learn from each other, laugh, cry, share and pray together is a testimony to the students, BCM leaders and the other DR volunteers that serve together.”
North Carolina was one of several states to suffer extensive damage from Hurricane Florence last September. The storm, which caused more than 50 fatalities, ripped through the North Carolina coast, dumping nearly nine trillion gallons of water on the state in the span of four days. The region has been in recovery mode in the months since the storm.
“You no longer see coverage of the devastation of Hurricane Florence in the news,” said Murphree, “but to go to North Carolina and see how much work there is to be done, it was very impactful for our students.”
Jones said the BCM students were effective and efficient with each project assigned to them.
“The students and DR volunteers did a great work in putting homes back together with the time they had,” said Jones.
“In some homes, problems were found, and the students attacked the problems and were still able to make great progress on getting multiple families back into their homes,” he said.
Jones said the college workers exceeded all expectations.
“North Carolina leaders said they were having to get more jobs ready for the next week because the students were progressing faster than they had planned,” said Jones.
It wasn’t just the work ethic of the students that impressed Jones. It was also their attitudes.
“At one point a group of students was in the crawl space of a home, reinstalling insulation — and they were singing as they worked,” said Jones. “And that was a great example of the attitude with which the students attacked the work.”
The students gathered each night for worship services and times of sharing.
Murphee said the trip made an enormous impact on many of the students, and created memories that will last a lifetime.
“These students worked tirelessly, but the blessings received in getting to know and minister to the homeowners were many,” Murphree said.
“That was always evident in our team worship times each night as students shared how much God was blessing them as they worked hard to serve others.”
‘A lot of work is going on’
Editor’s Note: Donald Buttram is a DR volunteer who traveled to Warsaw, N.C., in late December to work with a BCM group as they helped repair homes that were damaged by Hurricane Florence last September. Below is his first-hand account of the days he spent in North Carolina.
By Donald Buttram
Disaster Relief Volunteer
I have had the wonderful opportunity of sharing alongside 45 college students as we serve the people of North Carolina in rebuilding their homes. Add to that the five leaders that came with the Baptist Collegiate Missions (BCM) groups and the 14 from Knoxville County Association of Baptists (KCAB), and you have one amazing crew!
This week, we have been given the opportunity to participate in the STEP program that has been established by FEMA. This program has been set up to bring workers into homes to get them livable so that families can at least have a house to live in once again. It’s not a completely finished house, but it does have working doors, a working bathroom, and two interior doors — one for the bathroom and one for a bedroom. While this may not seem the best thing for many, getting multiple families back into their homes before winter really gets going is a blessing.
This week our teams have installed sheetrock, water heaters, exterior doors and interior doors. We have also been involved in plumbing bathrooms and kitchen sinks. Some of our teams have participated in finishing up the tear out for some homes, and then, they have been able to go right into building the homes out so they will be livable.
We have had other teams that have participated in painting a church to put the finishing touches on it so the congregation can finally move back into their church. Some of our students were able to participate in a community food distribution which takes place out of the church we are staying in every third Tuesday.
All in all, a lot of work is going on, and by the time we leave, multiple families will be able to move back into their homes. The Director of Missions (DOM) here in this area told us we are getting so far ahead he is already having to apply for more homes from FEMA for the following groups to work on.
Most importantly, ministry is going on. Students are getting to talk with homeowners and church members and those coming for food during the food distribution times. Multi-generations of people working together serving each other is just a beautiful sight that can truly only be experienced. There just are no words to describe the impact. The older generation seems to have energy and smiles that come from having students be so excited about the work they have been passionate about all along. And the younger generation is eagerly soaking up as much as they can learn from those that have a lifetime of experience in this kind of work. Someone said it best today when they said they were “seeing the future” unfold before them.
Disaster Relief is a much needed ministry. And it is a ministry that needs to carry on for many years. The only way this happens is passing on the torch from generation to generation. And this week is one where that is going to happen.
‘God is up to something big’
Editor’s Note: Vickie Thomas is a DR volunteer who traveled to Warsaw, N.C., in early January to work with a BCM group as they helped repair homes that were damaged by Hurricane Florence last September. Below is her first-hand account of the days she spent in North Carolina.
By Vickie Thomas
Disaster Relief Volunteer
As an older person serving in Disaster Relief, watching these students serving with a passion for Christ is an encouragement that cannot be described. It is truly remarkable to observe in them a tremendous work ethic, passionate worship, an eagerness to learn and an intentional desire to share the gospel.
Mike Guffey, Randall Zachary, Karen Millsaps, Gary and Vickie Thomas and our two newly DR trained college students Mishaela Smith and Grant Rollins (who by the way became engaged while here) have been serving from Knox County with other DR teams alongside BCM students from various colleges across Tennessee in doing rebuild projects.
The work is being funded through the FEMA STEP program. We have been installing and finishing drywall, installing insulation, prepping floors for completion, making bathrooms functional, installing a kitchen sink cabinet to make the homes functional in order for the families to move back in, with the rest of the work to be completed later.
While here, the Eastern North Carolina Association Office, who we have been working with, learned that FEMA has approved rebuild for 950 more homes in this area. May we be diligent in continuing to bring teams to help in their recovery. It is estimated this will take over three years. As a result the North Carolina Baptists have purchased a school that is being converted complete with showers, laundry and functional as a place to house teams in the future. They will also use this facility for camps and other functions.
God is up to something big in Warsaw, North Carolina, and it has been exciting to watch Him at work here this week.