By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
I spent part of last week in and around the coast of North Carolina with William Maxwell, administrative director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, meeting some of the most dedicated servants of Christ anywhere — disaster relief volunteers.
Volunteers from all across Tennessee were helping North Carolinians recover from the devastation to their homes caused by Hurricane Florence earlier in September.
Though the high winds and heavy rains have been gone for nearly a month, flooding has continued and, as a result, many homeowners are just now getting their homes cleaned out by volunteers.
In my 30 years with the Baptist and Reflector I have covered many disasters. I have been on site with feeding units, chain saw teams, you name it. Probably no other job is as “dirty” and unappealing than mud out. It’s heartwarming to see the smiles on faces of people receiving a hot meal when they haven’t had one in a few days.
It’s gratifying to give or receive a hug from someone thankful because you cut a tree off their house or cleared it from their yard, saving them hundreds (maybe even thousands) of dollars — all because you are showing the love of Jesus Christ to those who need it.
Every volunteer we met was more interested in talking about why they were there instead of what they did. The DR tasks (whether it was washing clothes, cutting trees, or cleaning ouit homes) were secondary to why they were there. They were there to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and to be His hands and feet.
Our volunteers blessed the North Carolinians with their presence and help, but they will all agree that they were the ones truly blessed.
Helping others in the name of Christ is what DR volunteers do best. I have seen it time and time again over the past 30 years. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, however, is evolving as other humanitarian relief agencies are becoming more involved.
Some of these accept Southern Baptist and Tennessee Baptist volunteers for their organizations. Volunteers are free to go wherever they want, but my hope and prayer is that they will not give up on Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and especially Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief.
Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief is alive and well — AND EFFECTIVE. I saw it in person again in North Carolina.
What’s more, that DR logo means something to the world in general. Several times people stopped us and thanked us for coming to help their community. They knew what the DR logo represented.
I asked Wes Jones, current DR specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, why volunteers should stick with TBDR. He noted that DR is supported through the Cooperative Program and Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions gifts. In other words, we are invested in it.
In addition, Jones continued, we credential and train most of our volunteers, which is what the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) prefers. Yet, we have provided avenues for non-credentialed volunteers to serve.
What’s more, Southern Baptist DR has a 51-year track record in DR while Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief just celebrated 40 years of ministry. We know what we’re doing and we do it well with a distinctly Christian flavor.
Tennessee and Southern Baptist DR volunteers are often referred to as “yellow caps” because of their distinctive, bright yellow caps. Our “yellow caps” are still doing what they have been doing for decades – showing God’s love when people need it most. Don’t ever expect anything less.
Support Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief. They have earned it.