Five years ago I went on my first disaster relief trip. It was a three months after Hurricane Sandy, and the northeast was still picking up the pieces. Through Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR), my campus ministry took a spring break trip to Staten Island to help with the recovery efforts.
Although I grew up in a southern Baptist church, this was my first encounter with SBDR ministry. I realized that if you’re looking for an open door to share the Gospel, disaster relief is wide open with a big flashing neon arrow. Disaster relief workers have the opportunity to literally give people bread and then tell them about the Bread of Life.
Chainsaw teams, feeding teams, flood recovery, shower and laundry units, childcare…When disaster strikes, the southern Baptists are there. Local churches, associations, state conventions and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) work together in these efforts across the United States and around the world.
This year alone, our Swift Creek DR team has responded to call outs in Puerto Rico, Connecticut, North Carolina, Georgia, and locally in Danville, Farmville, and Chesterfield. While the team was serving in Dawson, Georgia, they saw seven people come to know Christ!
Swift Creek’s Disaster Relief team leader Charlie Hall says there are always opportunities to share the Gospel. “It’s just an easy way to share the gospel because people are hurting, and you’re there to try to help them and they’re open to listen, and some of them are searching for something. Sometimes after we leave we’ve heard of people receiving Christ at the local church that we steer them to. And that’s one thing we try to do is get them connected to a local church.”
Most people don’t know that SBDR is the third largest disaster relief organization in the US, just behind the American Red Cross and Salvation Army. Ninety percent of hot food distributed by the Red Cross and the Salvation Army are distributed by Southern Baptist mobile kitchen units and workers. Although they work closely with these organizations and FEMA, funding comes straight from churches and they do not accept any federal funding or reimbursement.
Once you start serving in DR, it’s easy to get hooked. Not only is it an opportunity to help people and share the love of Jesus, but the people you’ll work alongside will be some of the most servant-hearted people you’ll ever meet. After Charlie’s first flood recovery trip in 2008, he fell in love with it. “It’s such a great comradery between workers too; you make friends all over the country.”
With so many service areas to choose from, it’s not hard to find a good fit. Don’t think using a chainsaw is your cup of tea? Well maybe you can serve some tea instead in one of the feeding units! In addition to the initial DR training day, much of the information you need to know is learned on the job.
Be ready to help when the next disaster strikes! Get the training at one of four dates in 2019 (locations TBA).