Disaster relief helps rebuild lives
August 24 2001 by Bill Boatwright , BSC Communications

Disaster relief helps rebuild lives | Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Disaster relief helps rebuild lives

By Bill Boatwright BSC Communications Anyone who doubts a direct relationship exists between disaster relief ministry and evangelism should talk with Ashley Summerlin, pastor of Seven Springs Baptist Church. Seven Springs is a quiet Wayne County town that almost floated away in the floods of Hurricane Floyd.

Summerlin will say there's nothing like a "good" disaster to bring people together in a true spirit of missions and evangelism.

"I was talking to a man at work and the man ... said they were having problems at their church," said Summerlin. "And my Sunday School teacher said, 'What y'all need is a flood! That will straighten it out.'"

The recovery efforts at Seven Springs straightened out many things in the eastern North Carolina community, including the rebuilding of homes and other buildings. But most important was the rebuilding of the lives of many of its people.

Like Brenda and Ricky Tillman, two of the hardest-hit flood victims in that community.

"This man introduced himself to me and told me he wanted to help me rebuild my house," said Ricky Tillman. "And then he went on to explain why they would do that for me."

"And help you they did," added his wife, Brenda.

The Tillmans have since accepted Christ and joined Seven Springs Baptist Church.

Disaster relief, one of the most popular - and one of the most used - programs of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) unites hands-on ministry to evangelism probably better than any other convention-sponsored endeavor, BSC officials say. For more than two decades, the BSC disaster relief units have literally crisscrossed the nation and the world following major hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other natural disasters.

N.C. Baptists were in South Florida following Andrew, in Charleston and Charlotte after Hugo, and in Wilmington and Raleigh to clean up after Fran. Baptists have gone to places such as distant as Mozambique, and as devastated as Honduras when Mitch washed away a large portion of the second poorest nation in our hemisphere.

An American Red Cross official once stated that a majority of all meals served following U.S. disasters were served by Baptist relief organizations.

Feeding disaster victims is usually the first ministry in the overall recovery process. Following Hurricane Floyd, N.C. Baptists prepared almost one million meals for victims throughout eastern North Carolina.

Next, the clean-up teams arrive for some of the hardest and dirtiest work, especially after floods. Later, teams return to build and re-build structures of all kinds - houses, churches and other buildings.

Each step in the process happens because volunteers want to express the love of Christ.

"It's hard to imagine that somebody would just come out of the goodness of their heart and help you," said Brenda. "They did. They showed up."

"And they would get in there and they would work. And I never had no one do that for me before," Ricky said. "I remember in '84 when the tornadoes came through and tore up a bunch of stuff, but all the family members went and helped out. But this time, these were people I never seen before that came to my house. I mean, they came from all over the place."

When disaster relief teams come together, it is like one big family - created right on the scene, relief workers say. People who have never met one another before - people from different parts of the state, sometimes from different states - immediately bond in a manner difficult to describe. Friendships are made almost instantly.

Team members don't care about their fellow-workers' background, vocation, nationality or any other categories, they say. A team members' politics - denominational or secular - simply doesn't matter.

All are there for the same reason: to show the love of Christ by helping other people.

What team members do care about immensely is the people they are helping and their spiritual condition. The teams are there, without question, to witness. They've come to share their faith and to tell the disaster victims about the One who commands them to be there in the first place.

The Tillmans of Seven Springs noticed immediately the love of God expressed through the volunteers' efforts.

"We would start every day that they came with prayer and you just knew why they were there," said Brenda. "They weren't there for any kind of gratitude or anything. It just makes you have a really good feeling when they're there helping you out and it's just hard to explain."

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/24/2001 12:00:00 AM by Bill Boatwright , BSC Communications | with 0 comments
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