Monday, May 18, 2009

Disaster Relief Efforts In Southern West Virginia

Early this morning Doug Virgin, Michelle Harris, and Sarah Sutherland left with the Greater Huntington Baptist Association Disaster Relief Trailer for the coalfields of Southern West Virginia. The areas along the Tug and Levisa Forks of the Big Sandy River in Southern West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky were devastated by flash flooding about a week ago. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams have been dispatched to the affected areas immediately after the waters receded. Our Association team received it's call on Friday for deployment today.

Doug is our GHBA Director of Missions. Sarah and Michelle are members of the Abundant Hope Baptist Mission in Barboursville, where Michelle's husband, Paul, is the Pastor. Our Association Disaster Relief Director is John Freeman, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Chapmanville. Doug, Sarah, and Michelle were to meet John in Matewan, West Virginia this morning, where they would begin mud out work on homes, as assigned by the SBC Disaster Relief staging area located behind City Hall in Matewan.

Doug and John are becoming veterans at this stuff. The three of us worked together for a week in New Orleans, doing chain saw and other clean up work five weeks after Hurricane Katrina. "The Dynamic Duo" have also answered the call to Western Kentucky after a late winter ice storm wreaked havoc on that area. This is no small effort on the part of these two guys. John underwent open heart bypass surgery last year, and Doug has had a number of health issues as well. Were it not for my previously scheduled CT and PET Scans in the morning, I would have joined them in Matewan today for the mud out work, but alas, that will have to wait until Wednesday.
My first personal experience with SBC Disaster Relief came in New York City, less than a week after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. My son, Jay, and I, along with several other men from the Greenup Baptist Association in eastern Kentucky, went to the Big Apple to help cook meals in the large Kentucky Baptist Convention's large Disaster Relief Mobile Kitchen. It was there that I saw first hand, how well Baptists all over America responded to the tremendous need. After our post Katrina work, and seeing how deeply involved Jay had become in Louisiana DR, we felt the need for a Disaster Relief unit to form in our area. John Freeman took the proverbial bull by the horns and spearheaded the drive to purchase and equip a trailer suitable for mud out and chainsaw work. Many of our local churches responded with donations, and one can see the final results in the photo below.

Early Wednesday morning, Steve and Leeah Weber will be joining me as we leave Westmoreland Baptist for Matewan. If scheduling issues work out, we will be joined by Brittany Haggerty as part of the WBC team, as well. I am proud of these young people and their willingness to leave their comfort zones to do the dirtiest type of mission work one can imagine. Steve and Leeah are the young adult children of our church's Interim Student Ministry Director, Rick Weber. Steve graduated last year from Spring Valley High School and is waiting to enter an electricians course. Leeah just graduated last week from Marshall University with a degree in vocal music.

Brittany came to us from far away Moorefield, West Virginia as a Marshall University student. She was in one of Dr. Barbara Tarter's communication classes at Marshall. Barbara is a faithful member of our church, and is a great believer in missions, herself. She has done foreign mission work in Mexico, church planting in Tennessee, works in our church in ministry to homebound, hospitalized and nursing home patients. She is also chairperson of our church Mission Committee. Brittany was a lonely college freshman in one of her classes at Marshall. Barbara befriended her and invited her to church. Brittany came, and soon joined our fellowship, and is now actively involved with Upward sports, AWANA, and other children's ministries.

It is a blessing to see how God works in bringing different people into His Kingdom work.

Disaster Relief is a powerful ministry, overseen by the SBC North American Mission Board. It is a common sight, after hurricanes, floods, ice storms, fires and other natural disasters, seeing dedicated men and women wearing those bright yellow shirts and baseball caps. You'll find them doing everything from mud outs, to chain saw work, carrying out debris, cooking thousands of meals in large mobile kitchen units, and providing chaplain services to people who have suffered tremendous losses from disasters of all types. In fact, when you see the Red Cross distributing hot meals in disaster areas, the chances are very good that those meals were supplied and prepared by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief crews.

Doing work like this, in the name of Jesus, is one of the most practical and effective short term mission efforts in practice today. Please pray for the Disaster Relief volunteers as they share the good news of Jesus in a most practical way.

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