If you had asked me years ago what my opinion of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) was, I might have been able to tell you that they were the men who wore the yellow shirts. I had seen offering envelopes or promotional pieces throughout my childhood every now and then. I never knew how profound the impact would become in my own life. Living in central MS, I had my first taste of DR in August of 2005 when our entire state was impacted by Katrina.
When Katrina made landfall in my small hometown, it was still a category 3 hurricane. Not being from a coastal region, we had no idea what to do. School was out for weeks while power was being restored and spin-off tornados destroyed surrounding towns. It was then that I first saw the folks in yellow in action.
Again in the spring of 2011, a band of tornados (with which Alabamians will also be familiar) ripped through my small college town. For the first time, I was able to see hands-on the ministry of a DR team. My church became a DR headquarter and college students were called upon to help set up housing and maintain other facility issues so that those hard working men and women in yellow could again spring to action before my eyes. I heard stories of families who had lost everything that were able to sit and pray with a DR chaplain as a chainsaw team removed trees off of their house and tarped their roof.
When I moved to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 2012, 7 years after Katrina, DR still had a presence on our campus. Buildings were slowly being rebuilt as money was made available. Those yellow trailers in the apartment parking lot were a reminder to me that many had sacrificed to provide relief to the friends, faculty and campus I would grow to love.
Once more, just last year, I was able to volunteer with NAMB Relief. This time I was able to take college students to Baton Rouge and gut houses that had been flooded. Sitting with different families and hearing their stories of watching their entire lives fill up with water is an experience I will never forget.
There is so much I could tell you about Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. I could spend the entire newspaper explaining to you how detailed and strategic they are, or story after story of people affected by their ministry. I could even spend hours detailing each different branch of work they do and how gospel centered their approach to DR is. However, I will simply say this: to support the work of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is to be the hands and feet Jesus.