MBC Disaster Relief continues aid along Gulf
By Brian Koonce
October 18, 2005
BOUTTE, La. – As the two-month mark of the response nears, Missouri teams are still serving in Louisiana, ministering to victims and other relief workers in the wakes of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
As of Oct. 17, the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Southeast feeding unit is at West St. Charles Baptist Church here. A chainsaw crew is clearing debris in nearby Bogalusa while MBC shower and other feeding units are finally working within New Orleans city limits.
But while meeting the immediate needs of victims is the primary goal of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts, sometimes volunteers minister to unexpected people in unexpected ways. Such is the case for JoAnn Hahs, head cook for the Southeast region’s mass feeding unit.
Hahs spent 27 days serving in Boutte helping coordinate the preparation of countless thousands of meals distributed by the Red Cross. The food is prepared, however, by Southern Baptists like those from Missouri. Working in such close proximity with so many Red Cross personnel gives ample time for the secular aid organization’s workers to see there’s something different about the Southern Baptists, who are not only the bearers of food, but also a message of “Good News.”
The complete devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina meant that housing for the Red Cross workers, normally hotels, was not available. They had to “rough it with the Baptists” meaning sleeping on the floor of a local church. Living as well as working closely with Red Cross workers gave Missouri Baptists even more time to rub off on them.
“When you go out on a team like ours, it doesn’t matter if you’ve never worked together before, you just jell as a group because you have a common Lord and a common purpose,” Hahs said. “[The Red Cross] didn’t quite know what to make of us. They said ‘I don’t know how you can work this long and this hard in this heat and get up the next day and do it all over again all the while laughing and enjoying yourselves.’ I just told them ‘God gives us that strength because we’re here to serve Him.’ They don’t understand the fellowship that we have. They don’t have that camaraderie.”
Judging from one anecdote Hahs tells, they made an especially good impression on Bill, a Red Cross volunteer from Reno, Nev.
“Bill said, ‘If you move sites, I want to go with you. I like the way you work. You’ve made me feel like a part of your group. There’s something different about you guys.’”
After Bill went home, a check for $500 for the mobile feeding unit showed up in the mail in Cape Girardeau, the unit’s home base. It was just one more affirmation that the volunteers were not only feeding the hungry, but being a positive witness for the Lord.
“He sent along a little note about how much he appreciated the kindness and the gracious spirit from working with our people,” she said. “We didn’t expect that. We know that interest among Baptists has been heightened and that they might give toward this, but he could’ve given to his own organization, but he sent it to us.”