Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief workers
return from hurricane-battered Florida
Thousands of trees cut, debris cleared more than 30,000 meals provided
By Susan Mires
October 26, 2004
JOPLIN — As Florida recovers from the assault of four hurricanes, Missouri Baptists continue to minister to the residents there.
Through chain saw crews and feeding units, volunteers have shown compassion by addressing needs and sharing the Gospel. Southern Baptists’ work has been non-stop since hurricane relief efforts began, said Dean Emery, chaplain for the sheriff’s department in Polk County, Fla.
“The effort has made an astounding impact in our communities,” Emery said. “I believe they have brought my ministry as a chaplain forward five years. The witness is incredible.”
A chainsaw crew from Cane Creek Stoddard Association worked in the Polk County area. Another crew from Spring River Association in the Joplin area ministered in Pensacola, Fla., where Hurricane Ivan brought down thousands of trees. Working with Hillcrest Baptist Church in Pensacola, the nine men from Spring River Association struck out across the neighborhood.
“You could go door to door and there were needs,” said Ron Crow, who led the team.
They cleared away three trees that were blocking the front door of a home of a single mother who was legally blind. Another man they ministered to had been trying to clear trees in his yard and hurt his shoulder. One homeowner lost 40 trees on a one-acre lot.
With teamwork and nine buzzing chainsaws, the crew cut away damaged tree limbs, but also helped remove spiritual barriers.
“They feel like their world has crumbled. By us going in and in a short amount of time taking care of something that would have taken them a long time allows them to focus on the other needs they have,” Crow said.
This was the first national assignment for the Spring River crew, which formed after they witnessed teams from other parts of the country help families in Southwest Missouri recover from last year’s tornadoes.
“Just about every home we were in, the people were in tears by the time we were done they were so grateful,” said Crow, pastor of North Main Street Baptist Church in Joplin.
The Florida pastor said the relief effort had opened many opportunities to reach out to people he had been praying for, Crow said. The crew cleaned up debris at the home of one man that a church member had been trying to witness to for some time. The man asked the Missouri workers why they volunteered their time to help him.
“One of our guys just looked him in the eyes and said because that’s what Jesus would do,” Crow said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Missouri Baptists also spent nearly a month providing hot meals to Floridians. The Missouri Baptist Convention’s feeding unit traveled to the state in early September. For a time, the unit was moved into Atlanta as the storms battered the state. The unit was manned by more than a dozen volunteers at a time.
“We had people from all over the state working,” said Ron Hahs of First Baptist Church, Oak Ridge, who managed the feeding effort.
In the week after Hurricane Ivan struck, the group gave 30,600 meals to people who were without power in Stuart, Fla.
“We love the people because of God’s love for us,” Hahs said. “I just enjoy it.”
Hahs and a few other members of the group were personally thanked by President Bush, who visited Florida to survey hurricane damage and express appreciation to volunteers providing disaster relief. One Missouri worker, Pat Krueger, received a hug from Bush as he toured the devastation.
Missouri Baptists were from one of 38 Southern Baptist state conventions to provide aid following Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne (Aug. 13 through Oct. 18). Southern Baptists have provided 49,578 volunteer days, served 2.4 million meals, completed 7,737 jobs, supplied 30,353 showers, and distributed food to 9,725 families.