Missouri Baptists continue disaster relief aid in Florida
By Bob Baysinger
October 12, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – One Missouri Baptist pastor says helping with disaster relief in Florida will be an experience he will never forget.
“I never expected the appreciation the people showed for the help Missouri Baptists are giving them,” said Keith Perren, pastor of Highland Southern Baptist Church, Hillsboro, and director of student ministries for the Jefferson Baptist Association.
Perren was asked to drive the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) mobile kitchen unit from Atlanta, Ga., to De Funiac Springs, Fla. The unit had been moved from Florida to Atlanta as weather forecasters were unsure of the route Hurricane Ivan would take as it approached Florida.
“With the help of a friend, John Roberts, we made the trip very successfully,” Perren said. “By ‘very’ I mean the MBC did a great job routing us around washed out bridges and roadways. Those can be tricky with two heavy rigs.”
Roberts drove a donated truck of food supplies.
The truck driven by Perren is equipped with a CB radio. It is also painted yellow and white with the MBC disaster relief logo emblazoned on the side. The truck caught the attention of other drivers and people along the road.
“Some in trucks, others in their houses came over the CB radio and went on and on about the heartfelt appreciation,” Perren said. “Families driving back into Florida would wave with smiles on their faces as they passed the truck.
“As the trip continued to put us closer to Florida we began to see houses with roofs missing, pine trees leaning to the north and piles of wood on the sides of the road. There was no gas and, in many towns, no electricity. Military personnel were present but, as far as I could tell, everything was peaceful.”
Perren said the relief team was working as a team when he arrived.
“I was amazed,” he said. “In minutes the trailer was unhooked from the truck. People were ready to set up the kitchen. There were others unloading food and some hooked up the Jefferson Baptist Association mobile shower unit.
“Everyone who was part of the relief effort was greatly appreciated by the people. You would not believe the opportunities it afforded us to share the love of Jesus Christ.”
Perren said it was a preacher’s dream to hear someone ask on the CB radio: “Why do you do this?”
“It gave me great joy to be a part of the experience,” Perren said. “It seemed our presence gave people a sense of hope for tomorrow.
“This is exactly what we are about as Missouri Baptists. This is also exactly what we are about as Christians. Jesus always gives us hope for tomorrow; He just does it in so many ways.”
Perren said Missouri Baptists deserve thanks for “being the light in dark places.”
Perren has been pastor of Highland Church for more than two years, including a 10-month interim. He said the church has grown at a “duplicating rate that can only be explained by Jesus.”
The Missouri disaster relief response was only a portion of a massive Southern Baptist response to the hurricane-devastated south. Through Sept. 27, relief workers have prepared 761,244 meals and completed 1,352 recovery jobs.
Kitchen units from Oklahoma, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and Arkansas supported the American Red Cross in Florida. In Alabama, kitchens from California, North Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois and Tennessee worked to provide meals.
Missouri Baptists are also responding financially to the relief effort.
Gwen Martin, an assistant in the MBC Men’s Missions and Ministry office, said through the end of September Missouri Baptists had donated $5,596 to the North American Mission Board for use in Florida and $12,434 for use by the Missouri unit.