The following is a presentation given by Kenton Hunt at the BRN 2013 Annual Meeting in recognition of Karlene Campbell’s service in the Hurricane Sandy response:
I am going to tell you right up front that this presentation is in recognition of Karlene Campbell’s extraordinary service during the Hurricane Sandy response a year ago.
Since Karlene was appointed by Dr. David Waltz to be the Disaster Relief Director of the Baptist Convention of PASJ in 2002, she has seen many disasters, attended many trainings, hobnobbed with powerful and influential leaders, resolved an untold number of conflicts, and invested much of her own blood, sweat, and tears in making Disaster Relief in PASJ what it is today. She has also made a lot of friends.
In 2011, Karlene and her husband Craig were the recipients of the prestigious “Joel W. Phillips Outstanding Achievement Award.” The North American Mission Board describes this award as a “Most Valuable Player”-type award for “selflessness, wisdom and compassion” in the leadership and promotion of the ministry of disaster relief. So, the growth she had experienced up to that point was being recognized by her DR peers around the country.
Then came Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Disaster relief, by its nature, is a complicated endeavor. The number of parts alone can be bewildering and intimidating. Those who lead out in it must have nerves of steel and confidence in a powerful God who can “work all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” The way Southern Baptists do disaster relief requires our leaders to have a collaborative mindset. And, as you know, it takes an incredible amount of work to coordinate large numbers of volunteers to do the same thing at the same time while maintaining a high degree of quality, success, and safety. The coordination of our Hurricane Sandy response was a God-sized task and He chose Karlene Campbell to lead us into it.
Through the entire months-long response that included feeding in Hammonton, NJ, recovery and feeding on Long Beach Island, and ministry all along the New Jersey coast, Karlene tracked volunteers, tractor-trailers of food and supplies, mud-out units, shower units, fuel, and equipment. She had to find places to house all these volunteers and coordinate the use of facilities. She had to make sure we tracked who needed our help and whom we were helping. She had to figure out who was going to lead all these teams that consisted of both trained and untrained volunteers. The weather complicated matters. And on top of all this, Melanie Hart was driving a fork lift!
When I think about the time and energy that Karlene Campbell put into the Sandy response, I am amazed because she, like the rest of those who serve under her leadership, is a volunteer. I’ve heard more than one person say, “You couldn’t pay me enough to do this for a living,” or “I don’t work this hard at my paying job.” And Karlene does this for free.
I’m sorry I can’t give you all the numbers but I do know that we prepared 110,000 meals just in Hammonton. I don’t know how many volunteers came to us throughout the response but I can tell you that it was the greatest response we have ever coordinated, and God put Karlene Campbell in a place of leadership because He knew it was important that we get it done right.
I can tell you that Karlene is writhing in her seat because she’d rather not have all this attention focused on her. She’d much prefer us to simply thank the Lord for all of His provision and move on. But we were reminded just yesterday that it is important that we honor our leaders, so that is exactly what we are doing, thanking God for sending Karlene Campbell to just the right place at just the right time.
Karlene would also be quick to point out that she had some help. Everyone around her knows that she knows she was part of a team effort, so I’ll mention a few of her teammates.
First, there is her husband, Craig. It’s hard for any of us to imagine the one without the other. They work together so well. I like to think of them as the Priscilla and Aquila of Penn-South Jersey Disaster Relief who have been sent to us to show us a more excellent way to do this ministry.
Then there is the small army of Yellow Hats who make it all happen and the Blue Hats whose availability for leadership is crucial for success. The support and encouragement Karlene gets from the state staff helps keep everything moving in the right direction.
Being an indispensible component of Missions Mobilization, Karlene received support from people like Larry and Melanie Hart. By the way, Melanie caused very little damage with the forklift.
Karlene also got a ton of help through the partnership we have with the North Carolina Baptist Convention. So, we need to say thank you to Roger and Shirley Carlson for their devoted service in Disaster Relief and Baptist Builders, because the rebuild efforts continue. Ernie Pyle and Doug Lesher from Thompsontown Baptist Church are not only heavily involved in DR, but are also leaders in Baptist Builders here in PASJ and I know they appreciate the support they receive from the Carlsons.
The Partnerships we forged with the South Carolinians and the Georgians were priceless. Karlene would keep on going if you asked her about all those who played on her team, but we keep coming back to this fact: God chose Karlene Campbell to lead us in Disaster Relief and we have been blessed. She does this because she is called by God to it, she has a passion for it, and she feels God’s pleasure when she lays herself on His altar as a living sacrifice.
Perhaps one of the best compliments Karlene received came from Fritz Wilson, the Executive Director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief at the North American Mission Board. As the Sandy response was happening, Fritz was watching with great interest the way things were unfolding for us. He told Karlene, admiringly, “You’re playing with the big boys now.” She knew that was an accolade for the whole PASJ team.
So, Karlene Campbell, thank you for continuing to give selflessly in Disaster Relief. Thank you for being a faithful leader. Thank you for keeping our standards high. Thank you for being a brilliant example of courage under fire. Lead on under God’s mighty hand and we will gladly follow.
Williamsport First Southern Baptist Church