By Kenton Hunt, State Director of Disaster Relief
Imagine my surprise when the police cruiser stopped in front of the home where we were doing some chainsaw work. I had been having a very pleasant conversation with the homeowner, an elderly woman who was as grateful as could be. It’s in these moments that Disaster Relief work bears its greatest fruit. Like so many other helping ministries, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief opens doors and softens hearts to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s what I was explaining when the police car pulled up.
The reason we were working at this particular home was because we were sent to work at her next door neighbor’s house. While we were doing the first job, this woman’s grandson came over to inquire about what we were doing. I explained who we were and that we were there to clean up the tree damage that the recent snow storm had caused. He asked if we’d consider helping his grandmother with the same issue. Of course I said we would be glad to help her.
Then, the grandson asked the question we hear so often, “How much does it cost?”
I love this question because it gives us the perfect opportunity to say, “It doesn’t cost you anything. The expenses are being covered by other means. We are just thrilled to be able to serve you in Jesus’ name. Our hope is that you will understand, through our service to you, that God is calling out to you because He loves and cares for you.”
Well, the grandson was stuck on the “It doesn’t cost anything.” He smiled, said OK, went inside the house and proceeded to call the police because he was pretty sure he had stumbled upon a clever scam to bilk his all-too-trusting grandmother out of as much as we could get. This is where the policeman comes in. The stern-faced officer snatched my clipboard from my hand, told me to wait right there, and went inside with the homeowner and her grandson.
Sometimes we saved people not only forget how amazing God’s grace really is, we become blind to the desperate spiritual need of our neighbors. We’re just so happy that our debt is paid, we figure God is more than pleased that we would, for the rest of our lives, say thank-you at meal times and live with good intentions. This kind of inward-focused mindset then creeps its way into our churches. The church people gather faithfully to sing God’s praise and listen to spot-on sermons, but forget that God has located them in the middle of a neighborhood. The church people don’t know their neighbors and the neighbors don’t know the church exists. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is a ministry that helps develop a missional mindset and is a ready-to-use tool for the church looking for ways to touch its community.
Here’s how it works: Church people prepare to meet real needs even though they don’t know when the need will arise. When the need does arise, the church people respond quickly because they know what to do. They’re not waiting for someone else to lead the way. They lead. As they knock on the door of the family who has lost many possessions and their heating system in the middle of winter (for example), they know they have real help to offer. And even better, they know that the service they render will become the opportunity to tell this family about Jesus.
Back in the kitchen, the television was on while the policeman was interviewing the homeowner’s grandson about his concerns. The Mayor of Buffalo had called a press conference. He was flanked by representatives from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. He explained that he had invited Southern Baptist Disaster Relief to assist the residents of the city with the massive clean-up. He cautioned everyone to be on the lookout for dishonest people who would try to take advantage of the situation for personal gain. And then he said, “If anyone other than the people in the yellow shirts knocks on your door, call the police.”
The officer handed me my clipboard and walked to his car without saying a word. The grandmother looked up at me and said, “He really thinks you’re doing a good thing.”
The following weekend, Nancy, the lady next door, attended a local Southern Baptist Church, heard a great message and experienced great worship, and responded in faith to the invitation to become a follower Jesus!
If you would like more information on becoming a Disaster Relief trained volunteer, including 2016 training dates and locations, click HERE.