The common phrase of the day has been, “Thank God for Alabama Baptists!” I’ve lost track of the number of people that have expressed these sentiments over the last several days, and I wanted to share my feelings on this topic. I, too, am grateful for Alabama Baptists. I have served in Louisiana and Alabama, and I can tell you that our State Convention and our Missionaries are second to none. They give and they do and they give and do some more. I suppose in my position – sidekick to the great Mark Wakefield – I have been privileged to listen in on some conversations that have demonstrated the commitment of these great servants of the Lord. I know they don’t do it for the praise, and no, Mark isn’t paying me to write this, but I just want you to understand that our Disaster Relief organization may not be the biggest, but our Disaster Relief personnel from Mel Johnson down to each of the volunteers have the biggest hearts. They love the Lord and they love people just like Jesus commanded.
Today was one of those days. We wanted to stay close to the shower trailer in case the mechanic was able to get there to work on the wheel, so Mark and I went to McDonalds for coffee and to upload some videos for the Alabama Disaster Relief website. Just a simple job, right? For a while, you would never have known that both of us have doctorate degrees. In fact, you would have thought that the two of us were illiterate. In all fairness, this was a very fancy camera with all of the bells and whistles including a wifi connection that allows you to control the camera with your smartphone. And you were supposed to be able to upload the videos as well, but no matter how hard we tried, nothing worked. So after an hour or so of messing with it, we decided to upload the files and let the techno-guys at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions figure it out. And after all of that work, we discovered that it was as simple as changing a setting on the camera so that it recorded in HD and as an .mp4. Wow! So watch out for the rest of the videos.
But let’s get back to the real purpose of our being here. Yesterday, our UAH students started on a home that was in bad shape, but the homeowners were in worse shape emotionally. We all know how difficult times like this add considerable stress to people’s lives, and too often that stress comes out in less than helpful ways. Needless to say, it was an eye-opening experience for some of these students, but they hung in their like champs cleaning out the house and ministering to the couple. Mark and I made that home our first stop. Even though our goal is to minister to pastors, our hearts are set on helping people in need. So we went by the house and talked to Bill. Donna, his wife, wasn’t home when we got there, so we had about 30 minutes to talk with Bill. He told us his story. He shed a few tears. He talked about how his employer was not very supportive or even understanding. He talked about how he had been out of work for a while and had only gotten this job three months ago. The bills had piled up, and they hadn’t been able to dig out from under. On top of everything else, his wife had been ill and had been in and out of the hospital a number of times. Can you say stress? Can you say emotional distress? This man was hurting, and as we steered the conversation towards spiritual things, it was obvious that the man had a head knowledge about God, but there was no relationship. No one to turn to during this dark valley. So we shared the gospel, but sadly, Bill wasn’t ready. His house almost destroyed, and he knows there is a possibility of structural damage. His wife still struggling with her health. His job maybe in questions. And he has no one to turn to. So when Donna arrived, we spent a few minutes with them both, prayed, and headed out. Please join us in praying for Bill and Donna. The seeds have been planted, now it is up to God to work.
Then we moved on. We visited with the pastor of FBC Sterlington, the church where our feeding unit is stationed. When we met the pastor, the pastor of First West Church was also there. So we talked with two pastors doing a great job ministering to their community. They truly have discovered the secret that so many of our Southern Baptist Churches and pastors have forgotten: we can do much more together than we can separately. They have teamed up to do ministry, helping each other and their communities. FBC Sterlington sustained no damage, but First West was devastated. We passed the church and saw the mounds of debris they had already pulled out of the sanctuary. But Chad, the pastor, had a sparkle in his eye as he talked about going back to the old days of meeting in a temporary location. For a while, they will worship on Saturday nights at FBC Sterlington, then they will move to the elementary school where they will now have access to a subdivision that had been closed to them. Some people would call that a silver lining; we called it God working all things together. But that’s just what He does.
Keep praying; these people need it. Volunteer if you can.