Blog 

Thoughts, insights and observations from the ABN staff

Thursday
Nov152012

Sandy Blog: Clearing trees and sharing Christ

 

Arkansas Baptist disaster relief volunteers clear a downed tree. Photo by Caleb YarbroughEditor's Note: Caleb Yarbrough, media specialist for the Arkansas Baptist News, is working alongside Arkansas Baptist volunteers serving in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. He is blogging his experiences as the team travels to the Empire State to help those in need.

DEER PARK, N.Y. – For most of the week I have worked with the feeding team cleaning cambros and food trays. Today I got the opportunity to travel out and around with the “recovery” unit from Arkansas.

The recovery team’s biggest job is safely clearing trees damaged during severe weather or other disasters. Today the team had three different projects to complete throughout Long Island.

Caleb YarbroughThe first project was a small tree that needed to be removed from behind a woman’s home in one of the areas hardest hit by Sandy. The recovery unit’s chainsaws made quick work of the tree and I had a chance to sit down and speak with the woman who owned the home.

The woman’s name was Marie and she was a Haitian immigrant to the United States who was recently retired from the U.S. Army. Marie’s home was completely flooded, up to the second floor during Sandy. All of her and her son’s belongings, including automobiles in their driveway, were destroyed by salt water and sewage that escaped from the sewer during the storm.

Marie said that since the storm she and her son had been living out of their one unharmed vehicle, her church and her office. She said that even with her insurance it would probably take months before she could actually move back in and live in her home. 

Marie is a believer and went back to her native Haiti for the first time since she was a child after the country experienced a devastating earthquake in 2011. Marie, along with the sponsorship of her friends and family, started two orphanages for Haitian child who had nowhere to go after the earthquake. The orphanages now house hundreds of children.

Marie, who is used to being a servant, was incredibly gracious for our small part in getting her home back to normal. After we finished cutting down the tree and clearing it from her backyard we prayed with her and gave her a hug before heading on to the other projects we had lined up for the day.

Disaster relief volunteers pray with a homeowner.The next project took much longer as it consisted of a larger tree that had to be tied and anchored in order for it to fall away from the home and avoid damage.

The woman who owned the home was Jewish and one of our team members took a few minutes to shared the gospel with her. She did not make a profession of faith, but she was obviously touched by the work that the team did for her as she was in tears as she hugged us after we prayed with her. The woman, Gil, was given a New Testament to read and a seed was planted.

Our third and final project of the day was a large fallen tree that landed on a shed and barely missed a window on the side of a home. The homeowner was excited when we showed up, but thought that we were just going to assess the damage and come back to clean things up. He was surprised when we got to work right away as well as with the speed at which the chainsaw unit was able to cut and clear his tree.

As we left the last project, the homeowner, named Brian, told us that he had been trying to get someone out to clean up the fallen tree since Sandy first happened and had not been able to get anyone to even come look at it. He was astounded that we would not only do the job, but did it well and free of charge. Brian said that our work was like “Southern hospitality on steroids.”

After traveling out into the numerous communities that make up Long Island, it made even more aware of the incredible devastation that is present here. It will be a long time before many people will have homes to live in or places to work and many still do not have electricity or gas.

Please ask God to have his hand on New York as it goes through this very difficult time. Pray that God would, in his own providence, use the desolation of Sandy to bring many to a saving knowledge of Him.

Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

Wednesday
Nov142012

Sandy Blog: Red Cross meal requests keep Arkansas volunteers busy

Disaster relief volunteers carry a cambro. Photo by Caleb YarbroughEditor's Note: Caleb Yarbrough, media specialist for the Arkansas Baptist News, is working alongside Arkansas Baptist volunteers serving in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. He is blogging his experiences as the team travels to the Empire State to help those in need.

DEER PARK, N.Y. – Today was another good day at our work site in Deer Park, New York. At the end of the day we had exceeded a request from the Red Cross to prepare 10,000 meals.

Caleb YarbroughI spent the day working at the power washing station once again. On arrival at the station this morning we encountered a sea of bright red cambros that had been dropped off by Red Cross volunteers to be cleaned and sanitized. Due to the system that I and other power washing volunteers devised this week we managed to get caught up fairly quickly and were able to keep caught up with our work for the rest of the day.

The cooking went well today and we finished a bit early. A couple hours after we arrived back to our lodging location, Bill Cantrell, the director of disaster relief for Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC), and Matt Ramsey, ABSC communications director, showed up. The two came to see and document the work being done in New York.

Matt is a friend of mine and it was nice to be able to have dinner with him and talk about the amazing time I have been having as a disaster relief volunteer here in New York.

Bill and Matt will be leaving to travel back to Arkansas tomorrow after their short stay with us in New York. Please pray for travel mercies as they make their way back to Arkansas.

Please continue to pray for all of the volunteers here from Arkansas, as well as those from Kansas, Mississippi and New York. Pray that in our last few days here in New York that we would focus on Christ and His sacrifice. We may be tired and we may be achy, but we are doing the Lord’s work and it is worth the cost! 

Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

Tuesday
Nov132012

Sandy Blog: DR volunteers plant seeds of the gospel in a variety of ways

The day for volunteers starts early. Photo by Caleb YarbroughEditor's Note: Caleb Yarbrough, media specialist for the Arkansas Baptist News, is working alongside Arkansas Baptist volunteers serving in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. He is blogging his experiences as the team travels to the Empire State to help those in need.

DEER PARK, N.Y. – It was raining when we first got to the work site this morning. It continued to rain on and off the rest of the day and also got colder. The weather slowed us down a bit, but we were still able to keep up with the Red Cross’s demand for hot meals. 

A new group from Springdale, Arkansas arrived last night around 10. They came not to prepare food but to clean, or “mud out” homes that were flooded during Sandy. They will join the chainsaw crew, which has been here the entire week, by going out into the myriad Long Island communities affected by the storm and helping them clean up their homes and roads.

Many of those volunteers working on feeding work site wish that they had the chance to go out to see the remnants of Sandy and talk with those affected face-to-face. However, because the need for food is still high, only a few are able to go out each day to minister directly.

It is difficult sometimes – especially for Southern Baptists – to understand the impact of our work in the mission field unless we see a lot of commitments and conversions. However, as our Ray, our “blue cap” from Forrest City said, “Sometimes God gives us the job of planting seeds, gives someone else the job of watering those seeds and someone else the job of harvesting them.”

Working on a trip like this one really makes me thankful that God’s purposes are greater than my own and that everything we do in His name will be used to bring the lost closer to salvation. 

Continue to pray for our groups from Arkansas, as well as those from Kansas, Mississippi, New York and Red Cross volunteers. Pray for the Lord to give us strength and perseverance through the rest of our time in New York and for the Lord to use all of our efforts, whether making food, cleaning homes or cutting up downed trees, for His glory and as a seed of salvation planted and waiting to be harvested.

Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

Monday
Nov122012

Sandy Blog: The shock of super storm Sandy devastation on Long Island

A solitary house sits in the marsh with other untouched houses visible in the distance. Photo by Caleb YarbroughEditor's Note: Caleb Yarbrough, media specialist for the Arkansas Baptist News, is working alongside Arkansas Baptist volunteers serving in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. He is blogging his experiences as the team travels to the Empire State to help those in need.

DEER PARK, N.Y. – For the first two days we were in New York I worked alongside other Southern Baptist volunteers from Arkansas, Kansas, New York and Mississippi. However, today (Monday) I got the chance to go out with a Red Cross emergency vehicle and see the devastation of Sandy firsthand.

Caleb YarbroughThe Red Cross volunteers that I went out with were a married couple from Phoenix, Arizona. The husband, Mike, ironically was originally from Pickett, Arkansas. One of the disaster relief volunteers from Kansas, Nathan, also went along for the ride.

For Nathan and I it was the first time we were able to see the devastation of Sandy up close. After delivering hot meals to a community center, the Red Cross volunteers drove us around and showed us some of the areas of Long Island that the storm hit the worst.

We were shocked by what we saw. 

While the flooding had subsided – for the most part – the streets were full of debris, trash and with sand that was left after the floodwater cleared up. Many cars and trucks sat misplaced wherever the flood carried them; most completely ruined by salt water.

The National Guard was patrolling in some areas in an attempt to combat looters and other possible criminal activities that a massive disaster might bring about.

At one point we drove through an area of marshland that was sparsely populated. We could see a line of homes off in the distance across the expanse. The homes is the distance appeared to be spared from the wrath of storm, however, in one of the most striking examples of the power of Sandy, one home either floated or was pushed out hundreds of yards from those others and was stuck in the middle of the marsh land.

Debris-lined street. Photo by Caleb YarbroughLong Island was the area hardest hit by Sandy. It will be months, if not years, before the towns in the area are cleaned up and rebuilt and the communities there will never completely get back to normal. 

After having a chance to go out and see the devastation caused by Sandy and the faces of those touched by the work with disaster relief volunteers was made much more vivid. If it were not for the many volunteers that I have worked with and got to know this week many people would be hungry tonight.

I have been a part of many different kinds of mission organizations over the years and served on many different trips, however, there is just something that touches the soul you are meeting people’s most basic physical needs. It shows that we Christians are for real, that we love people and want to do all we can to help them in Christ’s name.

I ask you to continue to pray for our group from Arkansas, as well as those from Kansas, Mississippi, and New York as well as those volunteering with the Red Cross. I would ask that you would pray for a quick recovery for the people of Long Island, but even more so pray that through our disaster relief efforts some would come to know Christ.

Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News 

Sunday
Nov112012

Sandy Blog: Arkansas team prepares another 14,000 meals on Veteran's Day

Arkansas Baptist volunteers unbox supplies.Editor's Note: Caleb Yarbrough, media specialist for the Arkansas Baptist News, is working alongside Arkansas Baptist volunteers serving in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. He is blogging his experiences as the team travels to the Empire State to help those in need.

DEER PARK, N.Y. – We got a little more sleep this morning, as we did not have to be at the feeding unit until 5:30 a.m. Once on site, things went smoothly and everyone seemed to be getting into a groove during our second day of work.

Caleb YarbroughOnce again, I worked at the power washing station this morning, but moved over to moving cambros onto pallets so that they could be loaded up into Red Cross ERVs (Emergency Response Vehicles) and shipped out to feed people all over Long Island and New York City.

Other volunteers worked at various cooking stations, cleaning stations, as forklift operators and as labelers so that we would know what kind of food was inside each cambro, as well as the food’s temperature and amount. 

We had two kitchens running all day – one from Arkansas and the other from New York – and by the end of the day we had produced more than 14,000 meals.

Toward the end of the workday, a fellow Arkansas volunteer and myself got the opportunity to speak with one of the Red Cross volunteers for a few minutes. She had driven all the way from California to volunteer in relief efforts in New York. 

Cleaning cambros.Upon returning for the evening to the former Hispanic church that serves as our lodging, we got cleaned up and ate some dinner. One of the volunteers from the Kansas/Nebraska team shared a short devotion focusing on Veteran’s Day. At the end he took a few minutes to recognize all of the veteran’s serving with us this week. By my estimation nearly half of the Arkansas and Kansas/Nebraska volunteers this week served in our country’s military in some form or fashion. 

After the devotion, we had a time of sharing. Several recounted times on our trip in which they have witnessed the power of prayer. A woman from our Arkansas group shared that while we tend to believe that God only cares about the big things; that’s just not the case. She said God cares about everything in our lives, big or small, and that all it takes is for us to ask. 

All in all, we had another blessed day having the opportunity to serve those in need in the name of Christ.

Continue to pray for our team from Arkansas, for the other disaster relief volunteers serving from other states, and for those serving with the Red Cross as well.

Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News