344 Arkansas Baptist DR volunteers serve following Hurricane Harvey
HOUSTON – A little more than a month since Hurricane Harvey made its devastating landfall in Texas, Arkansas Baptist disaster relief (DR) volunteers continue
to be “the hands and feet of Jesus Christ” … “to our neighbors in Texas” recovering from the storm, said Randy Garrett, Arkansas Baptists’ DR
“We are thrilled to see God do what He does by bringing light and hope in the midst of adversity,” said Garrett.
In the first 26 days of Arkansas Baptist DR deployment in Houston, 344 volunteers have stepped up to serve in mobile feeding kitchens, mobile shower/laundry units, chainsaw units, flood recovery units, and incident management units.
Garrett said volunteers have worked 14,508 hours, prepared 113,701 meals, provided 2,033 showers, washed 1,306 loads of laundry, gutted and treated for mold remediation 16 homes, removed tree debris from 56 yards, added temporary tarps to 10 roofs, made ministry/chaplaincy contact with 804 people and – best of all – recorded 31 salvation decisions.
One of the volunteers who recently returned from a week-long deployment to Houston is Don Settles, associational missionary for Current-Gaines Baptist Association. He helped lead a group of about 65 volunteers from several Arkansas Baptist churches; the volunteers served about 24,000 meals to hurricane evacuees at NRG Center in southwest Houston.
About 30 of the volunteers were first-time DR responders, he said.
While there, the Arkansas Baptists were joined by four congressmen, including Paul Ryan, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. After prayer with the volunteers, the four government leaders suited up in yellow DR gear and helped serve meals alongside the Arkansas Baptists.
Settles has been involved with DR for about 15 years, and he hopes to make another trip to Houston if his schedule allows.
“It’s just another opportunity to share Christ with people,” he said. At least one individual professed faith in Christ during the week he served.
Even with all that has already been accomplished through DR in storm-ravaged Houston, the work is just beginning.
“Arkansas Baptists are continuing to meet urgent requests for assistance in Texas,” said Garrett.
Arkansas Baptists are planning to send 80 volunteers each week for the next several weeks to help staff kitchens distributing food, he said.
“Please continue to pray for the dear people in Texas who have lost most of their material goods, many having no insurance and no money to start over,” said Garrett.
He urged prayer also for DR volunteers who “will work long hours in the Texas heat doing manual labor. Please pray for their safety and that their lives will reflect Jesus as they serve.
“Together we are making a difference,” he said.
In addition to DR work in Houston, Southern Baptists are also responding to people in need following Hurricane Irma in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Southern Baptist DR is also staging to serve in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria devastation in Puerto Rico.
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan (center in green shirt) poses with Arkansas Baptist disaster relief workers in front of the First Baptist Church, Ozark, mobile shower trailer during a visit to Houston. Photo by Clif Crawford