Last month we were planning a vacation to Colorado. We were going to spend a week traveling the state, visiting national parks, and catching up with some dear friends. Little did we know the Lord had a different plan for our time. We trained with NC Baptists on Mission earlier this year but weren’t sure if we would have an opportunity to serve since we are both employed full time, and it is difficult for us to take time off last minute. Shortly before our trip, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas then Hurricane Irma hit Florida, and we saw an opportunity. We prayed and ultimately decided to spend our vacation in Nederland, TX serving on a disaster relief team with the North Carolina Baptist Men. Turns out, it was a worthwhile decision, and here’s why:
1. We were able to fill a need and use our individual skills/talents.
The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 4:10 that “[a]s each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace . . ..” Disaster relief work offers nearly unlimited opportunities to use your gifts and be challenged in your weaknesses. The team we served with consisted of a recovery team working on damaged homes, a feeding team preparing over 10,000 meals each day, sanitation workers cleaning up after meals, a shower/laundry team, medical volunteers, chaplains, and administrative and leadership volunteers. We even got cross-trained in several roles once we got there. The needs are so great; everyone has something to offer in this ministry.
2. We were able to share the gospel at home and on the disaster site.
The tangible things we did in Texas (i.e. serving meals, repairing houses, etc.) enabled us to share the gospel with the community. Every day we encountered people whose lives had been turned upside down because of Hurricane Harvey. We got to pray with these people and share the love of God. At home, our coworkers, friends, and families questioned why we would give up our vacation to sleep on the floor of a church and spend all week working in the Texas heat. Generosity with our time is a natural response to the truth of the gospel and provided an opportunity to witness to unbelievers at home who didn’t understand why we chose to go.
3. We formed new relationships with other believers.
During our time in Texas, we met several volunteers who serve, more or less, on a full-time basis. They plan ahead to spend several weeks a month serving wherever the need may be. It was so encouraging for us to see believers come together and serve as the hands and feet of Jesus. We didn’t know a single other person when we walked on the site, but we left with full hearts and new relationships that are grounded in faith.
-Will & Carolyn Oakley (Mercy Hill Attenders)
HOW YOU CAN SERVE (from NCBM)
Pray for those affected by disasters. Pray for the volunteers who are serving the victims. Pray for the leaders that are working to put communities back together. Pray that victims who know the Lord may grow stronger in their faith during this time, and that people who don’t believe will have ears to hear the truth of the gospel.
Whether it be of your finances or your time, there is an opportunity to leverage whatever resources you have to support the volunteers and victims of natural disasters.
There are still teams serving in several of these areas, and more help will be needed for months to come. If you are interested in volunteering, we would encourage you to do it. We plan to continue serving with this great organization.
The Lord calls us to show the truth of his love through our actions (1 John 3:16-19). Disaster Relief is a practical way to do this by serving others in a time of extreme vulnerability and sharing the gospel, and it will cultivate your personal relationship with Christ.