By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor
STATEWIDE – Churches large and small across Louisiana responded in March to the need of Haitians and to the opportunity of reminding them they have not been forgotten by God nor by Southern Baptists.
[img_assist|nid=6183|title=Karen Cupper of First Baptist Zwolle stands in the midst of more than 7,000 “Buckets of Hope” collected in Lafayette|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=67]Louisiana Baptists bought 7,111 five-gallon buckets, filled them with a specific set of supplies, and sent them off to be shipped across the Gulf of Mexico to the people living in the nation that was devastated by a 7.0 earthquake Jan. 12 and hundreds of smaller tremors since.
“Even though we are experiencing hard times
economically, people still gave above and beyond,” said Gibbie McMillan, LBC’s Disaster Relief director. “From my perspective I am glad I can say I am a Southern Baptist. … Someone asked me what I would be if I was not a Baptist, and I said I would be ashamed, because I believe we are right, in faith, doctrine, and practice.”
Louisiana Baptists practiced what they preach when they caught a vision for the simplicity of filling a re-usable bucket with much needed supplies, McMillan said. The original goal was set at 3,500 Buckets of Hope. That number was raised to 5,000, and raised again to 7,000 before the final count of 7,111 was made on Monday, March 29 by Larry Cupper Cenla disaster relief coordinator and Buckets of Hope project coordinator.
“Wow; it was overwhelming; we had so many people involved in getting so many buckets from all over,” Cupper said. “It was wonderful just to be part of it, to see God working, knowing people were going to get food from our homes into theirs.”
The buckets were to be taken to one of 13 sites across the state by March 15. From they were trucked to Omni Specialty Packaging in Shreveport.
“That company contacted us,” McMillan said. “They heard what we were doing and said, ‘We’d like to have a part in that.’ They volunteered to ship Louisiana’s buckets for us at no cost.”
Omni Industries, a 30-year-old company with roots in Baton Rouge, gave birth in 2000 to Omni Specialty Packaging of Shreveport, which as its main business blends, packages and private labels oil products, such as those for O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, Lowe’s, Stihl and HomeLite, and exports all over the world.
“We move about 2 million gallons a month,” said Cheryl Weiser of Omni. “We’re the best-kept secret in Shreveport!
“We have a customer in Haiti … and were just very concerned about what happened there – we wanted to help,” Wieser continued. “We tossed around a number of ideas, such as sending over construction supplies, and we thought if we put [the supplies] in buckets, which also were being requested, it would be easier to handle.”
Omni Specialty Packaging heard Southern Baptists were also sending buckets to Haiti, and called McMillan. When they heard the Buckets of Hope were all the same weight, they decided to help Louisiana Baptists instead of doing their own project, which would have involved buckets of varying contents and weights.
Omni is paying the full cost of shipping the Louisiana Buckets of Hope, about five containers full. That $25,000 cost seemed low to McMillian, so he asked how that was possible.
“We move about 30 containers a month from all over the world so our cost to ship is low,” Weiser explained. McMillan contacted the North American Mission Board. When
they learned that the company’s regular price for shipping a container from Shreveport was less than the price for shipping from Florida, NAMB arranged for all the Buckets of Hope from the western United States to be shipped from Shreveport.
That’s perhaps 40,000 buckets. One 40-foot container will hold 1,300 buckets. The Haiti port can only handle a limited number of containers each week. Thus it will take up to four months to get all the buckets from Shreveport to Haiti.
Then they’ll have to be trucked from the port to the various churches, which will distribute the buckets as pastors reach out to the people in their neighborhoods with the reminder that God and Southern Baptists love them.
The $10 shipping cost per bucket given by Louisiana is being eaten up by $6,000/month storage fees, port fees and the cost of trucks and drivers in Haiti to distribute the buckets to the eight or nine churches in Port au Prince that have become places of refuge, McMillan said.
“The people receiving the buckets will be receiving the gospel too,” the Louisiana Disaster Relief director said. “God will be honored and He will grow His church there. We’re already seeing that happen because of the work Southern Baptist volunteers have done so far.”
The Florida Baptist Convention reported that they have recorded 45,000 professions of faith since Jan 12.