By Brian Blackwell. Message Staff Writer
RUSTON – Ever wanted to minister to victims of a hurricane, tornado or flood in the United States?
Then March 21 may be that chance when Temple Baptist Church in Ruston hosts a Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief roundtable. The roundtable offers one-day training for anyone interested in becoming a part of a Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief team.
Stanley Statham, a blue hat (unit director) for the disaster relief team for the Baptist Associations of Southeast Louisiana, said disaster relief training is important because it prepares church members to respond to those in crisis in an effective way.
“Often when a disaster strikes people want to respond but lack the skills and knowledge to do so in an effective way,” said Statham, who also is director of missions for the association. “Responding to disasters gives every believer an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ. James 1:27 states, Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.
“In the first century widows and orphans were the most vulnerable of society,” he continued. “Survivors of disasters are left in a vulnerable state and cannot pay back the good that is done to them much like widows and orphans. Disaster relief workers demonstrate pure love by removing mud from flooded homes, recovering a family heirloom form a burned home, removing a tree from a home, or providing a hot meal to those who have lost everything.”
This is the one of three roundtables scheduled for this year, though individual churches will also host disaster relief training events, such as April 11 at Topsy Baptist Church.
Completing a training course is required every three years to maintain credentials.
Louisiana Baptist state disaster relief director Gibbie McMillan said the purpose of the disaster relief roundtables is two-fold. The roundtables reignite the volunteer base with new training and continue training new volunteers so when disaster does strike, the teams are better prepared.
“We have training at one location so churches will be able to have a drive not too far away for the classes,” McMillan said. “If you don’t train your people, they won’t be prepared for when that disaster comes.”
Those attending the training will take a class on the basics of disaster relief. Then, participants will take part in training for their desired unit, which includes chainsaw, child care, feeding, shower and mud-out. Chaplains attending the training will participate in an additional day of training, beginning the day prior to the roundtable.
Lonnie Wascom, director of missions for Northshore Baptist Association that has multiple disaster relief teams, said that disaster relief fulfills the command Christ gives His followers in Matthew 10:42, which says And whoever . . . gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward. Disaster Relief is a great tool for carrying out this teaching of our Lord.
“Anything done in the name of Jesus needs to be done as best as possible,” Wascom said. “In order to effectively minister to those hurt by disasters it is imperative that caring disciples be trained. Our Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief apparatus under the competent and committed leadership of Dr. Gibbie McMillan provide training that is unsurpassed.”
Currently, Louisiana has 70 disaster relief units from every part of the state. But McMillan said even with that many units operating and nearly 4,000 volunteers as members, on average it takes 11 phone calls after a disaster to find one volunteer who is available for the job.
The goal this year is to train 300 new volunteers.
Even though a major disaster has not struck Louisiana since Hurricane Isaac in August 2012, now is not the time to let their guard down. Hurricane season begins in June and lasts until November.
“Not preparing is a luxury Louisiana residents cannot afford,” McMillan said. “The Gulf Coast makes us vulnerable during the hurricane season because of that possible threat and because 80 percent of our state’s population live in south Louisiana.”
To register for the training, call visit louisianabaptists.org/disaster-relief-roundtables/. McMillan said to help officials better prepare, online registration is highly recommended but not required.
The cost is $20 for first-time attendees and $5 for those renewing certification. Chaplains pay an additional $5.
For more information, call 318.251.0065 or e-mail Rollinghills33@bellsouth.net.