Becoming a ‘godsend’

Feb. 27, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Disaster relief training for the North Carolina Baptist Men begins statewide this weekend, with several locals encouraging other Lee County residents to participate.

Training begins this weekend at various locations around the state and will continue into the summer, said Gaylon Moss, the organization's disaster relief coordinator.  A full list of local training sessions for the religious organization that responds to disasters nationally is available at www.baptistsonmission.org/Training/Training-Opportunities/Disaster-Relief-Training.

Lee County was flooded with several nonprofit organizations, including the N.C. Baptist Men, after being struck by the 2011 tornado. Wanda Howard, a member of Jonesboro Heights Baptist Church and long-time volunteer with N.C. Baptist Men, said she remembers feeding dozens of volunteers at her church in the aftermath of the storm. The Jonesboro church became an unofficial headquarters for volunteers, in particular the Baptist Men, she said.

"You had that feeling of helping people and yet you felt so helpless," she said. "You see the disaster, and you do everything you can do to help."

Cool Springs Baptist Church Baptist Men Coordinator Greg Matthews has traveled around the nation in the wake of disasters and said responding locally was extremely rewarding.

"The Baptist Men organization reflects what being a Christian is all about, sharing God's love with others," Matthews said. "At a time when those you are assisting are at a low point, you try and lift them up and let them know that you and the Baptist Men care.  Our mission for the Baptist Men at Cool Springs Baptist is taken from Romans 12:13, 'When God's people are in need, be ready to help them.' We do our best to live out that verse."

Several Baptist Men volunteers cleared debris from yards, roads and homes after the 2011 tornado, Matthews said, and it was amazing to see the changes after a few short hours of work. 

Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive said all of the volunteers, including the Baptist Men, who responded were considered a godsend.

"They were miraculous," she said. "They materialized out of thin air. They established a headquarters out of Jonesboro and they were everywhere. They were well equipped, well trained and eager to help."

Despite the organization's name, Baptist Men accepts women as volunteers, Moss said. And, while volunteers are not required to be Baptist, they are encouraged to be of like-minded faith, he said.

"If you have a heart for helping people and have the time," Howard said, "this is one of the best organizations to hook up with."