ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Johnny Hudgens is one of thousands of Southern Baptists who have become involved in the “Buckets of Hope” project that has resulted in more than 132,000 buckets of food to feed earthquake victims in Haiti.
Hudgens works the night shift as a grill cook at the local Jack-in-the-Box restaurant. But he does not have a car, so he walks everywhere, including his faithful mile walk to Cornerstone Baptist Church in Corsicana, Texas.
“Today, Johnny made that mile-long walk carrying a 30-pound, food-filled bucket,” said his pastor, Paul D. Carter. Johnny had heard Carter speak from the pulpit about the need for buckets filled with rice, beans, peanut butter, flour and other food items designed to feed a typical Haitian family of 10 for a week.
“He said his arms were hurting by the time he got to the church, but Johnny wanted to make sure his ‘family’ in Haiti got their food,” Carter said. Knowing that Hudgens works only about 30 hours a week at a minimum-wage job, Carter asked him what motivated him to fill a Bucket of Hope.
“The Lord wanted me to help someone else who doesn’t have what I have. God doesn’t want me to be selfish,” Hudgens said.
That spirit is rising up among Southern Baptists — in large churches and small churches alike — from California to Texas to Georgia, as thousands of Buckets of Hope continue to be collected at state convention receiving sites.
In New Mexico, what R. Maurice Hollingsworth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Las Cruces, said could be said of Baptists across the country who have responded to Haitians in their time of need.
“The members of our church were overwhelmed by the scope of human need and felt compelled to respond in prayer and with a hands-on manner to human suffering,” Hollingsworth said.
A collection site for Georgia Baptists coordinated by Ingleside Baptist Church in Macon has received more than 16,000 buckets from across the Peach State. At about $30 a bucket, they represent more than $500,000 in donations by generous Georgia Baptists.
Stewart Lang, disaster relief director for the Georgia Baptist Convention, said the Ingleside-Macon volunteers palletized and shrink-wrapped the buckets — 27 buckets per pallet — and attached a label in Creole, French and English telling Haitians that the buckets are a “gift of love from Southern Baptists.” Next, the Georgia buckets will go to Jacksonville, Fla. Buckets from western states are headed to a warehouse in Shreveport, La.
From the collection warehouses in Jacksonville and Shreveport, more than 132,000 Buckets of Hope will be shipped to Haiti in staggered shipments over several months.
In addition to Georgia, other states collecting Buckets of Hope include Alabama, 8,300 buckets; California, 1,100; Florida, 30,000-plus; Illinois, 1,250; Indiana, 1,000; Iowa, 300; Kentucky, 15,000; Louisiana, 7,000; Michigan, 800; Mississippi, 4,000; New Mexico, 2,438; North Carolina, 12,000; Oklahoma, 2,650; South Carolina, 6,520; Tennessee, 14,000; and Texas, 9,250.
“It was a wonderful project that gave our church people in Georgia a tangible way to be involved,” Lang said. “They caught hold of it. It was easy for people to see where their money was going and it made them feel hands-on. They knew they were helping the people of Haiti by doing a bucket. Sending money is always great but this was something very tangible.”
Meanwhile in devastated Haiti, Southern Baptist disaster relief and medical teams continue to share Christ, treat patients, inspect homes, churches and schools, purify water and minister to the spiritual and physical needs of a still-hurting population.
Since the earthquake struck the country two months ago, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers have led some 700 Haitians to Christ. But overall, a reported 59,000 Haitians have made professions of faith since the Jan. 12 earthquake, according to pastors and the director of missions of the Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d’Haiti, one of several Baptist conventions in Haiti.
In addition, SBDR medical teams from many states have treated more than 21,400 patients, dispensed 30,546 medicines, distributed 24 tons (204,000 servings) of rice, prepared nearly 5,000 meals and purified 2,149 gallons of water.
While the initial Baptist response was in the Port-Au-Prince area, residents in surrounding towns also began seeking relief, so Baptist work has expanded to Mirebalais, where Kentucky medical teams have established clinics, and to Saint Marc, where Mississippi medical teams are serving.
Twenty-three volunteers from Kentucky arrived last weekend, and are inspecting homes, providing chaplaincy ministry and working in medical clinics. They joined a medical team from California; a well inspection/pump installation team from Oklahoma; building inspection/chaplain teams from California, Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma; and a Tennessee team managing the University of Miami Hospital warehouse.
New teams from Alabama, California, Florida, Louisiana, Indiana, South Carolina, Texas and Wyoming are scheduled to arrive in Haiti during the last week of March.
Mickey Caison, the North American Mission Board’s team leader for adult volunteer mobilization, said work conditions remain difficult and strenuous in Haiti, and only the healthiest should volunteer. Much of the DR work in Haiti is beginning to involve the heavy lifting, movement and demolition of the tons of rubble left by the quake.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board. John Loudat, editor of the Baptist New Mexican, contributed to this story.