HOUSTON (BP) — Sometimes life’s tragedies and losses of loved ones and possessions — as sad as they are — are turned into seeds of blessings for others.
As a result of a sermon and personal appeal by David Self, executive pastor at Houston’s First Baptist Church, $175,000 has been contributed by the church’s members to the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) disaster relief effort.
The church runs some 5,000 people in three worship services each Sunday and following Self’s sermon, church ushers collected a total of $75,000. But before Self’s staff could wire the $75,000 offering to NAMB the next day, an anonymous couple in the church added their personal $100,000 check, for a total of $175,000.
“The donors, who want to remain anonymous, are a couple in the church with a heart for helping others,” Self said.
In his sermon on that Sunday — which came just after the deadly tornado in Joplin, Mo. in May — Self recounted the life and tragic death of his 86-year-old father, Rev. Jake Self, one of 32 victims who perished in the 1999 Oklahoma City tornado. Self’s mother survived the EF-5 tornado that day 12 years ago, but not only lost her husband but also her home and everything in it. All she had left was what she had on, her housecoat.
As Self recounted the loss of his father during the sermon, he flashed up photos and news clippings featuring his dad. At the time of his death, the elder Self had served First Southern Baptist Church of Del City in Oklahoma City as associate pastor for 40 years — working for well-known pastors like Bailey Smith, John Bisagno, Jimmy Draper and Tom Elliff.
“Dad once rebuilt a church knocked down by a tornado. He had a history with tornadoes,” Self, who also is a member of NAMB’s board of trustees, said. “He always joked that he wanted to be taken up in the Rapture but if that didn’t happen, his second choice was to be taken up in a whirlwind like Elijah.”
As the photos of his dad and the Oklahoma tornado were flashed up on the church’s video screens, Self told the story of the personal devastation he felt of losing his dad and what his mother went through — losing everything.
But then he reminded his congregation: “Now, we have fellow Christians in Joplin, Mo., who are going through the same suffering after a tornado. They need our help. When the family of God rallies together, it doesn’t change the grief you feel but it helps you to know ‘I’m not in this by myself.’
“You should be proud of Southern Baptists, and especially of the North American Mission Board. Most people don’t realize we have the third largest disaster relief agency” in the U.S., he said.
The $175,000 given to NAMB and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief by Houston’s First Baptist was not a surprise because the church contributed $864,000 after Hurricane Katrina six years ago, Self said.
“Our people just have a heart for helping people and they believe in missions. It’s not a one-time thing. It’s in the DNA of the church,” Self said.
Gregg Matte, senior pastor of the church, came up with the idea for the fund-raising campaign that Sunday, Self said.
From its disaster operations center in Alpharetta, Ga., NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through a partnership between NAMB and the SBC’s 42 state conventions, most of which run their own state disaster relief programs. Disaster relief assets are comprised of 82,000 trained volunteers, including chaplains, and some 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation.
Southern Baptist disaster relief is one of the largest mobilizers of trained, credentialed disaster relief volunteers in the United States. During 2011 alone — through the middle of October — Southern Baptist disaster relief efforts have included the preparation of more than 1 million meals; 56,000 “volunteer days”; almost 7,000 completed mud-out and chainsaw jobs following tornadoes, hurricanes and floods across the United States; the provision of some 38,000 showers and laundry loads for disaster volunteers and victims; more than 32,000 ministry/chaplain contacts and Gospel presentations; and 485 professions of faith and other decisions.
Southern Baptists and others who also want to donate to the disaster relief fund can give through their state conventions, or can go to www.namb.net/disaster-relief-donations and hit the “donate” button. Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Donations can also be sent via texting “NAMBDR” to the number “40579.” A one-time donation of $10 will be added to the caller’s mobile phone bill or deducted from any prepaid balance.
Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.