NEW WHITELAND, Ind. (BP)–A team of 13 Criswell College students never imagined they would battle floodwaters as part of Crossover’08.
They were assigned to conduct revival services and evangelistic outreach for New Whiteland Baptist Church south of Indianapolis in conjunction with the annual pre-Southern Baptist Convention witnessing effort.
But those plans changed after a foot of rain fell and unleashed floodwaters into the New Whiteland community.
Pastor Daniel Moore had planned to send the Criswell students into neighborhoods to distribute Vacation Bible School flyers, but he redirected them to assist residents threatened by the floodwaters. And the students aided the church’s ministry when it opened its doors as a safe haven for displaced neighbors.
“I never heard one of them complain about wading in water or anything else,” Moore told the Southern Baptist TEXAN. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Bobby Worthington, evangelism professor at Criswell College and director of its Encounter Missions program that trains students to witness in any circumstance, said the students “learned in this experience that we may have our plans but sometimes God interrupts those plans and we have an opportunity to minister in a different way.”
“You need to respond quickly and think about the community,” Worthington advised the students. “The church is a lighthouse and we’re to respond to help people in need.”
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” student Jason Thomas said of “going out it was almost waist-high water” to check on elderly residents and families and advise them of New Whiteland Baptist Church’s availability as a shelter.
Fellow Criswell student Byron Milligan described his amazement at the opportunities to share their faith as they ventured into the flooded streets. At a house with five children, they warned the mother of the rising waters, urging them to get out quickly. Twenty minutes later her husband arrived, but the water had risen too high for the children to walk to safety.
“We carried them down the street to our truck,” Milligan wrote in his journal. “I was able to get a little boy named Josh to know that Jesus loved him. He was pretty frightened and I know it will be something he will always remember. Hopefully, he will also always remember that Jesus does love him and has a plan for his life.”
Criswell student Ali Khadivi remembered prayerwalking those same neighborhoods the night before the rains came, planning to go into the community to invite people to Vacation Bible School and the weekend revival.
“It was God-ordained and God-organized,” he said of the chaos that followed the stormy downpour. “There were lots of travelers that we didn’t even plan to meet. They came [to the church shelter] for food and we shared the Gospel, fed and ministered to them.”
Khadivi preached at the Saturday evening service after a day of disaster relief ministry. A Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary student had been redirected through New Whiteland when floodwaters covered the road he was traveling. He learned of the ministry opportunities there from Worthington and stayed to participate since he could not make it to the Crossover site where he had been assigned to provide music.
“He sang a song that really touched one of the members there,” Worthington said, with Khadivi recounting, “One gentleman was saved and the whole church was crying because so many had prayed for this young man.”
Long before the Crossover weekend, it was more than coincidence that legendary First Baptist Dallas pastor W.A. Criswell had a hand in influencing Moore to accept the New Whiteland pastorate.
In the fall of 1991, Moore attended a state convention meeting in Indiana where Criswell was preaching. He sought the famous pastor’s counsel regarding an opportunity to serve the New Whiteland church for less pay, a decision Moore’s own pastor had advised against. “After W.A. Criswell got done preaching, I told him the story and asked what I should do,” Moore recounted. “He told me, ‘Son, you just do what the Lord’s calling you to do,’ and so I told him I was going to do it.”
Moore has led the New Whiteland church the past 16 years and in the weeks following the flooding he is serving as a disaster relief chaplain to help meet the community’s post-disaster spiritual needs.
Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
To see local news coverage in Texas regarding the students’ disaster relief efforts, click here.