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Disaster relief chaplain helps widow impacted by Dennis

NAVARRE, Fla. (BP)–They don’t move mountains of sand, but their job is to dab at the rivers of tears that sometimes flow when a person faces a loss in a time of disaster.

They are Southern Baptist Disaster Relief chaplains who are dispatched to join cleanup and recovery teams, assist at feeding units and even sometimes serve in small groups made up of other chaplains.

And in some ways, their work — like the work of many of those with whom they serve — seems blessed and providential.

Buddy Rouse thinks so. A member of First Baptist Church in Rockledge, Fla., and a volunteer chaplain, Rouse no sooner arrived at the command center at Milton, Fla., when Larry Elliott asked him if he could check on a woman living in a mobile home mostly destroyed by Hurricane Dennis.

Rouse told Elliott it would be no problem to check out the situation, since he was planning to stay with his daughter who lives just down the street from where the woman resides.

Both Elliott and Mike Hoffman, who works in the church planting department of the Florida Baptist Convention, said it was providential that Hoffman had met a man at Kentucky Fried Chicken who had alerted him to the woman’s need. Elliott, like most of the other individuals who staff the Florida Baptist Disaster Relief Command Center, is on the convention staff. He serves as the director of the church planting and revitalization department.

After driving around Santa Rosa County for several hours, Hoffman said he and some other workers stopped at Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch. While waiting for their meal, a young man approached and asked if they help people.

“I said, ‘Yes, that’s what we are here for,'” Hoffman told the Florida Baptist Witness. “I said, ‘We’ll do what we can.'”

The young man told of a neighbor he said was in a “terrible” situation and whose home was virtually destroyed when the top of a tall tree fell on it.

The woman, a 58-year-old recent widow with a 7-year-old German shepherd, was left with one small room still intact in her otherwise splintered and demolished mobile home — which had moved about two feet from where it was anchored.

Entering the once nicely decorated home through the back door, the woman had to jump to get inside where she had a fan and a lamp plugged into a cord running electricity off of her neighbor’s generator. And worse, a government worker told the woman she would be evicted if she stayed — despite having nowhere to go or to board her dog.

Hoffman said he wrote her name and the directions to her home on the back of a receipt and turned it in to Elliott, who snagged Rouse and asked him to find the woman.

Once Rouse determined the woman’s story was genuine, he found out that she worked at a local Wal-Mart and had a very limited income. He visited her with a government worker who promised she would be given a new trailer.

Rouse then told her a cleanup crew would be there as soon as possible. The men soon arrived. And all the while, Buddy Rouse watched and waited, and prayed. He was there to help.
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of Florida Baptist Witness, online at www.FloridaBaptistWitness.com.

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