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Disaster volunteers carry light, Miss. exec tells NAMB staff

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–“The darker the night, the brighter the light,” Mississippi Baptist leader Jim Futral told North American Mission Board staff Sept. 15, applauding the response of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers who were first on the scene with feeding units following Hurricane Katrina.

Mississippi, southern Louisiana and Alabama took the hardest hit from the hurricane’s landfall Aug. 29. Estimates are that 90,000 square miles were affected by the hurricane, which Futral said devastated many parts of his state, including the city of Biloxi. More than 300,000 displaced people now reside in Mississippi.

“Just in Biloxi, Miss., 5,000 homes have been destroyed or are going to be bulldozed,” said Futral, executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. “That’s 20 percent of the entire city of Biloxi.” USA Today describes Waveland, meanwhile, as “the town that vanished,” Futral said, reading from the newspaper.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief brings light to people who were spiritually blind, Futral said in his comments in chapel.

“We’re not having folks saved [only] on Sunday, we’re having folks saved day after day after day. In the two weeks after Katrina one of our churches helping displaced folks had over 50 people saved,” Futral recounted. “Thousands of people are experiencing what it means to be touched by people with the love of Jesus … and you’re doing it.”

Speaking about how Christians should deal with disasters like Katrina, Futral read from John 9’s account of Jesus healing a blind man.

Futral said disciples walking with Jesus evaluated the man’s situation, asking Jesus what sin the man’s parents or he committed to cause his blindness. Some leaders in the Christian community are saying the same thing about New Orleans and the coast of Mississippi, arguing their sin brought God’s judgment upon them, he said.

“While some folks like the disciples want to evaluate, there are others who elevate,” Futral said. “Jesus says that’s not the issue, that’s not what we’re after, that’s not who we are, that’s not what we need to do. What we need to do is figure out what God would have us to do to make a different in this man’s life. We need to look and see God at work in this experience.”

Introducing Futral, NAMB President Robert E. (Bob) Reccord said Mississippi churches are opening their doors to Katrina evacuees in unprecedented fashion — like one church that took in an extended family of 68 people.

“[The family] said we’ve never had anybody care for us like Southern Baptists … who have not only opened their homes and their arms, but their hearts to us,” Reccord said.

Mississippi is among 36 Southern Baptist state conventions activated to provide disaster relief services following Katrina that includes preparing and feeding meals, providing hot showers, laundry units and cleanup and recovery services. More than 5,000 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers have served 2.2 million meals to victims of the hurricane through Sept. 15.

    About the Author

  • Tim Yarbrough