Missouri DR assists in the ultimate treasure hunt in Maui
By Tharran Gaines/The Pathway
LAHAINA, Maui (BP) –When Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief teams deploy to a disaster, the work usually means helping families prepare to recover by cutting trees off of buildings or cleaning up after a flood so they can get on with their lives. Unfortunately, the situation is much different after a fire.
“In that situation, we are helping a family grieve the loss of everything they own, often including their home,” said Richard Brummitt, member of Northland Baptist Church in Kansas City and leader of Missouri Baptist DR’s second team to Hawaii in December. “Hurricanes may blow away some homes, but wildfires destroy everything in their path.”
That was certainly the case in 2023 following the massive wildfire that swept through the town of Lahaina on the island of Maui and destroyed more than 3,000 structures, most of them houses. To make matters worse, Brummitt said, homeowners were prohibited from entering their property until the zone was cleared for their address by the EPA. Only then were the disaster relief teams also allowed to enter to help with personal property recovery by sifting through the ash.
Digging and sifting for valuables and keepsakes was their secondary function, however. The most important job was to listen, encourage and show love.
“One day we helped a son and daughter search the home that their father built in 1982,” Brummitt said. “The son was almost overwhelmed by the loss when they first saw the site. His wife and sister wanted to search for a few specific items that might possibly have survived the fire. In the meantime, we donned our full personal protective equipment, set up sifting stations and began the tedious process of looking for jewelry and other small items. The home had a tile roof, so we had to removed hundreds of clay tiles before beginning to dig.”
A shout suddenly rang out as someone had uncovered an intact crystal angel from a Nativity, Brummitt recounted. It was under 14 inches of tile and concrete rubble. Digging slowed down as a wiseman with broken arms was found … then a donkey and lamb. In total, six intact pieces and two broken pieces were unearthed. The manger with baby Jesus wasn’t recovered.
Another woman asked for help from Hawaii Pacific Baptist Disaster Relief after sifting through the remains of her home herself.
The Missouri team found two of the woman’s half-marathon medals, a small bottle that had contained her father’s ashes, a jewelry metal heart with her parents’ names on it and numerous coins from around the world that she had collected.
She told the team she didn’t know what the sticker on her mailbox meant, which read “Maui Stay Strong, Psalms 34:8.” She said her sister had put it there. The team gave her a Bible so she can read for herself that God is her refuge.
ABDR joins community in providing warmth, food during cold weather
By Mary Alford/Arkansas Baptist News
BENTON, Ark. (BP) – When forecasters reported the possibility of severe winter weather and bitterly cold temperatures earlier this month, community leaders in Benton and Saline County decided they were in desperate need of a warming center.
On Tuesday, Jan. 9, Benton Mayor Tom Farmer said several community members, including himself as well as County Judge Matt Brumley and First Baptist Church in Benton’s Missions/Executive Pastor Matt Hubbard, met to discuss the logistics of opening one.
“We had 24 people show up for a meeting that we called for on that Monday,” Farmer said. “Within an hour of our meeting we had everything set in place to open up a warming center.”
Northside Church of Christ, located next to Saline Memorial Hospital, offered its building to host the warming center. Another church covered the cost to have a police officer on site. Hubbard assisted in getting the warming center connected with Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief (ABDR). ABDR deployed a feeding unit to the center to provide warm meals for those seeking shelter from the cold. Farmer noted seven churches and denominations were involved with the warming center.
“The community signed up and showed up. And God was in the middle of all of it,” said Farmer, who is also a member at First Baptist Church in Benton. “Every need we thought we needed was met by someone volunteering, God placing it on their hearts and them stepping up and doing it. God’s hand was in every aspect of it. From the first time we had that meeting at 1 p.m. on that Tuesday until we got through (Sunday) at about 2 p.m. People who volunteered and worked it talked about what a blessing they received from meeting the people and getting to talk to them and how fortunate and blessed they are to pray for others.”
ABDR volunteer Debbie Norris said the feeding team was an all-Saline County crew of workers. They provided roughly 120 meals daily for men, women and children. Norris noted they had two pregnant women at the center give birth during the week.
“You just try to meet people at their point of need and serve them with the love of Jesus and share the love of Jesus with them,” Norris said. “I’ve heard lots of Gospel conversations going on as people sit around tables and visit and make puzzles, knit and different activities and things.”
According to the National Weather Service, daily record lows were broken (and shattered in some cases) at several locations on Jan. 15, including Batesville (Independence County), Hot Springs (Garland County), the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville (Pulaski County), North Little Rock (Pulaski County), and Stuttgart (Arkansas County). There were numerous record cold highs in the teens and lower 20s.
The center opened at 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 14, just as temperatures began dropping and snow covered the ground. Initially, Farmer said they had planned to only have the warming center open through Wednesday. However, when they saw the threat of continued frigid temperatures, they decided to keep the center open through Sunday, Jan. 21.