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Hurricane relief showcases cooperation

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Little did I know when I traveled to southeast Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike that I would learn more about pastoral ministry, the resilience of God’s people and the power of the Cooperative Program than I have learned in 11 years of ministry.

As seen in individual churches, local Baptist associations, state conventions and on the national level, Southern Baptists proved their devotion to Christ and one another during difficult times.

My father, Bill Collier, is pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, a small congregation in Bridge City, Texas, near the Louisiana border. The storm surge from Ike submerged his house with six feet of water and his church with three feet of water, leaving layers of mud and marsh grass everywhere.

My wife and I drove down from Fort Worth, where I attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, to help my parents remove their appliances, furniture and carpet and stack them on the curb for debris removal units to pick up.

Nearly every house in Bridge City and the surrounding area experienced similar flooding and devastation, so I was stunned when my father said his church was having Sunday morning worship only a week after the hurricane. Their sanctuary was destroyed, but their hope in the Savior was not. More than 40 church members exchanged their rubber boots and work gloves for lawn chairs and Bibles on Sunday morning and reunited on the church parking lot for worship.

During the weekend, I also had the privilege of riding along with Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, as he toured the area and encouraged churches that were affected by the flooding. He reminded each church that they were not going to be left alone and that Southern Baptists would be supporting them in the recovery process.

Our first stop was First Baptist Church in Vidor, Texas, the disaster relief command post for the Golden Triangle Baptist Association. Southern Baptist volunteers from across the country had arrived and were preparing meals, sending out chainsaw crews and providing chaplaincy ministry in the community. Selflessly serving the water-soaked area, these yellow-clad volunteers offered hope in a time of confusion.

Later we visited Cove Baptist Church in Orange, Texas, another church damaged by the widespread flooding in the region. Currently without a pastor, the congregation banded together to clean out their family life center so they could worship together on Sunday morning. Hearing their stories of resilient faith despite the circumstances was heartwarming.

As I drove home from the weekend, I realized how proud I am to be a Southern Baptist. In a time of chaos, Southern Baptists in the area turned to their church families for support while Southern Baptists across Texas and from all over the United States responded with disaster relief. I cannot imagine what it is like for non-SBC churches with minimal or no denominational support as they seek to recover from such a devastating blow.

Meaningful cooperation defines Southern Baptists. Evidence of its power can be seen in the selfless service of local, state and national disaster relief volunteers; in the emotional embrace of church members; and in the long-term commitment to recovery through financial gifts and volunteer teams.

The Cooperative Program may well be the most powerful collective effort for missions and ministry in the world today. My prayer is that the Gospel would continue to be proclaimed as we partner with one another to reach our neighbors and the nations.
Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

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  • Keith Collier