TEMPE, Ariz. (BP)–Tailgate parties typically don’t bring fans of opposing teams together, but Arizona State University’s Baptist Collegiate Ministries used the tradition to minister to 14 Louisiana State University BCM students who had been impacted by Hurricane Katrina.
When the Sept. 10 football game was moved to Tempe because of relief efforts in Baton Rouge, Derek Gregory, ASU’s BCM director, received a telephone call from Steve Masters, LSU’s BCM director. Welcoming the opportunity to minister, Gregory offered to provide meals, lodging and fellowship opportunities for LSU students who were heading to Arizona for the game.
The cookout gave ASU’s BCM “a chance to show Jesus to our brothers and sisters,” Gregory said. “Some of the students have been able to talk to a [Christian] student from another campus and unload things, but it’s not been a counseling session. We’ve laughed with each other and just had fun.”
Several of the LSU students, including those whose families were impacted by the devastating storm, had spent the previous week helping with relief efforts.
“God has been in this,” Gregory said, also noting that several ASU students not involved in BCM dropped by the cookout “just out of curiosity if nothing else.”
During the cookout, some of the LSU students demonstrated one of their football traditions. Three male students had the letter “L,” “S” or “U” painted on their chest in their school colors.
However, the tailgate party also had a more serious side.
“Some ASU students who are not part of the ministry have been listening to the LSU students answer the question of ‘How do you see God in this?’” Gregory said.
Recounting that the house of two of the LSU students was under water, Gregory said, “They’re not worried about losing all that stuff. They’ve got a sense of more important things.”
LSU BCM members Jim and Melvin Schnerder grew up in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans, next to the 17th Street canal and the floodwall that broke as a result of the hurricane. After receiving a call that their family was evacuating, Jim and Melvin weren’t able to return home to retrieve anything.
While their family is safe, the entire neighborhood was submerged by floodwater.
“It was a great neighborhood to grow up in. My family are all believers,” said Jim, an LSU senior who serves on the BCM leadership team.
“At first, I was annoyed and then angry, but I came to terms with it. I thought about Job where he says, ‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord,’ Jim said.
“God is in control,” he continued. “The most important thing is that we know Him.”
Expressing his gratitude to ASU’s BCM, Jim added, “I’m thankful we can come out, have fun and get away from things.”
Following the hurricane, Ryne Pearson, a BCM vice president at LSU, volunteered at LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center which had been converted to a medical triage center. He also recruited fellow BCM and other university students for a chainsaw team for his community of Covington, north of New Orleans.
“In Covington, there are so many places where we praised God, saying, ‘If that tree would have fallen the other way, it would have hit a house,’” Pearson said. His family remained at home during the hurricane. Numerous trees were down in their yard, but only one fell near the house.
“I really don’t understand why [the disaster] happened,” Pearson said. “But I don’t know if we’re supposed to understand. I know it’s part of God’s plan.”
Reported by Debra Butterworth for Portraits, journal of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.