BLACKSBURG, Va. (BP)–Less than 200 yards from the key scene in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history sits a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief trailer. Volunteers from various Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia churches were mobilized as the tragic news began to unfold from Virginia Tech; they arrived at the campus the morning of April 17.
The volunteers are trained to serve in natural disasters, but this one was manmade. So when the SBCV feeding unit first arrived in Blacksburg, coordinators said they didn’t know how God was going to use them, they just wanted to be ready.
“We wanted to be available for whatever needs developed,” said Jack Noble, SBCV area missionary. “Part of responding to an event like this is just bring what you have and be ready.”
And that’s what they did. The SBCV feeding unit provided meals for about 200 officers who have been stationed on the campus around the clock and for law enforcement workers connected with President Bush’s appearance at an afternoon convocation to begin the community’s healing process. Meals also were served to some of the students attending a candlelight vigil. Virginia Tech officials permitted the DR team on campus to set up a feeding line in the shadow of Norris Hall — less than 200 yards from where 30 people were killed on Monday morning.
SBCV officials also were asked if they could transport grieving parents who had just flown into town and had no other way to campus. Coordinators contacted area churches who came with their church vans to shuttle the families.
The Baptist volunteers, many of whom came from hours away, say they feel privileged that God is using them in the midst of tragedy. “When I first heard about this, I thought right away about how could I help,” said Mark Gore from North Main Baptist Church in Danville.
“I just feel led that that’s what I need to do with my time — be a good steward of what He’s given me. My biggest prayer is that God would give me wisdom to say the right thing to these hurting people,” Gore said.
Noble said the relief effort is a long way from over, because the needs go deeper than food and transportation. “The best thing you can do is show up prepared and ready to respond and that’s what we did — met the needs. And that’s what we’re continuing to do,” Noble said. “We are even now surveying the campus, talking to students and teachers, looking for opportunities to serve and share the Good News of Jesus Christ to a hurting community.”
Brandon Pickett is a media missionary with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia state convention.