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Shower units provide much-needed ministry

PLEASANT GROVE, Ala. (BP)–After 20 hours buried alive, he needed a shower.

The resident of Pleasant Grove, Ala., stopped by the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief mobile shower unit at Bethel Baptist Church to clean up after enduring a jarring ordeal.

When the April 27 tornadoes tore through his town, he hid in his bathroom with his family as the twister lifted the house more than a foot from its foundation and slammed it back down several times.

The house’s interior imploded, trapping him beneath the rubble but sparing his family. After daylight broke, rescuers found the man and dug him out. He escaped serious injury.

“He said he got closer to God … than he had been in a long time,” said Jim Jones, a disaster relief volunteer from Christ Point Community Church in Sylacauga, Ala., who along with his wife Linda has been operating the mobile shower unit at Bethel Baptist in Pleasant Grove.

The Joneses arrived there April 29 to start a weeklong shift operating the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions’ shower unit. They subsequently aided everyone from National Guard soldiers to Amish volunteers from Pennsylvania. Between 25 and 30 people per day showered at the unit.

The shower unit includes six curtained shower stalls — three for men and three for women — housed in a large trailer stocked with donated toiletries. A gas water heater keeps the water warm, a generator can keep the lights on if power isn’t available, and water flows from the town’s supply. Stalls and towels are washed after each use, and some units have laundry services.

“It’s a great morale booster, and it also provides a way for people to get a much more restful night of sleep, to be clean and relaxed,” said Gary Green, shower and laundry unit coordinator for Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief.

Of the 27 shower units deployed throughout Alabama, including 13 that were driven in from other state Baptist conventions, Green said about half were open to the public. The rest, like the Pleasant Grove unit, were restricted to volunteer workers and local authorities such as state troopers and National Guard soldiers.

Most of Alabama’s shower units are owned and managed by individual Baptist associations, and all are funded through the Cooperative Program.

Volunteers need official disaster relief credentials to operate shower units. The Joneses earned theirs after last year’s earthquake in Haiti, taking Baptist relief courses at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega.

People who stopped by the Pleasant Grove unit received more than a shower, thanks to the urgency the Joneses feel to share Christ with others.

“It is a personal responsibility of mine and my wife Linda to tell people about Jesus as we go,” Jones said. “There may not be another chance, and they may not hear it from somebody else.”

Linda Jones strives to help others as Christ commanded His followers to do.

“The first thing [Jesus told us to do] is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and body, and then He said to love others,” she said. “That’s what we’re doing, loving others by providing cleanliness, giving them clean clothes, giving them a shower.”
John Evans is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist. To view the latest e-edition of the newspaper, visit online.thealabamabaptist.org. For information about donations to Alabama Baptists’ disaster relief efforts, go to http://www.alsbom.org/feature3.

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  • John Evans