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Southern student, Carolina church connect in helping flood victims

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–What began as a student’s concern for victims of the Ohio Valley flood resulted in a tractor-trailer full of relief supplies being delivered to the campus of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary March 24.

And one phone call got it all started.

As she watched television coverage of the flood of ’97 and saw the waters rising, Donna Lister thought the student missions committee at Southern could help the victims. When Lister put out a donation box at the campus post office, she never dreamed her idea would grow into a massive relief effort.

Lister told her mother about the idea one evening on the telephone and Ruth Lister, who lives in Greer, S.C., wanted to help with the student relief project.

“I felt like this would be a perfect mission action project for us to do,” Ruth Lister said, adding, “I didn’t expect it to be this big.”

Big, as in a 48-foot tractor-trailer rig full of supplies. As she spread the word, the effort grew. She told her pastor and Sunday school class at Fairview Baptist Church in Greer, S.C., and before too long, the whole church was involved. The effort grew as other churches in the Greer Baptist Association chipped in with assistance.

After a couple of local newspapers found out, people throughout Greer, population 10,000, joined in the relief effort. Next, a tractor-trailer and someone to drive it was needed to get the supplies the 600 miles from South Carolina to Louisville, Ky.

Wayne Merritt had the solution to that problem.

Merritt, a member of Fairview and president of DMX Transportation, Inc., offered the tractor-trailer immediately when Ruth Lister called. Merritt said he and his partner, Rick Durham, were happy to be able to help.

“I’ve been in transportation my whole life,” Merritt said. “The good Lord has really blessed us and anytime we can help, we like to.”

Merritt was quick to add, “I don’t want any credit. I hate that (the flood) happened to the people up there. But I wanted to help with anything I could do.”

The truckload of relief included clothes, cleaning supplies, furniture and so many other items that it took 30 students and seminary staff nearly an hour to unload the haul. Merritt estimated the entire load was between 25,000 and 35,000 pounds.

The seminary community relief effort grew into the massive effort in only about two weeks, noted Lister, a master of Christian education student at Southern.

Andrew Berryhill is very grateful for the relief effort. Berryhill, a master of church music student at Southern, lived in a rented house near the Ohio River. He and his wife, Roxanne, shared the house with her mother and grandmother. While the Berryhills lost virtually everything, much of it has been replaced through the relief project.

“It just blows your mind. It’s amazing,” Berryhill said. “Some of the boxes even had messages written on them like, ‘God bless you,’ ‘We’re praying for you,’ and ‘Keep smiling.'”

Although the Berryhills are “strangers” to the Greer community, “they treated us like family,” Berryhill said.

The generosity his family has enjoyed is an “example to me that I need to uphold when I see a need like that,” he added.

Lister said she was “overwhelmed” with emotion when she saw the 48-foot tractor-trailer on campus. “I just thank the Lord for the way the community responded to the need. It does my heart good to see the response.”

The relief effort makes Lister anxious to finish seminary so she can work at similar missions efforts full-time.

So many supplies were sent, according to David Porter, Southern’s director of public relations, leftover supplies will be given to local relief agencies which have been working overtime to help flood victims.

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  • James A. Smith
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