Disaster relief volunteers work together to serve Houstonians affected by historic floods
June 13th, 2015 / By: Joni Hannigan / comments
HOUSTON—Lifting a corner of foil aside to peer at a pan piled high with neat stacks of mouth-watering burgers, pausing briefly to insert a meat thermometer inside a perfect patty, Geraldine Bishop and Mildred Fuller consult briefly about raising the temperature to comply with safety standards.
Cooking for disasters is serious business.
Just a week following devastating and historic Memorial Day weekend floods in Houston, disaster relief ministries for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention turned on their stoves to serve 5,000 meals a day for those hardest hit.
Bishop and Fuller, members of Harmony Hill Baptist Church in Lufkin, led the kitchen team that began cooking in a large outdoor kitchen area June 2 in the parking lot of Braeburn Valley Baptist Church in Houston.
Fuller said about 20-25 volunteers cook and clean for about 12-14 hours a day.
The warm meals are taken to shelters, personal residences, neighborhoods and nursing homes— anywhere murky floodwaters invade homes and businesses, creating chaos.
Southern Baptists work in partnership with the American Red Cross to prepare meals that are placed inside about 20 official emergency response vehicles (ERVs) dispatched to locations throughout Houston.
“It’s amazing what these volunteers do,” Fuller said.
Fuller knows how much a hot meal can mean to a person who has gone for days without one. She served alongside her husband as he pastored in Montana for 39 years before they returned to Texas to set up a disaster relief ministry at the Lufkin church. She and her husband have spent countless hours serving during many major weather events in the last eight years. This was her first time to volunteer since he died in October.
A 77-year-old grandmother of 11 and great-grandmother of 16, Fuller said she is impressed by the work of volunteers spread “all over” the state of Texas.
“We see God’s in control. We work awfully hard, literally fall into bed, and then the next day go out with a smile,” Fuller said. “It’s a God thing. When we go out, God gives us the strength. It’s absolutely amazing.”
It is all part of what Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers see as their mission— to “become the Lord’s hands and feet during a disaster,” said Vaundina Green of Cedar Bayou Baptist Church in Baytown.
Green and Sheryl Adams were operating a laundry and shower trailer provided by their church at the site where the machines were busy all hours of the day.
When the relative of a local resident stopped by to ask about cleaning supplies to assist in a mud-out, the women gently steered him toward a local community center that could meet his specific need.
“Thank you,” he beamed. “I appreciate the help.”
Gordon Knight, an incident commander for SBTC disaster relief, said the volunteers, most of whom are staying in a dormitory at nearby Houston Baptist University, pray daily for each other and for the people they help.
“Our single motivation is to serve other people with the love of Christ,” Knight said.
In Houston—the nation’s fourth largest city with more than 6 million diverse people—Knight said it would be easy to become overwhelmed with the needs but teams know God has a purpose for them there at this particular time.
“It’s sad that it takes a tragedy like this to focus on the needs of Houston, but the needs are great,” he said, speculating it is “probably the most unchurched city in Texas” despite church buildings of almost every kind scattered throughout most of its neighborhoods.
“We hope as people watch us they understand what we do and why we do it,” Knight said. “People are coming here looking for security and jobs, and they don’t stop to think there is more to life than that. And that’s what we’re here for—the opportunity to share Christ.”
For more information about SBTC disaster relief or how to contribute to their efforts, visit sbtexas.com/evangelism/disaster-relief/how-to-help.