SBTC DR teams serve victims of Rio Grande Valley floods and Colorado wildfires

July 17th, 2018 / By: Jane Rodgers | TEXAN Correspondent / comments

SBTC DR teams serve victims of Rio Grande Valley floods and Colorado wildfires

McALLEN and LA VETA, COLORADO—A week after Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief (SBTC DR) volunteers deployed to the Rio Grande Valley in late June to assist victims of flooding caused by torrential rains, SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice received a request for crews to feed volunteers, National Guard troops and fire fighters responding to wildfires sweeping Colorado.

SBTC DR mud-out and clean-up crews completed about 70 work orders in McAllen before temporarily standing down July 14. Teams of SBTC volunteers are scheduled to redeploy to the area the week of July 22, to work in conjunction with Texas Baptist Men.

Mike Jansen, who followed George Yarger as SBTC DR incident leader in McAllen, praised First Baptist Church of McAllen for hosting volunteers and supplying interpreters. “Interpreters are always a great need,” Jansen said of work done with Spanish-speaking populations.

Over 100 spiritual contacts were made over the three-week initial Valley deployment, Jansen said, noting that 26 salvations occurred.

One mud-out group shared the gospel in informal conversations with the homeowner, who came to faith by the end of the day’s work. “One would share, then another would come through and share,” Jansen said of the seamless evangelism possible in the worst of conditions as DR crews offer both physical help and spiritual hope.

While crews labored in the Valley, Colorado wildfires spread. When Stice called for a team to travel to Colorado to provide relief for DR feeding crews, Beth Wilbanks of Diboll replied that she was already there.

Wilbanks and her husband, Gerry, were already travelling to Wyoming to work with Volunteer Christian Builders when the call came.

“I am headed that way. I will go,” Wilbanks told Dewey Watson, SBTC DR task force supervisor for feeding. Her husband drove six hours to drop her at La Veta in southern Colorado on July 12, where she worked through the weekend, joined Saturday by two additional SBTC volunteers from Texas. A second three-person SBTC DR feeding team is scheduled to deploy to Colorado July 22-31, with a six-person team rotating in the following week, Watson said.

SBTC DR and disaster crews from Colorado and other states are conducting feeding operations using trailers from the North American Mission Board. Volunteers are staying in both the church parsonage and the SBTC DR bunkhouse, parked at Mountain View Baptist Church in La Veta and taken to Colorado by Glenn and Terri James, Watson said.

Wilbanks, who accompanied Colorado assessors on a run following her feeding shift one day, described the ongoing ash-out work that promises to occupy crews for months. The effort requires heavy equipment to remove twisted metal debris, volunteers to sift through ashes for valuables, and skid steers to move mounds of ash, Wilbanks noted.

Ash-out is “a hard job” and “also dangerous. You cannot breathe that ash,” Watson added, confirming that SBTC DR efforts will continue to focus on feeding volunteers and first responders as relief and recovery efforts expand in Colorado.