‘Bold in the name of Christ’

Church members partner with disaster relief in hurricane recovery

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PORT CHARLOTTE–Ron Tipton answers the ring on his cell phone. It’s a familiar sound that beckons his attention every 10 minutes or so. On the other end of the line is a woman in need. Tipton has never met her, but he soon learns that her name is Eva. Her roof was damaged by Hurricane Ian and she is searching for help, for someone to cover her roof with a tarp. Tipton patiently explains the process of an assessor first looking at the roof and then submitting a job order. He then prays with the woman and invites her to worship on Sunday morning.

Tipton, pastor of Murdock Baptist Church in Port Charlotte, doesn’t tire of answering such persistent telephone calls.

“That’s what we need to be doing,” he said.

Less than two days after Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwest Florida, Murdock Baptist Church became a “command center” for Florida Baptist Disaster Relief to provide meals and cleanup and recovery for residents in the devastated community.

Murdock Baptist Church, Hurricane Ian Response, FLDRAdmitting that he didn’t fully understand what to expect when he agreed for his church facility to serve as headquarters for FLDR to do its job, Tipton said, “That didn’t matter because I trust what we as Southern Baptists do, and I trust our Florida Baptist leadership.

“We are so thankful disaster relief is here because they are extending the love of Christ to this community. They are touching lives; they are talking to people; they are meeting needs.”

Even as DR volunteers sleep in every “nook and cranny” of the church facility, rising before dawn to cook meals for community residents or to head out to job sites, church members have also found opportunities to minister to their neighbors.

“The challenge–for every church that loves Christ and knows that the gospel changes lives– is to not be so concerned about cleaning our own backyard but literally to walk across the street and love on a neighbor because right now they need that,” Tipton said in a videotaped interview.

“It has been astounding to see the openness that this crisis has brought in the lives of people.” 

Murdock Baptist Church, Ron Tipton, Hurricane Ian ResponseDrive-through meal and prayer

Each day before noon, cars start lining up in the church parking lot. Community residents know that hot meals prepared by DR volunteers will be given to them by church members.

“This has been an open door for our people to walk to cars and say, ‘Tell me your story; tell me what your needs are; tell me what’s going on. How many meals do you need? How can I pray for you?’ and to pray for them right there at those cars and to engage them and share with them.

“It has made the opportunity for our people to see they can be bold in the name of Christ, and that has all happened because disaster relief is cooking meals and allowing us to share them through a feeding line at the front of our church.”

Murdock Baptist Church, Hurricane Ian ResponseStrength through cooperation

Tipton, a trained DR chaplain, believes that the Southern Baptist Convention is only “as strong as when we cooperate. I don’t know that there’s another place that we cooperate any better, any stronger than in disaster relief.”

Disaster relief, he said, “shows the strength of what it means to be a cooperative convention in this day and age.”

In his community, DR and Murdock Baptist Church will be partners in ministering and meeting needs for a long time. The scope of the hurricane devastation requires a prolonged ministry response.

Murdock Baptist Church, he said, will continue to use its God-given resources to reach its community, thankful to be serving alongside DR and fully expecting to experience the “blessings of God” along the way.

For updates on FLDR response go to facebook.com/FLBaptistDR and flbaptist.org/dr-current-response. To give financially in support of these relief efforts go to https://flbaptist.org/dr-give/. Donations of items are not needed at this time.

Murdock Baptist Church, Hurricane Ian Response, FLDR

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