JENNINGS – In times of catastrophe, the yellow hats and shirts worn by Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are a sign of help and hope. And in non-disaster times, volunteers in those same yellow hats and shirts are bringing their skills and training to churches across Florida.
“My mission is to give our volunteers the opportunity to serve instead of sitting idly by until a disaster happens,” said Rich Rigdon, FLDR operations manager.
One of those opportunities came unexpectedly when a gift of plywood resources was given to FLDR by the state. “We were blessed with this unexpected load of plywood, and we wanted to share that blessing,” said Rigdon.
Through a working partnership with Misael Castillo, migrant ministry catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, FLDR was able to find a migrant church in Jennings that needed plywood.
“FLDR called me and told me that they had plywood in the Lake Yale (Baptist Conference Center) warehouse and asked me if I knew of any churches that needed it, and I thought immediately of the church in Jennings,” Castillo said.
“The church received plywood planks, ice machines, and children’s ministry equipment from FLDR that really helped them serve the migrant families in their church better,” he said.
The church in Jennings, Tabernaculo del Amor de Dios, was meeting in a space with no classroom or office divisions. The plywood donation helped them create those spaces, and the ministry equipment has elevated their children’s ministry.
In addition to providing those resources, FLDR supported the church’s back-to-school event in August, giving away 180 backpacks filled with school supplies to the migrant children in the community.
In Ocala, Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida serves the migrant community that resides in the Little Mexico mobile home park. On July 30 the church hosted a back-to-school event for children and gave away 150 backpacks. This time, FLDR came in with a feeding unit and provided a free meal for 300 families. A full team of volunteers who cook for DR brought generators, ovens, coolers, and everything needed to support the event.
“It was a great collaboration,” said Castillo. “The DR volunteers got to practice, and at the same time they gave the church staff a break allowing them to mingle and talk to people.”
FLDR volunteers are passionate about serving, and serving in events like these refreshes and encourages their ministry. Their desire to serve is so strong that some volunteers showed up without being asked; they simply heard it was happening and they went. As a former volunteer coordinator with Cuba Missions, Rigdon knows that volunteers want to do as much as they can, and he wants to provide these opportunities for them.
He also encourages churches to tell their members about volunteer opportunities with FLDR.
“I want to bring young families in as well as culturally diverse groups of volunteers… This ministry will not pull people away from your church; it will strengthen your church because volunteer experience locks these people into missions,” he said.
For more information on how to volunteer with FLDR, visit flbaptist.org/disasterrelief/.