Former military, law enforcement members fill distinct need with Florida Disaster Relief team

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If you were to drive past Metairie Baptist Church just outside of New Orleans, you would see a parking lot filled to the brim with vehicles, trailers, tarps and all kinds of equipment inside a chain link fence. You would also see several Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers ensuring the safety and security of these materials, no matter the hour.

These volunteers are members of the onsite management team — a team that includes former military and law enforcement members who have unique experience and training to offer.

Albert Melvin, FLDR, Florida Baptist Disaster Relief
Ex-pilot Albert Melvin says Disaster Relief is ‘the best example of friendship evangelism.’

Albert Melvin flew Cobra helicopters during Vietnam, but fused vertebrae in his back ended his flying career and limited his physical abilities.

But as a member of the onsite management team, he can serve those around him well.

“Most of the equipment that’s used for cleanup belongs to the individual who brought it,” he said.

By keeping watch over it so others can rest and recuperate from a long day’s work, Melvin — a member of Pine Terrace Baptist Church in Milton, Florida — can be a part of this ministry he loves.

“Disaster Relief is the best example of friendship evangelism. … Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep,’ and we intend to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the community,” he said.

Luther Willis’ wife, Kathy, got him involved in Disaster Relief, and he’s also found a distinct way to serve through the onsite management team. As a retired detective with the sheriff’s office, Luther Willis has a unique perspective.

“We’re just giving back what the Lord has gifted us with,” he said. “I see it as I’ve trained 31 years for this right here.”

The Willises are members of North Oak Baptist Church in Citrus Springs, Florida.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams from Florida, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina have set up Incident Command Centers in the New Orleans area and are coordinating clean-up and recovery efforts.

Hurricane Ida struck the state on Aug. 29 as a Category 4 storm, exactly 16 years after Hurricane Katrina’s devastating landfall.

By Maggie Evans | The Baptist Paper | September 14, 2021

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