Pictured Above: Pastor Jim Locke, Hillcrest Baptist Church, welcomes Disaster Relief volunteers.
PENSACOLA–Waking up at 2:00 a.m. to prepare meals, sharpen tools, work on administrative duties or wash clothes–these are just some of the tasks associated with Florida Baptist Disaster Relief.
The hours can be long, but no one complains.
Many FLDR volunteers are retired from their careers and have servants’ hearts with time to fill. They are ready to do whatever it takes to deliver a message of help, hope and healing to those who have gone through hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or other disasters.
As the 2023 storm season approaches, Pensacola Bay Baptist Association recently hosted its first annual DR volunteer appreciation banquet, celebrating the faithful service of these volunteers who are always ready as soon as a call goes out.
Gathered at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Pensacola, about 100 people, representing eight churches, received a warm welcome from Pastor Jim Locke, who shared how DR volunteers helped his family after a storm.
Dale Simmons, region one chaplain coordinator for FLDR, commended volunteers on getting up early, cooking, cleaning and serving in a ministry that is “not glamorous.”
Simmons said, “Your rewards are being built up in heaven.”
Brian Nall, executive director of Pensacola Bay Baptist Association, spoke to those in attendance about the great spiritual disaster in the community at large and how the service of DR volunteers brought the light and love of Christ to 70,000 households in the past year, with 25,000 people hearing the gospel and 7,214 accepting Christ as their Savior.
“When the yellow shirts show up, they bring the spirit of Jeremiah, which is hope, and Nehemiah, which is to rebuild broken walls,” stated Nall.
‘You are an opportunity for people to see the gospel in action.’
Lewis Miller, Florida Baptists’ catalyst for the West region, encouraged attendees, saying, “Disaster relief volunteers are the hands and feet of Jesus. … You are an opportunity for people to see the gospel in action.”
The need for DR volunteers is great; without volunteers, there would be no ministry. Terry Davis first joined DR as a way to serve alongside her husband, Sonny. “On my first callout to Houma, Louisiana, I planned to pull brush with the team and lose five pounds,” said Davis. When the incident commander asked if anyone knew Excel, Davis quickly found herself in the administrative ministry, calling on the strong work ethic instilled in her by her parents as well as using skills she had honed in her career in accounting and training to deploy power line crews with the power company.
‘God can use every life experience to prepare you for where He wants you to be in the next stage of life.’
“God can use every life experience to prepare you for where He wants you to be in the next stage of life,” Davis said.
David Coggins, FLDR director, thanked volunteers for their ministry, not just during storms, but also their ministry in churches throughout the state. He shared about a new command trailer being built and a second box truck purchased to serve as a mobile kitchen to prepare food for those who have experienced disaster.
Pensacola Bay Baptist Association plans to rotate the appreciation banquet each year to a different church, with Olive Baptist Church hosting the 2024 event.