Some have wondered through the years if it’s really worth the time and effort it takes to become a credentialed Disaster Relief (DR) volunteer. The answer, quite simply, is “yes.” When you become a credentialed DR volunteer, you join a family of over 3,200 Arkansas Baptists who have committed themselves to serving others in times of crisis. As part of the family, you have people to encourage you, love you, pray for you, hold you accountable, and disciple you. DR volunteers form friendships and relationships that last for years. Deployments provide a family reunion of sorts where DR family members reconnect with others from around the state as they minster together in Jesus’ name.
There are several benefits and privileges that come with being part of a family.
Family rituals and traditions
When you think of DR, you may think of chainsaws, feeding units and the other tools of the trade. These are all part of the tradition of DR but the real purpose that binds all DR volunteers together as a family is not cutting trees or even feeding people. The thing that makes this family unique is each person’s commitment to introduce others to Jesus. They go out and serve in order to share. DR describes itself as a “ministry of the heart – caring people rushing to people in crisis to offer the help, healing and hope of Jesus Christ.”
DR members are taught to pray with people, share Jesus with others and provide them an opportunity to become Christ followers. They also help those they serve get plugged into a local church where they can continue to be discipled.
DR has a family uniform. Everything about this uniform has meaning to the family and also ties DR to its Southern Baptist roots. All volunteers wear the famous yellow shirts with the DR logo that identifies them as credentialed volunteers. The color that most know as yellow is actually gold and represents the worth of every person to Christ. The blue of the logo represents each person’s loyalty to Christ. Both of these colors have been used from the beginning and were actually carried over from the Royal Ambassadors, the SBC missions education program for boys.
The other components of the logo have meaning as well. The arch, which includes the words “Southern Baptist Convention,” represents the umbrella of DR’s world-wide cooperative work. The wheat is a symbol of physical help and the fish is a symbol of spiritual help. The logo demonstrates Southern Baptists’ commitment to live the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
The DR logo is unique to the family. It is trademarked and may not be altered in any way for any purpose. The logo is only for use during DR response or DR functions, such as training, promotion, travelling to or from a DR event or response, and conferences that relate to disaster relief.
Volunteers also wear caps with the same DR logo. Yellow caps represent credentialed volunteers. Yellow caps with a cross identify chaplains. The green caps are worn by safety monitors and blue caps are reserved for unit leaders. Lastly, there are white or tan caps that are worn by incident commanders or members of the incident management team.
As part of the DR family, you have access to the physical and financial resources needed to fulfill your ministry. You also receive needed training and are granted access to the collective knowledge and wisdom of all the volunteers through the years.
DR provides training for each of the disciplines offered. Years of experience have been combined to develop training procedures to teach volunteers how to do each job safely and effectively. Chainsaw crews learn the correct way to cut down trees and limbs. Feeding teams go through ServSafe training and they adhere to the same standards as restaurants. The goal is to help the volunteers become proficient in their chosen discipline and to protect during deployment.
As part of the DR family, volunteers also have extended family in Arkansas Baptists that support the ministry financially and through prayer. This doesn’t mean that volunteers are paid for what they do, it just means they don’t have to pay to do it. Most expenses are covered. The cost of deployments, including PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) and other required tools, are shared by the various state DR units, and other organizations as well as the ABSC. Survivors of disasters are not charged a dime for the help they receive. Property owners are amazed that this ministry is free to them. This opens many doors for volunteers to share why they are there and why they do what they do.
Ultimately, as a Christ follower, you carry the name of Jesus wherever you go. As a DR volunteer your goal should be to bring glory and honor to His name in everything you do. In addition to representing Jesus, you also represent Arkansas Baptists and specifically all past, present and future DR volunteers.
Through the 50plus years that Southern Baptists teams have been deploying, DR has gained a reputation as the best of the best. And Arkansas Disaster Relief is no exception. State and federal agencies have come to recognize the value of a partnership with DR. The Red Cross, Salvation Army, International Mission Board, Baptist Global Response, Mercy Medical Association, FEMA, Homeland Security and Convoy of Hope have all entered into Memorandums of Understanding with Arkansas DR. These memorandums spell out exactly what each group will and will not do as a partner during any disaster. These agreements provide DR volunteers instant access into any disaster area. As part of the family, you have been afforded this privilege simply because of the name you’ve inherited.
The DR family wants you. The question you must answer is: “is it worth my time and effort?” Those whose lives have been impacted for eternity by DR would answer that question with a resounding “yes!”
Joining the family
Anyone is welcome to join the DR family. There is a process to go through, but the benefits far outweigh any inconveniences. The process provides the credentials you need and earns you the right to wear the yellow shirt and serve with the rest of the DR family.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, registration and training will now be done online through the end of 2020. Anyone wishing to be credentialed or needing to be recertified should go to abscdisasterrelief.org where you will find easy to follow instructions to help you complete your online training and certification.
- Pay the $20 registration fee. This fee covers the background check, badge, hat and online training platform.
- Choose one or more disciplines in which to be credentialed: Feeding, Shower/Laundry, Chainsaw, Flood Recovery and Communications
- Download the training manual (optional).
- Watch the training video and answer questions along the way.
- Fill out the background check information.
- Sign and submit the liability lease and volunteer agreement.
- Upload a picture (headshot with a plain background).
The ABSC Disaster Relief office will send your identification badge which includes your picture, information, and all credentials earned to the address provided at registration. The badge, along with the DR hat, will be sent during the month of December. This gives everyone time to be credentialed in as many disciplines as they want.
DR volunteers are credentialed for three years. At the end of three years, each volunteer will need to be recredentialed and receive a new background check. If your credentials are current and do not expire this year, you are welcome to cross-train in any of the other disciplines free of charge. If you have questions or need more information, contact ABSC Disaster Relief at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at – 501.376.4791 ext. 5249 or 800.838.2272 ext. 5249