Cooperative Program helps fuel Disaster Relief ministry

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Baptist Press and written by Timothy Cockes.

NASHVILLE (BP) – As Southern Baptists across the country prepare and mobilize to provide relief to hurricane victims on the East Coast, the importance of the Cooperative Program is seen in action.

As the unified missions offering of Southern Baptists, the Cooperative Program directly supports SBC ministries like seminary education, church planting, international missions and disaster relief, including recent efforts related to Hurricane Ian.

SBCV Chainsaw operator training
SBC of Virginia Disaster Relief holds an advanced chainsaw operator training session. Much of the equipment used by DR volunteers is provided by Cooperative Program funds.

Coy Webb, crisis response director for Send Relief, said CP is essential to their work.

“The Cooperative Program is part of the lifeblood of disaster relief and our work in crisis response through Send Relief,” Webb said.

“We’re not only able to bring practical help in times of disaster, but the hope of Christ to people who are hurting and devastated after crisis events. We recognize that every person’s greatest need is not even food – it’s their lostness and that they need Jesus Christ.

“As we’re giving that cup of cold water in Jesus’ name, we’re also sharing how they might know the hope of Christ that can change their lives eternally.”

Send Relief is a joint effort of the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board and is equipped to respond to disasters across the U.S. and around the world because of CP support.

At least one decision for Christ is made for every six or seven contacts made by disaster relief workers, Webb said, adding: “That wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for those people in the pews giving to the Cooperative Program.”

Webb said this DR work that is enabled by the Cooperative Program should not be understood only on the national level, but at the state level and personal level as well.

CP supplies funding for DR programs in every state convention, which then in turn train and send our volunteer teams.

Shawn Ames is a regional strategist for the SBC of Virginia and has been serving as the state’s DR coordinator since 2021.

His role is not only to help mobilize DR volunteers in Virginia, but also to work with other state leaders to synchronize relief.

“The coolest thing that I have learned about Disaster Relief is the coordination between the state leaders,” Ames said. “… I think that’s one of the greatest strengths of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.”

Ames said Cooperative Program funds help provide volunteers with supplies and equipment they use during deployments. Then those provisions make it possible for ordinary Southern Baptists, such as Bob and Lillian Johansen, to be a part of national DR efforts.  

Bob and Lillian, both in their early sixties, received their basic DR training at an in-person training event an SBCV church a couple years ago and were re-certified last year using the state’s online video training resource.

While recertifying, the couple invited more than 10 other people from their church to take the training with them so they could accompany them on trips.

About a month after recertifying in September 2021, the couple embarked on a SBCV DR trip to provide flood relief in Hurley, Va., taking some of their fellow church members who had just been trained.

Bob serves as the missions pastor at Maysville Baptist Church in Buckingham, Va.

Since that first DR trip he took to Hurley, he has been on several more in serval locations in Virginia and Kentucky. He has even taken more advanced training through the SBCV to become a blue hat and be able to lead DR trips.

He said getting more involved with DR work simply made sense for them in their stage of life, but they are not the only members of their family to participate.

Three of the couple’s four adult children have also received DR training and have gone on trips with their parents.

“We got involved because we have the time now to go out and focus on ministry,” Bob Johansen said. “We do a lot of family things together so it was just natural for them to come with us. We asked them and they wanted to go and enjoyed it when they went.”

He encourages fellow Southern Baptists to participate in disaster relief, all made possible by Cooperative Program funds.

“I think we have a commandment in the Great Commission and it’s not an option, so it’s important to follow His commands,” Johansen said.

“It’s not hard to go to these trips, and you get so much out of them. When you see that you’re helping somebody that is so distraught, it is just a blessing.”

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