Randy Garrett’s first experience with disaster relief was in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina unleashed massive devastation across the Southeast. He and five others grabbed some chainsaws, hopped in a van, and headed south to help with the cleanup efforts. But they discovered very quickly that they needed training!
After returning to Arkansas, Randy connected with Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief to receive that much-needed training. One thing led to another, and today Randy is the director of the organization that trained him. He coordinates the efforts of approximately 2,400 volunteers, making Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief the largest disaster relief organization in the state.
When a natural disaster hits, Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief is almost always the first to arrive and the last to leave. As soon as conditions are clear enough for a team to get in, Disaster Relief is there, ready to provide food and cleanup crews.
This is where Randy most strongly sees the blessing of Arkansas Baptists and their willingness to pray and give. Thanks to Dixie Jackson funding, Arkansas Disaster Relief crews don’t have to try to scramble to find equipment or pull together resources because everything needed for a quick response is already assembled. Volunteers gather weekly to ensure that all of the resources and equipment are sorted, maintained, and ready for use at a moment’s notice.
Response to a specific event starts with assessment of the damage to determine what services are needed. As soon as these assessments are made, team leaders mobilize their teams to head in and get to work. Once the teams are in place, they coordinate with the local government, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and local churches to ensure that needs are most efficiently met.
Meanwhile, Disaster Relief chaplains are at work right alongside feeding units and work crews. Many of these chaplains are volunteers who once served on work crews but can no longer do the heavy lifting or physical labor required to manage a chainsaw or work in a feeding unit. But they can talk to people about Jesus! They hold conversations while assessments are being made, walk alongside cars waiting in food lines, or spend time in neighborhoods where fellow crew members are cutting trees off homes.
This is why Disaster Relief volunteers do what they do. They know that people whose lives have been impacted by disaster will have much more than their immediate physical needs met. They will also hear the Gospel. In fact, many times hearts that have long been hardened will be open for the first time because of the love shown to them by these Arkansas Baptists who give of their time and their energy.
The Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering makes this ministry possible, in part because of the generous giving of Arkansas Baptists each year. But volunteers who are willing to give of their time and be ready to go at a moment’s notice are also key to this ministry. When God’s people are willing to go, physical needs are met, and souls are ignited with new life as they hear and receive the Gospel message.