First in, last out

Erick Erickson, well-known conservative blogger and radio host, commented recently on the tornado response in western Kentucky that Southern Baptists were the unsung heroes of the disaster response because they are often the first to show up and the last to leave.

That is true with one major exception. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers have done incredible work in western Kentucky. Teams from here in our own state plus others from Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, Texas and others began arriving on the ground Sunday afternoon following the Friday night tornadoes and will be there for weeks to come. New groups are arriving even now — just days before Christmas. These men and women are ministry heroes, and they are to be applauded.

There is one group, however, that was already there and will be there when all other volunteers have gone home. The local churches, along with their pastors, staff, leaders and members were already present when the storms came, and they will continue to be there six months from now when others are gone.

These churches have responded incredibly well. Some of them, like First Baptist Murray, Zion’s Cause in Draffenville, Hillvue Heights in Bowling Green and Southside in Princeton are hosting Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams on their property. In these cases, gymnasiums and family life centers have become headquarters to hundreds of well-trained and equipped volunteers who travel far and wide to serve their neighbors in the name of Christ. These churches have made a sacrifice so they can serve others. This is not new to them — sacrifice is part of their congregational DNA. They built these buildings to serve the community, so it is only fitting that they would use the space to serve during the tornado response.

Southside Baptist Church in Princeton is using its facility to host Disaster Relief workers.

Other churches like Saloma Baptist, Dawson Springs First Baptist, Russellville First Baptist, Princeton First Baptist, Cayce Baptist, High Point Baptist and many, many more have opened their facilities to receive and distribute resources, provide hot meals for families and provide space for first responders and volunteers from other parts of the country. These churches and their members are working tirelessly, developing plans as they go and saying ‘yes’ to helping those who long to give so they can help people in these hard-hit areas.

In a one-day tour that took me from Saloma to Bowling Green to Russellville to Pembroke to Murray to Mayfield to Cayce to Draffenville to Princeton to Dawson Springs to Bremen and then home, I saw Kentucky Baptists at their very best. I witnessed pastors and church leaders serving their neighbors in the name of Jesus. In each place I saw the people of God doing what they could to relieve people’s burdens and provide immediate help.

The great thing is that though they were tired and often worn out, they were serving others with joy. I stood with a pastor who had lost his building, one who was the primary organizer of the community tornado response and another who has barely had a break since the tornadoes first came through his town. In each case, and others, I witnessed men of God and church members doing what they knew Jesus would have them do in serving others in His name.

In a day when so many people are checking out of organized religion, I confess that I have never been more proud to be associated with Sothern Baptists and Kentucky Baptists. When the world is at its worst, then followers of Jesus are at their best, and in the past week in western Kentucky, and throughout the commonwealth, I have witnessed Kentucky Baptists at their best. Thank you, Kentucky Baptists, for praying, giving, going and serving in the name of Jesus.

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