LAFAYETTE, La. (TEXAN) — "I would go to hell," a man replied honestly when Wayne Barber asked him where he thought he would be if he died.
But the man, who was helping his sister with her flooded Louisiana home, changed his demeanor as Barber, a chaplain with Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief (SBTC DR), explained the gospel to him. At the end of their conversation, the man prayed to receive Christ.
"You could just see the Holy Spirit working," fellow chaplain Laquita Hunter said. "The man became cooperative."
He spoke of his intentions to tell his wife, a Christian, what had happened to him, noting, "She is probably not going to believe it at first!"
This man represents one of around 40 professions of faith SBTC chaplain teams have recorded as of Aug. 28 during their relief efforts in a 50-by-50-square mile section of Louisiana, stretching from Crowley east to Beaux Bridge and from Opelousas south to New Iberia, according to SBTC DR white hat Mike Jansen of Linden, Texas.
Housed at The Bayou Church in Lafayette, SBTC teams have prepared as many as 9,700 meals per day, which are then delivered by the Red Cross to families and individuals in need. Additionally, mud-out and clean-out operations have started and chaplains are offering the hope of salvation to all who will hear.
SBTC DR deployed rapidly after Louisiana DR requested assistance. Jansen arrived on August 18 to take over white hat duties from Marvin Leleux of Louisiana DR. Wally Leyerle of First Baptist The Colony assumed white hat duties from Jansen on August 22.
Some 30-40 SBTC volunteers are working daily alongside teams from Louisiana, Jansen confirmed, adding that the number of actual volunteers varies daily as individuals rotate in and out.
Cleanup efforts have included assisting at least two churches, the Lafayette Korean Church and First Baptist Church Broussard, so those congregations could hold Sunday services. DR teams also focused on affected pastors' homes to free preachers to minister to their congregations.
"We are doing mud-outs and clean-outs, a little bit of tarping of roofs," Leyerle said. "We are sending out our chaplains with assessors, and they are telling people about the love of Christ.... The Lord seems to be directing our people right where they need to go."
Barber and his wife, Ann, along with Hunter have experienced divine guidance as they drove through affected neighborhoods.
"God turned us around," Wayne Barber said, explaining a day he sensed the Lord telling him to "go back" and stop at a home they had passed.
As they pulled into the driveway, a man in his 30s strode out to meet them.
"I saw y'all drive by, and I saw y'all turn around," the man said. "I knew you were coming back to talk to me!"
Wayne Barber did talk to the man, and the man prayed to receive Christ. The man's mother, a Christian who had long prayed for her son to come to faith, walked over from next door.
"Every day before we go out, we pray for divine appointments," Barber said.
On another occasion, a woman in her 30s claimed that a negative experience with a pastor's wife as a youth "turned her away from the church."
"She thought Christians were hypocritical," Hunter said.
Hunter presented the gospel to the woman, urging her to forgiveness. "We talked and she cried, then she accepted Christ."
Like so many flood victims, the woman had lost her home and possessions, but she found hope in the Lord. "We could tell, when we left, that her life had changed and was going to be different," Hunter said.
Names and contact information about all who pray to receive Christ are recorded and given to area churches for follow up, Barber said.
Jansen described the work of SBTC feeding teams as exhausting, stretching from 3:00 a.m. till the evening to prepare lunches and dinners for pickup and delivery by the Red Cross to shelters and the community. "You know, it's just an awesome thing to see the volunteers giving all of their time and energy to produce the food to see that the people of Louisiana have a hot meal."
Even the simple presence of helpers in the midst of disaster's aftermath brings encouragement.
"Every time I go out in public and people see me wearing the SBTC DR shirt, I am constantly being told thank you for being here," Leyerle said. "We are able to minister to people just by being here."
DR teams from Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas Baptist Men are working in other designated sections of the state.
"It appears we will be there some time." SBTC DR director Scottie Stice said, urging all available SBTC DR volunteers to consider deploying.
To learn more about how to sponsor a church or pastor's home affected by floods in Louisiana, donate to SBTC DR work in Louisiana, or volunteer, visit bit.ly/LAfloods.