Southern Baptist volunteers fire up stoves to serve 5,000 meals a day to Houston flood victims

by Joni B. Hannigan |

(Joni B. Hannigan/Houston)Volunteers with Disaster Relief Ministry for the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, William Rowell and Glynda Smith, load boxes onto a pallet at Braeburn Valley Baptist Church in Houston June 5 where SBTC volunteers join with American Red Cross volunteers to provide 5,000 meals a day to those in need following the historic Memorial Day weekend flooding.

HOUSTON (Christian Examiner) – Just a week following the devastating and historic Memorial Day weekend floods in Houston – volunteers with Disaster Relief Ministries for the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention have turned on their stoves to serve up 5,000 meals a day for those hardest hit.

God's in control, though. It's a God thing. When we go out, God gives us the strength we need – it's absolutely amazing
-Mildred Fuller, Harmony Hill Baptist Church, Lufkin, Texas

Southern Baptists are working in partnership with the American Red Cross to prepare the meals that are placed inside about 20 official vehicles that are dispatched to locations throughout Houston with much needed food and water.

The warm meals will be taken to shelters, personal residences, neighborhoods, and nursings homes -- anywhere there are people whose lives were abruptly changed when murky floodwaters invaded their living and work spaces to create chaos.

(Joni B. Hannigan/Houston)Mildred Fuller, a 77-year-old volunteer with Disaster Relief Ministry for the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, supervises the outdoor kitchen at Valley Baptist Church in Houston June 5 where SBTC volunteers join with American Red Cross volunteers to provide 5,000 meals a day to those in need following the historic Memorial Day weekend flooding.

"It's amazing what these volunteers do," Mildred Fuller, a 77-year-old team leader from Harmony Hill Baptist Church in Lufkin, Texas said.

And Fuller knows how much a hot meal can mean to a person who has gone for days without one. She served in the pastorate with her husband for 39 in Montana before they returned to Texas to set up a disaster relief ministry at their church. She and her husband spent countless hours serving during many major weather events in the last eight years -- and this was her first time to volunteer since he died in October.

Supervising a large outdoor kitchen area set up in the parking lot of Braeburn Valley Baptist Church, Fuller said about 20-25 volunteers cook and clean for about 12-14 hours a day. "They literally fall into a bed asleep," and then get up the next day with a smile on their faces, said the grandmother of 11 and great-grandmother of 16.

It's all part of what Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers feel is their mission – to "become the Lord's hands and feet during a disaster," said Vaundina Green from Cedar Bayou Baptist Church in Baytown, Texas.

Fuller said 50 teams that come from SBTC churches across Texas are stretched thin right now with events "all over Texas."

"God's in control, though," she said. "It's a God thing. When we go out, God gives us the strength we need – it's absolutely amazing."

Gordon Knight, an incident commander for SBTC disaster relief, told Christian Examiner the volunteers, most of whom are staying in a dormitory at nearby Houston Baptist University, pray each day for each other, and for the people they are helping.

"Our single motivation is to serve other people with the love of Christ," Knight said.

In Houston – the nation's fourth largest city with over six million diverse people – Knight said it would be easy to be overwhelmed with the needs.

Instead, Knight said the spirit of the volunteers remains the same. "We hope as people watch us they understand what we do and why we do it."

The Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board through its disaster relief network in Alpharetta, Georgia, coordinates equipment and personnel from across the country for major storms or events that require even more intense volunteer efforts.

For more information about SBTC Disaster Relief or how to contribute to their efforts, go online.

The Arkansas Baptist State Convention is serving as the Incident Command for Houston's disaster relief and is coordinating cleaning, mudout and other teams with Texas Baptist Men, another Texas-based Southern Baptist disaster relief ministry.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is the largest network of trained disaster relief volunteers in America.