VAN, Texas (Christian Examiner) - Disaster relief took on a new dimension recently for Texas Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers Wayne and Ann Barber when they worked with a 911 dispatcher to save someone's life.
Assigned to assist residents in the small East Texas town of Van which was hit by an EF-3 tornado May 10, the Barbers came upon a disoriented homeowner in his late 40s leaning unsteadily on a lawnmower.
Realizing something was wrong and relying on their disaster relief training, they hurried to help.
"He was unresponsive, but we knew what to do from our SBTC first aid training," Barber told The Southern Baptist Texan. "I got cold Gatorade and a chair from the back of my truck. We eased the man into the chair and cooled his body with ice and water. He could not even drink."
Ann called 911. Following the dispatcher's instructions, the Barbers removed the man's shirt, carefully moved him to a prone position, and continued to ice his body.
"His heart was racing, but his breathing stopped entirely," Barber stated. EMT personnel arrived in time to provide oxygen and IV fluids. "We heard later that he made it," Barber reported.
May was a busy month for the Barbers who reside in Jasper, Texas. In addition to this unexpected first-aid rescue, the couple helped repair fences and assess property for tree removal in Van. Just a few days later, they were deployed to Wimberley, Texas to assist victims of flooding along the Blanco River. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Wimberley on May 28.
It was not the first time the Barbers wedding anniversary came in the middle of disaster relief efforts. Two years ago, the couple was assisting victims of an EF-5 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma on their wedding anniversary.
Members of the Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief teams are trained to share the gospel with disaster victims while also serving in the areas of mass care feeding, cleanup and recovery, temporary childcare, operations, communications, chaplaincy, and shower/laundry ministry.
Wayne is a chaplain and disaster relief assessor with the ministry.
Their efforts at spreading the gospel resulted in fourteen professions of faith in Van. One of those salvation decisions was made by a physically disabled man whose fence was repaired by Wayne and fellow team member Gary Hunt. The volunteers learned later that the man's wife had been praying for his salvation for several years.
Another profession was made by two non-English-speaking adults and their young daughter whose home had been destroyed. When Wayne asked the couple, through a translator, if they knew where they would have spent eternity had they not survived the tornado, the husband shook his head "no." The Barbers were able to share the Gospel and all three family members prayed to receive Christ.
The Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief ministry describes its mission as one of fulfilling the Great Commission by "meeting real needs and sharing the hope of Jesus Christ with those whose lives have been or will be affected by disasters."
They are just one of many states that participates in Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, a ministry coordinated by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is among the nations largest relief organizations and its members are trained to respond to disasters across the United States.