Baptist Volunteers Serve Ike's Victims

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CWN.com - HOUSTON --The mouth-watering aroma of chopped chicken breast -- blended with peas and carrots to be served over rice -- drifted through the parking lot of the public sports park in League City southeast of Houston. Those Southern Baptists were cooking again.

At this location in the hot Texas sun, it was scores of Texas Baptist Men -- some with their wives -- who were preparing meals for Houston-area victims of Hurricane Ike, which ripped through Galveston and up to Houston last Saturday.

Click on the player above to hear the Southern Baptist Convention's Brandon Pickett describe the North American Mission Board's plan to serve 400,000 meals a day in Texas and Louisiana. 

Sixteen men stir giant "tilt-skillets" with aluminum boat paddles on a team led by Marc Traweek. Once done, the chicken, vegetables and rice are scooped up with tea pitchers and poured into red plastic "cambros," which the Red Cross would deliver to neighborhoods in their ERVs.

The process -- only with different menus -- is repeated with every meal prepared by volunteers ranging from the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to units from Baptist conventions from more than 20 other states.

In response to Ike, League City is one of three "mega" feeding centers in southeast Texas where Baptists are cooking lunch and supper until Ike's victims begin getting back on their feet.

With feeding units from the Top of Texas Baptist Association in Plains, the BGCT unit from Dallas and the South Texas Baptist Association from Skidmore, the League City site is gearing up to provide 60,000 meals a day.

"You want to know the nature of a dog, you put a cat in front of it. You want to know the nature of Christians, you put hurting people in front of them," said Randel Everett, BGCT executive director. "When we see people hurting, we want to help."

As Everett spoke, another pallet of food was being moved by a tow-motor from one of the dozen tractor-trailer rigs to the cooking tents. The trucks contain tons of food -- mashed potatoes, large cans of fruit cocktail and mandarin oranges, 3,200-pound pallets of rice, salty snacks and cookies.

But not all the food has even arrived yet. "We're just getting geared up," said Leo Smith of Dallas, longtime director of the Texas Baptist Men. Other smaller feeding units have been feeding evacuees in Marshall, Beaumont, San Antonio and Orange, Texas, since last week.

Smith said 50 volunteers began the cooking operation at League City but that number will grow to 75 before the site is closed down. "We're here until they say they don't need us anymore," Smith said.

While touring the League City feeding kitchens, North American Mission Board President Geoff Hammond said, "One of the great things we at NAMB can be proud of is our role as the gate-opener for our partners in the field. On behalf of the state partners, we maintain relationships with the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and FEMA so we can better coordinate our joint efforts.

"Since arriving here in Houston, the Lord has also impressed on me the sacrifice our disaster relief partners make," Hammond said. "Many of them leave families, jobs and responsibilities back home. They drive for days just to get to the disaster site. They work long hours. It's sacrificial work, all in the spirit of Christ. These folks have to have strong backs and good feet, and don't mind roughing it. Then at the end of a long day, they go to a local Baptist church and sleep on cots. Only the love of Christ can explain why they do it."

And Hammond said as "great as the SBC's Cooperative Program is, we're just not about giving money to the Cooperative Program. It's doing missions together in a cooperative manner. We have assets out there. The state conventions, local associations and the churches cooperate wonderfully in time of crisis. It doesn't matter where they're from because hurricane victims don't care which state convention or association they represent. They are united in sharing the love of Christ."

Since Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers began their response to Hurricane Gustav in Louisiana over the Labor Day weekend and now are responding to Ike, more than 11,500 ministry contacts have been made leading to at least 96 professions of faith in Christ. Southern Baptist disaster relief leaders at NAMB report that the cumulative totals of the Ike and Hurricane Gustav response have topped 9.300 volunteer days served, 1.1 million meals served, 578 chainsaw jobs, 17,671 showers and 2,861 laundry loads.

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