Storm Chasers

I have served almost twelve years as Disaster Relief Director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention and have been involved in countless disaster responses across our globe – from hurricanes on the Gulf Coast to tornadoes in the Midwest to famines in Africa. As I reflect on these events, there is no question in my mind that God is good and His heart breaks as He watches the suffering caused by these catastrophic events. For those reeling in the aftermath of these life-changing events, the loss can be overwhelming.

So what should our response be as the church to those suffering in the aftermath of these crushing incidents?

The Bible again and again calls us to reach to those wounded by life with compassion.

Jesus taught us in Matthew 7:12, ” Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—this is the Law and the Prophets.”

The apostle Paul commands us in Galatians 6:2, “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. “

This is at the heart of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief. Disaster Relief volunteers respond time and time again to bring practical help, a healing touch, and the hope of Christ to those struggling in the aftermath of disasters. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams are often the first on the ground and the last to leave these broken places. God’s light shines through the darkness as these responders offer the compassion and hope of Christ.

God often uses nature to both bless and to challenge us, to bring us food and to teach us the lessons of the struggle. The Bible challenges the church to fight against the devastation, disease, and brokenness of our world. He calls His followers to enter the battle and to be His hands and feet of compassion in a broken world. We are to leave the sidelines and enter the fray. As John reminds us,” This is how we have come to know love: Christ laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).

Historically, the church has always responded to tragedies with sacrifice and courage. During the third century it was the church that remained to minister to its neighbors when most others fled the plague. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief provided millions of meals and rebuilt scores of homes. And last year, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief provided over 116,000 meals to survivors of Hurricane Florence and assisted hundreds of families with chainsaw cleanup and recovery after Hurricane Michael.

As the followers of Christ, we choose to be “storm-chasers”. But we do not chase the storm to gather data, we chase the storm to bring help, healing, and hope.

If you would like to learn how you could become a Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer, go to www.kybaptist.org/dr or call us at (502) 489-3527.

They Went because They Were Sent

In response to Scripture (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15 and Acts 1:8), churches should be intentionally sending their members. Sending them on mission trips, church planting efforts, ministry projects and disaster relief responses. The church can reach our world with the gospel by putting the focus on how many we send rather than how many attend. 

What does it mean to send? Sending isthe act of enlisting, equipping and mobilizing believers to engage the world with the gospel through local community ministry, short-term mission experiences, church planting efforts, disaster relief work, vocational ministry, and long-term missionary service.

A sending church equips its members go, challenges them to live on mission every day, and provides many opportunities for them to demonstrate the gospel using their gifts, talents, and life experiences. 

First Baptist Church, Inez, Kentucky is one example of a sending church.  FBC Inez has experienced tremendous missions participation growth during the last two years  because pastor Casey Carver has made sending a priority. 

Pastor Casey preached a month-long series of sermons on the importance of missions, challenging the church to not only pray and give, but to send and go.  He used “One Call” to send a missions themed daily devotional by phone to the entire church during that month-long emphasis.

The church had not taken a mission trip in many years, so pastor Casey planned a 3-day mission trip to an eastern Kentucky ministry that was only 3 hours from their church.  They sent 25% of the church’s Sunday morning attendance on that initial mission trip.

Pastor Casey also encouraged the church to engage in ministry to the local community and many have done so.  Members are doing mission work through local ministries like Appalachian Reach Out, Haven of Rest, Heavenly Treasures Thrift Store, and God’s Food Pantry. Additionally, a group of ladies meets regularly to knit items that are given to residents of the local nursing home. 

The church recognized the need of children in the foster care system who arrive at local homes with nothing to call their own.  Therefore, the church began a ministry in which they provide host families with backpacks filled with items needed by foster children.

The sending of members on mission continues, as does the vision for how that will happen.  Pastor Casey has taken steps toward a new ministry called, God’s Connection, that will serve as a residential drug recovery ministry.  That vision includes a coffee shop and thrift store that will provide revenue for the ministry and a place of employment for those in the program. They have received permission to use an old motel for the ministry are seeking donations to help with renovation as plans for God’s Connection and the micro-ministries are developed. 

Sending people on mission out from the church won’t happen by accident.  There must be intentionality by church leadership, specifically, the pastor.  Pastors, will you challenge your members to go?  Churches, will you send your members out on mission as commanded by Christ?  We serve a sending God who expects nothing less from us, than to go, because we’ve been sent. 

What is Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief?

Our world continues to experience devastation and destruction annually.  Man-made events as well as natural disasters continue to challenge our minds with “why.”  Why has this happened?  Why me?  Why my community?  As Believers, we cannot answer the “why,” but we can respond with love and compassion as we help those affected know that they are not forgotten by God.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is one of the three largest disaster response entities in the United States. Trained volunteers stand ready to respond when disasters hit across our globe.  Disaster Relief ministry provides an opportunity for believers to be the hands and feet of Christ to hurting people.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief began ministry in 1984 and is part of the larger Southern Baptist Send Relief network of 42 state conventions, the North American Mission Board, and Baptist Global Response.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief is supported by gifts of Kentucky Baptists through the Cooperative Program and the Eliza Broadus Offering for State Missions.  This ministry offers opportunities for believers to be on mission for Christ during times of crisis.

The Apostle John instructed us:

“Let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

In times of crisis, people need more than empty words.  They need someone to come alongside them with genuine help and real hope.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief brings practical help, the healing grace of Christ, and the hope of the Gospel to those devastated by disaster.  More than 4500 Kentucky Baptists are trained as disaster relief volunteers.  Volunteers can staff mobile kitchens designed to provide thousands of hot meals, move in with a chainsaw after a tornado, assist homeowners in cleaning up a flooded home, offer spiritual care as a chaplain, and provide many other disaster services.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are trained in:

  • Bulk Supply Distribution
  • Chainsaw Ministry
  • Chaplain Care
  • Emergency Childcare
  • Damage Assessment
  • Flood and Wildfire Clean up
  • Mass Feeding
  • Roof Tarping
  • Radio Operations
  • Shower and Laundry Ministry
  • Water Purification and Well Repair

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief has a host of resources that can be mobilized during times of disaster.  Resources that can be deployed are:

  • 4 Mobile Kitchens with the capacity to prepare 68,000 meals a day for disaster survivors
  • 27 Chainsaw/Flood/Fire Recovery Trailers
  • 2 Mobile Communication and Command Units
  • 7 Mobile Shower trailers
  • 1 Mobile Laundry Trailer
  • 2 Mobile Childcare Trailers
  • 3 Mobile Water Purification Units
  • 1 Mobile Roof Tarping Trailer
  • 1 Kuboda Skid-Steer
  • 1 Mobile Lift
  • 2 Fork-lifts

To learn how you or your church can get involved in this Kingdom ministry go to http://www.kybaptist.org/dr, or call (502) 489-3527. Our next Disaster Relief training is at Lifepoint Church in Franklin, Kentucky on September 14. You can register for this training at
http://www.kybaptist.org/drtraining/

My Name is Alex and I’m a Missionary

There was a celebration reception at the Freeda Harris Baptist Center in eastern Kentucky earlier this month to recognize retiring missionaries Greg & Alice Whitetree and incoming missionaries Richard & Amy Greene. 

Richard served as a pastor in Salyersville before being called to come serve as director of the Baptist center in Pike County.  He and Amy have a 10 year-old son Alex, who has Down syndrome and has always been an active part of their ministry.   It was not uncommon for Alex to accompany Richard when pastoring, as he made visits, took care of things at the church, handed out popsicles or met needs in the community.  Coming to Pike County to serve as missionaries at the center will not be any different.  Alex will be there serving alongside his parents as they feed the hungry, operate a thrift store, welcome and direct the work of volunteer teams, conduct mobile Bible clubs for kids in the hollers and share Christ. 

Something very special happened during the introduction of the Greene family at the reception. After Richard and Amy were introduced, Alex took the mic and said, “my name is Alex and I’m a missionary”.  Wow, what a statement of intent and understanding.  I was moved by his candor and innocence.  Here is a young man that understood anyone can be a missionary. 

Many people picture a missionary as a middle-aged man who leaves his job in America to evangelize and plant churches in Africa. But that is a simplistic view. Today, African Christians reach out to Muslims in the Middle East. College students spend their summer teaching English in Asia. A family in America befriends and witnesses to international students. A truck driver responds to those hurting following a disaster and a 10 year-old boy in Appalachia wants to share Jesus with people he meets. All these are missionaries.

Although technically a missionary is someone specifically called by God and sent out by the local church, every Christian has a mission to share the gospel and make disciples.  But simply put, a missionary is an ambassador of Christ and every believer is expected to live out our faith and represent Christ as we go. 

You don’t have to be formally educated, have years of experience or receive a salary to be a missionary.  You just have-to be willing to GO.   The Greene’s are beginning to learn the community and meet the people who live there.  But I have a feeling it will be Alex who the community knows best because he is so accepting of others and shares an infectious smile with everyone he meets.  Thank you Alex, for being a missionary at the Freeda Harris Baptist Center.

Amazing Grace

Jesus demonstrated to a broken world that “grace” is more powerful, more inviting, and more life-changing than fear, lectures, or judgement.  God’s truth is embraced when we understand that God is good and desires to give us life.

Our Christian faith teaches that Jesus fully satisfied God’s wrath and judgement on the cross, and assures everlasting life to all who follow Him through the resurrection.  God offers us forgiveness, acceptance, love, and life through the life-changing grace of Christ. 

The Bible shouts to the world the best news ever, “God in His deep love for us has poured out His grace that we might know Him and have life in Him.”  It truly is “Amazing Grace.”

Understanding the depth of God’s grace has three powerful, life-changing results in our life:

  1. It overwhelms you with gratitude.
  2. It captures your heart and awakens deep trust in the God who has poured out His grace on you.  When grace captures your heart, you embrace God’s biblical truth because you realize God desires the best for us and that His way is the best way.
  3. It motivates you to overflow with grace to others.

In 2 Timothy 2:1, the Apostle Paul exhorted young Timothy to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Paul is reminding this young Christian leader that as Believers we started in grace, stand in grace, and are strengthened in grace.  God calls us who have been given such grace to be strong in grace, to be empowered in grace, and to be a witness in a broken world by overflowing with grace.

Mercy ministries give us an opportunity to demonstrate the life-changing grace of Christ to a broken world.  In times of disaster, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers illustrate the grace of Christ by offering unmerited help and kindness to those devastated by the ravaging loss of a disaster event. 

God calls His followers to wade into the muck and to be His agents of grace.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief extends the grace of Christ by sharing a hot meal to the hungry, cutting a tree off the home of a widow, bringing clean water to a village, cleaning out the flooded home of our neighbor, or praying with one overwhelmed and broken by loss.

Time and again those whom we minister ask disaster relief volunteers;

“Why would you come and help me?”

“Why would you travel so far, sleep on cots, help someone that you have never met, and do it all at no cost?” 

 I am thankful that we can share with them that it is all because of the grace of Christ.  We offer grace because God has poured out His grace on us. And as we demonstrate that grace it opens doors to share the best news ever that God in His deep love offers that life-changing grace to all who will receive it.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief demonstrating the strength of Christ’s grace as they offer help, healing and hope!

What Is Our Answer When Disasters Come?

When disasters strike, we must avoid the urge to throw out pat answers or offer flippant explanations. So how do we answer those struggling in the aftermath of disasters?

  • We grieve with those who suffer. Suffering causes us to pause, to look at the hard questions, and should move us to weep with those who are weeping. Grieving hearts need someone to come alongside them. They do not need pat answers and simple explanations. Followers of Christ should be the first to respond with grace, love, and generous help. Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are often among the first to respond in the aftermath of disasters, and seek to bring help, healing, and hope to those affected.
  • We should be reminded of our many blessings. Life is a gift. Even the air that we breath is a gift from God. We should never trivialize the suffering, but we should also not forget all the goodness that we have been blessed with in life. God is good every day and even in the trying days, He has blessed us greatly.
  • We must decide how we will respond to God. We can be angry with God or we can trust Him. We can question His goodness, or we can worship Him. Disasters remind us that tomorrow is uncertain, so we had better be prepared for eternity. The only way to be prepared for the uncertainty of life and for eternity is to know God in a personal relationship through Jesus Christ.
  • We must rest our lives on a solid foundation. The Bible encourages us to build our lives on a foundation that cannot be shaken. Disasters remind us that this earth as we know it now will not go on forever. There is a time coming when time will cease, and this world will be gone in the twinkling of an eye. Tragedies teach us that the only sure hope is to know God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to have the assurance of the life that He alone can give. The uncertainties of disasters remind us to prepare for the certainties that are to come. The only sure foundation to build one’s life upon is to know God and to rest our lives in His truth.

2 Corinthians 6:2

” For He says: I heard you in an acceptable time, and I helped you in the day of salvation. Look, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation.”

If you would like to know more about how you can become a disaster relief volunteer or how you can know Jesus Christ in a personal relationship, contact us at [email protected] .

Where is God?

Natural disasters continue to strike with little warning across the globe. In the aftermath of these tragic events, people often ask, “Where is God?”

Intellectual answers even when based on fact do not take away the pain or the loss of those affected by disasters. People need hope and grace amid the darkness, and I am absolutely convinced that only God can provide this healing of the heart. Yet this still does not answer the question, “Where is God?”

The Bible teaches that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, but the existence of evil and suffering in our world makes some wonder if God is good. The atheist says God must either be weak, sadistic, or non-existent as he looks at the suffering that exists on our planet. The unbeliever defies anyone to give an answer for such suffering after a disaster. Yet, the very question coming from an atheist is illegitimate and beyond reason. If one really believes that God does not exist, then one has no ability to question the events of life. If there is no God, then the very ideas of good and evil do not exist. Apart from God life has no meaning nor moral compass.

Men point to tragedy and question God’s goodness, but God points to the Cross of Calvary and declares here is the evidence of my love and goodness. Jesus Christ is the proof of both God’s goodness and the depths of His love for His created ones.

So, the real question is not where is God, but how can we know God’s hope in the brokenness? I offer these foundations:

Choose to follow Jesus Christ in a personal relationship. The only real answer for the brokenness of this world is know Jesus in a personal relationship. The assurance of our faith hinges on the one whom we have placed our faith. The only sure hope in life is to know Christ and the life that He has given.

Trust the promises of His Word. God does not reveal to us all the mysteries of life, but He does promise that He will love and care for all that have placed their faith in Him. The Bible reminds us again and again that God loves us and will not abandon us. Hear God’s promise in Isaiah 41:10, ” Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.” In the present, we live in the trust of His promises not in explanations.

Remember, God has a plan. God and his purposes are more than any of us can understand. If God could be completely understood, then He would be like us. Thankfully, God is greater than us and beyond our complete understanding. We live in a fallen world, but we are promised that God has a plan. A day is coming when God will answer every injustice, all suffering will end for those who are His, and His glory will be revealed to every person. Blessed are those that trust God’s character when they are struggling to see His hand.

Where is God? God is ever-present, and offers His strength, grace, and hope to all who will open their hearts to Him. It is not a coincidence that those with a spiritual foundations cope with the stress and trauma of disasters in ways that strengthen recovery.

Psalm 46:1-3

” God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with its turmoil.”

Lessons from Crisis


Disasters are part of living in a fallen world, and Jesus taught us, “He makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Disasters come without warning and are no respecter of position, status, age, economic status, or belief system. Disasters have an equalizing effect on those affected. Disaster survivors share the same overwhelming helplessness.

When disasters strike, we often seek to understand “why”. The Bible offers insight to these questions, but ultimately only God knows for certain why these catastrophic events occur in our world. We should always be cautious in speaking definitively on the question of “why”, but there are lessons that we can learn from disasters.

What are the lessons that God can teach each of us in the aftermath of a disaster:

  • We learn what is important. Disasters have a way to separate the trivial from the vital. No one laments the loss of a big screen TV or a missed golf outing in the aftermath of a disaster, they mourn the loss of loved ones and despair over being homeless.
  • We learn that we live in a world of both good and evil. We see the demonstration of sin and evil as looters and scam artists prey on the vulnerable. Yet we also see neighbors reaching to neighbors and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers serving meals, cleaning up flooded homes, cutting trees off homes, and putting tarps on damaged roofs in the aftermath of disasters. Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief exists to bring practical help, a healing touch, and the hope of Christ during crisis.
  • We learn about the frailty of life. Disasters reveal clearly that our time on earth is short and uncertain. None of us knows what tomorrow holds, and none of us are promised a single day on this Earth.
  • We learn that our future is not in our hands. We do not control our own destinies. All that we possess, can be gone in an instant.
  • We learn that knowing God and being prepared for eternity are the most vital concerns of life. Disasters remind us that those who are prepared survive disasters better than those who are unprepared. And the most important preparation for life is to know the One who holds all life in His hands. It is easy to waste our one and only life in trivial pursuits and miss that which is most vital: a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Disasters remind us that death can and will come for all of us, so we had better be ready.

The only sure way to be prepared for disasters and death is to know Jesus Christ, the resurrected Lord, in a personal relationship. If you would like to know more about how to have a personal relationship with Christ that gives you an assurance of eternal life, or if you would like to know more about becoming a Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer, contact us at [email protected] .

How Can the Church Help Disaster Survivors?

Hurricanes

Floods

Wildfires

Earthquakes

Tornadoes

The year 2018 witnessed Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael,  the California Wildfires, the Indonesia Earthquake and Tsunami, the Guatemala Mount Fuego Eruption,  and Super Typhoon Manghut along with countless other smaller disaster events.  Each of these events caused significant loss that left people and communities reeling in the aftermath of these natural disasters.

What can we do as the church to help those suffering in times of disaster?

Here are the ten best ways to help survivors of disasters:

  1. Do not just show up to volunteer.  Spontaneous, untrained volunteers often make response more difficult for responders.  Disaster areas are often short on housing and food.  Those who just show up often rob these resources from those affected by the disaster, and often create issues that slow down rescue and recovery efforts.
  2. Get trained as a disaster relief volunteer.  Training enables you to respond at the right time and in the right way so that you provide real and effective help to survivors of disaster.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief provides effective and positive ways to connect as a volunteer to help in times of disaster.  Learn more and register for a training at http://www.kybaptist.org/dr .
  3. Avoid the temptation to load up a tractor trailer with donated supplies unless you are connected with someone on the ground and meeting a specific request.  Disasters often become a receptacle for “guilt” giving or “make-myself-feel-good” giving.  It does not help communities devasted by disasters to barrage their communities with unwanted items or to ship them our junk.  Collecting stuff often causes further damage to communities by creating debris piles and the cost of disposing unwanted, unneeded truckloads of stuff.
  4. In most cases, monetary donations to reputable organizations are the best way to help those affected by disasters.  Monetary donations enable organizations to meet real needs in the best and most efficient way.  Ministering to disaster victims should be about meeting the needs of those affected, not making myself feel good.
  5. Avoid charity fraud.  Give to reputable organizations with a proven track record.  Donations through Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief, Baptist Global Response, and Send Relief with the North American Mission Board are some of the best ways to offer help and hope to disaster survivors.
  6. Donate blood.
  7. Pray for those affected.  Prayer is always a right thing to do for hurting people.
  8. If the disaster is in the church’s community, the church can offer compassion by just reaching out to support our neighbors.  Listening to them and being with them in their pain and confusion brings God’s healing comfort.
  9. Meet practical needs.  Offer the church as a shelter.  Prepare meals or allow a Southern Baptist mobile kitchen to be set up at your church to provide meals.  Collect and reach out to families affected with Home Depot, Lowes, or Walmart gift cards.
  10. Plan and organize a community memorial service or worship event that allows families a safe place to find healing and comfort in their loss.

“Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.”

(1 John 3:18).

Importance of the Pastor as a Catalyst for Missions

The Pastor is called to be a preacher/teacher within the body of faith.  This place of leadership gives him a unique authority and influence in the local church.  When the shepherd of the flock leads, the flock will follow.   This is crucial for the general health of the church but also for the missional health of the body of Christ.

The pastor is called to be God’s strategist for the local mission field but is also critical for God’s command to take the Gospel to the nations.  When the pastor has a passion for missions the church will be ignited to go into all the world for the sake of the Gospel.

The pastor is vital in:

  • Casting a missional vision. If it is not said from the pulpit most in the pews do not think it is important.
  • Helping the body of Christ understand lostness. When the pastor is consumed by the urgency of our work for Christ, it will overflow to the people in the pews.
  • Making missions a regular and important part of worship. Missions should flow from the worship of God. We were created to give God glory. When we meet God in worship, it stirs our hearts to make His name known among all peoples.  The pastor plays a key role by seeking ways to make missions a part of worship (preaching on missions, showing mission clips, praying for missions, highlighting mission offerings, using missions’ illustrations in his message, inviting missionaries to speak).
  • Preaching the Word faithfully and challenging the people to live life on mission for Christ.
  • Leading by example. The church will never be more committed than their leader.
  • Fostering the development of missionaries within the congregation by seeking to grow and encourage those in the family of faith to serve and surrender to a missions’ calling. Pastors are called to equip up the saints, so that these disciples may be sent out on mission for Christ.  The Missions Mobilization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention can assist individuals in connecting with our Southern Baptist missionary sending organizations to begin exploring the missionary appointment process.
  • Developing a comprehensive mission strategy to move the church to reach its Jerusalem, to have impact in the church’s Judea and Samaria, and to take the Gospel to the farthest corners of the globe.
  • Being an encourager of missions and missionaries. Invite missionaries to your church and help the church to build relationships with missionaries.
  • Promoting missions giving. This is the lifeblood of missions, and when we give cooperatively, we can do more for the Kingdom than any of us can alone. The pastor plays a vital role in helping the church to understand why we give to missions and choose to work cooperatively as Southern Baptists.
  • Encouraging the church to pray for missions, unreached peoples, and missionaries.
  • Energizing the flock to “Go.”

The strength or weakness of each local church’s missionary program, its missionary support, and its missionary outreach will depend, more than any other one element, on the mission-mindedness of its pastor.