Continued from yesterday’s post…
5. Oklahoma has 5,000+ volunteers trained in Disaster Relief. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is the third largest DR force in America, behind only the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. This response did not happen over night. It has taken years of steady effort by our state’s disaster relief leaders. I’m not going to mention names here because some of these leaders sometimes lead DR efforts in countries that are antagonistic toward Christianity. But the level of training and the number of people our state has to call on during a crisis is amazing. God has greatly used, not only Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief, but the DR volunteers of the other state conventions as well.
6. Money is usually the best contribution you can make in a disaster. Although items like food, clothing, blankets, etc are helpful; only the people in charge of the disaster relief know what they really need to administer the crisis. Money lets them buy what they need in the amount they need it. Also, millions of dollars are pouring in to charities. Some of that money might make it to the victims of the tornadoes in Carney, Shawnee, and Moore. “Charities” seem to appear out of thin air in a disaster. Some reputable charities still take a percentage of your donation for “administration”. Also, be sure to write or communicate the crisis that you want your money to go toward. Otherwise, it may be redirected somewhere you do not necessarily want it to go.
The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and the Southern Baptist Convention already have charities organized. They remain open year round, much like the Red Cross. Furthermore, 100% of the money you give to either of these Baptist institutions goes directly to the field. We do not take a percentage of your gift to Disaster Relief to pay salaries, the light bill, or buy advertising to try to get more money from you or other people. ALL of it goes to the field to help disaster victims.
7. The Cooperative Program (CP). Southern Baptists operate differently than just about anyone else. Southern Baptist churches voluntarily partner together and contribute a portion of their weekly offerings to help support Southern Baptist work. This allows us to do two specific things in a disaster. First, because we are able to pay salaries and ministry out of these Cooperative Program dollars, we usually have a man or woman already on the ground before disaster strikes – anywhere in the world!! The national news last week made several comments regarding the quick response by Baptists. Second, because we pay the administrative overhead for Disaster Relief out of the CP, we are able to direct 100% of money donated for specific disasters directly to that disaster (Moore tornado, Southeast Asia tsunami, Katrina, for examples). Because of the Cooperative Program, there is a Baptist presence worldwide, 24/7.
8. The visit by our president. I appreciate President Obama taking the time to visit the devastation and share some really helpful words. He is our president and his presence helped unify and bring relief to our state. His quote of Scripture (Isaiah 32:1-3) from a Bible found open in the debris was especially touching, “A man will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a cover from the tempest.” One thing I wish that he had left out of his speech was the inference that the government trained our disaster relief volunteers. Still, it was a gracious thing for him to be here to share that America is aware of the tragedy and supporting relief efforts here.
9. Heroism. Principal Amy Simpson of Plaza Towers Elementary School and her teachers. These folks shielded their students with their own bodies in order to protect them when the walls of the school came tumbling down. There have been an incredible number of heroes caught on video by local news who just did not want their name shared. In addition, there are many stories of people whose lives were saved or received help from a stranger whose name they do not, nor will ever know. There are stories of rescue workers digging through the rubble looking for survivors. Of helicopter crews assisting rescuers and then backing away so that the cries of survivors could be heard above the roar of spinning chopper blades.
10. Media/Celebrity. Did I mention Pat Robertson already? Okay, I know that people that live in the media centers of our country sometimes don’t get middle America. But my goodness. Morgan Freeman blames the tornado on global warming. Some journalists wonder why people would live in tornado alley. We wonder why they live on fault lines or in hurricane zones.
But all that aside, I do appreciate the effort of many in the media to come to Oklahoma and actually see what this place is like. I think Charles Barkley went through a similar renaissance last year covering the Thunder on ESPN. The people here are solid and caring. We love barbecue and the OKC Thunder. Many if not most Oklahomans may not be followers of Jesus (yet), but Christianity is a positive, supporting culture in our state. This is in contrast to some parts of our nation that are separating Christianity from having any impact on the culture. From what I could tell from the news, the media recognized that there is a different culture here that stems from our Christian heritage.
Tomorrow, part three of three.