As wildfires burned in Colorado Springs this week, Sam Porter waited for a call for help. Porter, head of the disaster relief ministry for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, is accustomed to such calls.
He oversees a program that trains church members — “anywhere from Boise City to Broken Bow, from Altus to Miami” — to help after disasters. His roster of volunteers stands at about 5,000.
The Red Cross and Salvation Army are easy to spot following disasters. Keeping a lower profile are Southern Baptists who do everything from cook meals to wash clothes to help flood victims remove mud from their homes.
An Oklahoma laundry team recently spent two weeks in Fort Collins, Colo., helping those affected by fires there. They work in a 32-foot trailer, built following Hurricane Katrina, that houses five washers and six dryers.
Porter expected he could be asked to help with meals in Colorado Springs. The Oklahoma BGC has 17 mobile kitchens. The largest can turn out 25,000 meals per day, with 35 to 40 people working; the other units can do 3,000 to 5,000 meals per day.
The entire operation is funded through offerings from the state’s 1,800 Southern Baptist churches. A former pastor, Porter said the ministry is a perfect outlet for many looking to contribute to the church in some way.
“Maybe they can’t sing. Maybe they can’t teach a Bible class,” he said. “But when they realize they can do something with their hands — running a chain saw or preparing food in a convection oven — they see they can make an eternal difference in someone’s life.” Amen.