by Joe Conway
— Leading a group of college disaster relief volunteers for three days would be enough for some 23-year-olds to call it a week.
Not Andrew Hendricks.
After leading a group of Clemson University Baptist Campus Ministry student volunteers through cleanup assignments in suburban Columbia, S.C., Hendricks joined his association’s Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team in the Arcadia Lakes area and continued to serve.
“We are working on a home today where an older woman lives alone,” said Hendricks, a recent Clemson graduate and Baptist Campus Ministry intern. “The water went all the way up into her attic. She kept going higher up in her house as the water rose. She was rescued through a vent in her attic by a boat. It is a miracle she is alive.”
Hendricks’ service, first with college students and then with his Pickens Twelve Mile Baptist Association, highlights the power and partnership of students working with veteran Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers. The students are serving survivors of the overwhelming flooding spawned by Hurricane Joaquin.
“To see college students, who have the time on their breaks and who do not yet have the responsibilities of full-time jobs, working with retirees who also have the time to commit, it is really cool to see the generations working together,” Hendricks said. “I want to see that more.”
Deployed SBDR volunteers from South Carolina are serving with teams from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Oklahoma. Cleanup work is happening across the state. More students are expected to volunteer, as well.
“College students proved their value as volunteers by the tremendous service they performed in response to Hurricane Sandy,” North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell said. “Now they have the opportunity again and they are doing an outstanding job in South Carolina. The generosity of Southern Baptists to serve and give in response to tragedy continues to encourage me.”
A recent college graduate, Hendricks has walked the same steps many of the students he worked with have. As a Clemson sophomore, Hendricks volunteered to serve on a cleanup crew in New York City during his Christmas break responding to survivors of Hurricane Sandy. His current college volunteers received the same on-the-job training he did when he first served.
“The experience in New York was great, and they encouraged us to seek more training if we thought we wanted to serve in the future,” said Hendricks, a member of Cross Roads Baptist Church in Easley. “I attended a South Carolina Baptist Convention training and started serving with my association.”
Hendricks’ 10-member association team is being housed at North Trenholm Baptist Church in Columbia, just five miles from the homes where they are serving. But the trip to the job site takes 30-45 minutes dictated by the number of bridges and roads that remain out or closed from flood-water damage.
“You can drive through parts of Columbia and think nothing happened here,” Hendricks said. “Then you go into an affected area and it is total devastation. Everything in this woman’s house was destroyed. As a native of South Carolina, to see this level of destruction, it is totally shocking.”
The North American Mission Board coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief ministries.
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers –including chaplains — and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
Updates on the latest SBDR response are available at namb.net/dr/atlantic-coast-floods.
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.