A team of 21 Ouachita Baptist University students and faculty recently traveled to Fayetteville, Ark., to help with the disaster relief efforts from last month’s ice storm.
The trip was coordinated through Ridgeview Baptist Church in Fayetteville, and the group was also joined by the Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief Chainsaw Unit. The participants were divided into teams of four, with each team working on three to six houses. The OBU disaster relief group cleaned a total of more than 20 locations.
Not only did the volunteers clear away the debris, they took time to get to know the families affected. They prayed with the homeowners and even gave away some Bibles. They listened to the individuals’ stories and gave them an opportunity to talk to someone.
“One of our homes was that of an elderly lady named Norma whose husband had died only a few months ago,” said Kathryn Merrill, a junior speech pathology major from Keller, Texas. “She still didn’t have power after 12 days, and she lived all by herself. I felt like it was important to listen to her talk about her life and love and grief. Listening to her story put a face and heartbeat to our work for the rest of the day for me.”
Students involved in the project said the experience was much more rewarding than just community service.
“One of the best things about the weekend was the fellowship,” said Casie Neal, a junior early childhood education major from Gilbert, Ariz. “It was incredible how we could get together with people from Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas and feel right at home because of our common faith in Christ. We worked hard alongside our brothers and sisters and cleaned up a lot of branches and fallen trees in yards of people who couldn’t do it themselves.”
“There are few weekends that I can think of that are as fulfilling as this last one,” said Joshua Brown, a senior arts/engineering major from Jonesboro, Ark. “It was a real blessing to be able to reach out and invest some of my time in someone else’s life and well-being.
“As a college student I tend to focus on my own needs, my education, my future, my life,” Brown added. “However, these trips have helped me step back into reality, and I have been humbled in remembering that I have given my life to Jesus. It really is not mine anymore, and it is my duty as a Christian to reach out and make a sacrifice to help others.”
In the past year, the Ben M. Elrod Center for Family and Community and Campus Ministries have been involved in six disaster relief efforts including hurricane damage in New Orleans and Smith Point, Texas, and damage from tornados in the state.
“The students have such a positive experience that they e-mail the center about service opportunities,” said Ian Cosh, director of the Elrod Center. “Such a service ethic is beginning to catch on.”
“We don’t want there to be a natural disaster,” said Judy Duvall, assistant director of the Elrod Center, “but in case one happens we are ready to volunteer.”
by Emory Jacobs