|EDITOR'S NOTE: BP Ledger carries items for reader information each week from various Southern Baptist-related entities, and news releases of interest from other sources. The items are published as received.
Today's BP Ledger contains items from:
Baptist New Mexican
Oklahoma Baptist University
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Lamb & Lion Home Video
Southern Baptists Wrap Up Ministry in Ruidoso Area
By John Loudat & Tammy Reed Ledbetter
ALBUQUERQUE (Baptist New Mexican) -- New Mexico Baptist Disaster Relief recently completed what may have been its most demanding deployment, the eight weeks of ministry during and after the devastating Little Bear Fire north of Ruidoso.
On June 9, the day after the wildfire near Alto jumped containment lines, NMBDR was activated by the American Red Cross to provide feeding and communications assistance, and shelters were opened at Trinity Baptist Church in Capitan and at the high school in Ruidoso.
Pecos Valley Baptist Association's feeding team began serving meals at lunch the following day at Ruidoso High School, Central Baptist Association's communications unit began operating later that same day and First Baptist Church, Ruidoso, opened its facilities for evacuees.
Communications assistance was needed because of the phone lines and cell towers that had been destroyed by the blaze.
Ten days after the NMBDR volunteers were deployed, most of them had returned to their homes and preparation for the next phase of ministry had begun, with two volunteers commencing the work of doing assessments for clean up, working with homeowners who were submitting applications.
The two men stayed at Canaan Trail Baptist Church in Alto, which had miraculously survived the blaze that destroyed much of the surrounding area.
That second phase of ministry, which began the first week of July and concluded Aug. 4, was the most demanding part of the overall ministry project, since NMBDR was not working with Red Cross at a place that had already been set up, said Cricket Pairett, ministry assistant on the Baptist Convention of New Mexico's missions mobilization team. NMBDR, she explained, needed to provide the entire infrastructure, which included housing, logistics, operations and food.
First Baptist, Ruidoso, served as the base for operations, making its facilities available to the many Baptist volunteers who came not only from across the state but from Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arizona over the four-week-plus period. While some of them stayed at the church, others stayed at the auxiliary gymnasium of Ruidoso High School.
Incident commanders Ira Shelton of Albuquerque, Dick Ross of Clovis and Ed Greene of Rio Rancho directed the army of volunteers from five states, who tackled 77 of the clean-up jobs that had been requested.
The biggest bottleneck in operations has been the inability to get dumpsters to a dump near Alamogordo," Greene said during the time he directed the operation, describing the round trip of about 150 miles.
In the initial phase of ministry in June, NMBDR volunteers logged 284 volunteer days in serving 4,156 meals to evacuees and firefighters. During the clean-up portion in July, they served volunteers 4,513 meals, working 221 volunteer days.
The communications unit put in 530 hours passing on 2,218 messages. Manned by volunteers from New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma, they were assisted by ham radio operators of Lincoln County.
The primary work of Phase 2 was the clean up of the devastated area. They also were supported by NMBDR's mobile shower unit, which provided 510 showers; its laundry unit, which washed 387 loads of clothes; and a command staff that put in 202 volunteer days.
Pairett stressed the valuable contribution of area churches, the local high school and businesses. "We couldn't have done it without them," she said.
"We are grateful that you have been led and used by our Lord during our time of need," wrote Don and Pauline Romero in a note addressed to BCNM's DR staff.
"You have helped countless individuals to make this crisis somewhat more bearable," they added. "The food and kind words of encouragement have not gone unnoticed. Bless you for being a blessing."
A retired pilot took his loss in stride, standing near the ashes of his over 4,000-square-foot house that took a year and a half to build and only three hours to burn.
"You need to wake up at 4:30 after a fire and see the beautiful universe out there and realize how miniscule this is," he said. "There's always a blessing in store, and I believe the Lord has got a good plan for us.
"It's already happening," added the longtime Southern Baptist who moved to the area seven years ago from Spring, Texas. He praised the hard-working Southern Baptists of Texas Convention crew, noting that his wife plans to join New Mexico's DR team after seeing the ministry firsthand.
"These guys and women are so fantastic; you don't find this in the world," he said. "If this is not a witness, I don't know what is."
Texas Southern Baptists poured their hearts into the work of helping New Mexicans recover from the wildfire that raced across the area after the lightning strike, deploying 44 volunteers during the month of July and sharing their faith along the way.
They were eager to return the favor of serving after Southern Baptist DR volunteers from 11 state conventions, including New Mexico, deployed last year to Texas following the Bastrop area wildfires.
"It is our opportunity and privilege to share with our fellow state conventions in disaster relief ministry," stated Jim Richardson, the SBTC's DR director.
"We have the opportunity to assist our neighbors during their time of need as they come to our assistance when we have a need."
Most local residents were amazed at the kindness of strangers ministering to them. After the devastating loss of his home, one man struggled with this new challenge by moving into an RV trailer on his charred property.
"He was very touched by the fact that people would come from so far away to help him and have no idea who he was," recalled Suzy Scott, an experienced SBTC DR volunteer from Atlanta, Texas, who drove 700 miles to reach the site. "We just told him it was because of the Lord that we were there."
The Little Bear Fire ended up burning over 69 square miles, destroying 242 homes, and costing an estimated $19 million to fight. Despite the disastrous result, several residents are experiencing new life in Christ.
Without a doubt, the many volunteers who were involved in the ministry are most grateful for the nine people whose lives they had been able to touch with the love of God who professed their newfound faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican; Tammy Reed Ledbetter is news editor for the Southern Baptist Texan.
OBU students offer help
in the 'Land of Smiles'
SHAWNEE, Okla. (Oklahoma Baptist University) -- Filled with friendly, gracious people who value hospitality, Thailand is known as the "Land of Smiles." An eight-member team from Oklahoma Baptist University traveled to the Southeast Asian country on mission to share their own smiles with third-culture kids gathered there.
Southern Baptist mission representatives who live and serve in East Asia gather periodically for times of training and retreat. While the parents participate in meetings, volunteers bring Vacation Bible School and childcare to the meeting site for the representatives' children - the task for OBU's Global Outreach team. During the meetings, missionaries are encouraged in their faith and walk with Christ after a mental, physical and spiritual drain of many months of focused service in East Asia.
"We invest in them by nurturing their spiritual lives as well as evangelistic and discipleship skills for their return to minister in East Asia," said Nathan*, an equipper of new missionaries in East Asia. "OBU investing in the lives of these worker's children refreshes the children as well, which in turn refreshes the family for further service."
Without OBU's investment in the children, the group of workers in East Asia would not be able to nurture, encourage and invest in the entire family during the time of retreat, Curtis explained. By strengthening the entire family, the OBU team enabled missionaries to be strengthened for long-term service.
The team was one of nine OBU-commissioned groups to participate in missions adventures during the summer 2012 semester. OBU's mission encourages students to integrate faith with all areas of knowledge and to engage a diverse world. More than 60 OBU students, faculty and staff embarked on summer Global Outreach (GO) Trips, sharing their faith around the globe under the leadership of Dr. Joy Turner, director of global mobilization.
Some of the OBU team members initially did not feel their mission trip assignment was very exciting, but they quickly learned the value of their service.
"I always thought that missions work looked all alike, but really it's just whatever needs done to contribute to the Kingdom (of God)," said Cherry Donnelly, the team's leader, who serves as secretary in OBU's Division of Music. "That's what is at the heart of missions, not a particular job description."
Prior to the trip, OBU student Christopher Thrutchley said he felt "left out" of the exciting summer trips awaiting his classmates: hiking the Amazon River area, doing medical work in South Asia, living in African villages and more.
"And I was just going to do daycare in a metropolitan Asian city," said Thrutchley, a sophomore from Broken Arrow, Okla. "Even though I knew I was going where God wanted me … I felt left out. However, upon arriving and seeing the faces of the and their families, hearing their stories, and living alongside them for eight days, my attitude completely changed. I became convinced that I was on the most productive trip of them all, because what my team was doing would have a lasting, refreshing impact on long-term workers all over East Asia. No longer did I feel left out. I felt ecstatic!"
Heather Johnson, a sophomore from Duncan, Okla., said her first impression of Thailand was darkness, which overshadowed the smiles she saw. She said she felt physical darkness as the city where they served sat in a valley surrounded by mountains. But she also felt spiritual darkness as she watched local people make sacrifices to Buddhist idols.
"My heart was completely broken," Johnson said. "Very few people there know about God or anything to do with Him. It was so sad to see how lost they were, even though they were smiling and happy. Their happiness was so futile, and it was so depressing seeing that and knowing that they did not see how fleeting that happiness was, and how pointless it was to sacrifice (to idols)."
The trip served not only to expand the team members' worldviews, but also they learned the value of service and gifts. Working with a team from the Metro East Baptist Association in St. Louis, Mo., team members collected items to provide care packages for the representatives' families, as well as birthday gifts for each of their children. They collected food items and supplies not commonly found in foreign countries. Donnelly said each team member was allowed by the airline to check two bags, so each checked one bag full of the care package supplies.
"The gifts provide a constant reminder as the workers return to East Asia that numerous Oklahomans serve alongside them in prayer," Curtis said. "There is no limit to the encouragement Oklahoma's investment will produce as these families seek to spread new life that is paved with new hope in Christ."
Donnelly said the most rewarding part of her trip was meeting the Southern Baptist representatives and hearing their personal stories.
"I love learning what their struggles are and how God worked through them," she said. "It helps me to learn how to pray for them."
Johnson said the trip gave her a greater appreciation for living in a place where she is surrounded by like-minded believers in Christ.
"It also helped me to see how urgent it is for us to spread the news (of Jesus)," she said. "There are so many people out there who do not know about Christ, and as a believer, that breaks my heart. Knowing the joy I have found in my Father makes me want to share the wonderful news with those who do not know it."
For more information about OBU's Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach, visit http://www.okbu.edu/academics/theologymin/go/.
Located in Shawnee, Okla., OBU offers 10 bachelor's degrees with 84 fields of study. The Christian liberal arts university has an overall enrollment of 1,871, with students from 37 states and 27 other countries. OBU has been rated as one of the top 10 comprehensive colleges in the West by U.S. News and World Report for 20 consecutive years and has been Oklahoma's highest rated comprehensive college in the U.S. News rankings for 18 consecutive years. For 2011-12, Forbes.com ranked OBU as the top university in Oklahoma.
* Name changed for the security of mission personnel and the people with whom they work.
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