This week Paula and I have been visiting with pastors and churches in Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington (sorry if you’re in this area and we missed each other). Each day the smoke from the wildfires has been visible and sometimes heavy. Everybody is talking about it, and last night at Medical Lake Baptist Church there was anguished prayer as we learned of three firefighters who died near Twisp, WA while fighting fire. A fourth firefighter was badly burned and is struggling for his life in a Seattle hospital. One of the men praying last night had just returned from 3 days of firefighting in which he labored for almost 60 hours. Still, he was in church with his wife and children, and grateful to be there, even in his bone-weariness.
As we prayed and worshipped, we also expressed gratitude for the Disaster Relief volunteers from our Northwest Baptist churches. I was able to share with that congregation of 30 souls that they are part of a big and deep work, providing care and ministry to people suffering disaster, even that night. While we met and prayed, four NWBC Disaster Chaplains were enroute to minister to the firefighters and families in Twisp. Other Disaster Relief volunteers are deployed elsewhere, as fires are raging throughout our beautiful Northwest.
Disaster Relief is one the great gifts of Northwest Baptists, and our Baptist friends across the United States, to our world. With an army of 90,000 volunteers (about 660 in the Northwest), D.R. volunteers respond to every major disaster in our nation and in the world, and they respond to many “smaller scale” disasters as well. This is but one of the wondrous fruits of our cooperation as Baptists. Whether a church has 22 in Sunday attendance, like the church we attended last Sunday, or many hundreds, disaster ministry requires the participation and cooperation of us all. So when you see those beautiful gold shirts with “Northwest Baptist Disaster Relief” printed on them, know that they represent you.
If you are ever interested in joining the NWBC Disaster ministry, we have training for volunteers on a regular basis. You can discover training dates on our website, www.nwbaptist.org, or call the NWBC office at 360-882-2100.
Also, if your church would like to be a “Ready Church,” ready to respond to needs in your community, you can receive training as to how you can do that as well. Some churches serve by providing shelter in the midst of crisis. Other churches are the go-to peoples when community leaders need volunteers or resources in the midst of a crisis. Ready Church provides a wonderful way for your church to extend itself into the community when times are tough.
One more thing – as you gather with your church family this Sunday, please pray for our firefighters and other first-responders. Law enforcement officers, medics and firemen are the heroes that run toward while others are running away from trouble. They deserve our profound respect and prayers. And pray too for the volunteers, men and women with whom you sit in church and Bible study, whom, when disaster strikes, don the gold shirt and go serve their fellowman. They do it in the name of your church and Northwest Baptists. More importantly, they do it in Jesus’ name, often sharing Jesus’ message with those who are looking for God in the chaos. Bless them. God bless them all.