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Oklahoma Baptists continue wildfire response in west

When wildfires began to devastate Colorado, New Mexico and other parts of the West, Oklahoma’s Southern Baptists were quick to respond. More than 40 volunteers from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s (BGCO) Disaster Relief team have traveled great distances to assist in fire response. Most recently, the BGCO sent volunteers to Ruidoso, N. M.

“Our volunteers have worked tirelessly in connection with others to assist in Colorado, and we are making an impact in New Mexico and elsewhere,” said Sam Porter, the BGCO’s Disaster Relief director.

A group of Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers left from Boys Ranch Town in Edmond on July 7, along with the major equipment needed for the work.

“These teams have helped ‘ash out’ and clean and clear areas of debris and devastation, as well as provide a helping hand where needed in the name of our Lord Jesus,” added Porter.

Ira Shelton, disaster relief director for New Mexico Baptists, said he greatly appreciates Oklahomans who have helped in recovery from the Little Bear fire.

“We have had more than 125 requests for clean-up of home sites that were burned,” he said. “Oklahoma, along with volunteers from other states, including Texas, has been great.”

Shelton requested prayers for volunteers.

“Pray for the men working on the mountains. If it rains, there is a potential for flash floods and mud slides, which halts our work and can be very dangerous,” he said.

Disaster Relief in Ruidoso has opened doors to share the Gospel, and five professions of faith have been recorded already.

In addition to efforts in New Mexico, disaster relief efforts in Colorado continue apace, even weeks after the wildfires began. Porter activated a BGCO team of chain saw volunteers from the Washington-Osage Association to Fort Collins, Colo. in the wake of devastating wildfires. The team cut down more than 500 trees in one day at the request of the U.S. Forest Service to help halt erosion after heavy rains fell in the area.

Among the many volunteers assisting in Colorado is David Karr, a member of Norman, Bethel.

“Many of the homes destroyed in these fires are in the mountains, and some are accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicles,” said Karr, who is helping run the Incident Command Center in Fort Collins.

“We originally went to Colorado Springs, bringing some feeding equipment to supplement what they had,” he said. “We are now working in Fort Collins and are finding other ways to help.”

Karr has seen spiritual fruit from the relief efforts.

“Our assessors have had opportunities to pray with fire victims, as well as with other volunteers,” he said.

“I know of one family in particular, a couple who were living back in the mountains and lost their mother in the fires,” said Karr. “The family, who apparently was previously resistant to help from people, had dinner with disaster relief volunteers and has been ministered to by one of the local churches.”

Porter said he and his army of volunteers feel honored to assist states in need.

“With our current missions partnership in Colorado and familiarity with New Mexico, we feel a special connection with our brothers and sisters in their hour of need,” he said. “We Okies know that in terms of natural disasters, it’s not ‘if’ it happens, but ‘when.’ God has us positioned to make an impact for all time and eternity through disaster relief.”

BGCO Disaster Relief ministry is made possible through Cooperative Program funding and the State Missions Offering, as well as charitable gifts. To make a tax-deductible donation to BGCO Disaster Relief efforts, visit www.bgco.org/donate, or call 405/942-3000, ext. 4336 or 4337.

Brian Hobbs

Author: Brian Hobbs

Brian is editor of The Baptist Messenger.

View more articles by Brian Hobbs.

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