Disaster: any happening that causes great harm or damage; serious or sudden misfortune; calamity; implies great or sudden misfortune that results in loss of life, property, etc.

Oklahoma has set a United States’ record for the number of nationally declared disasters in one year. By the end of 2007, our state had experienced nine. I am just glad that the Fiesta Bowl took place in 2008 or that record would have been extended to 10!

In every case, your Oklahoma Disaster Relief teams, supported by volunteers from around the nation, have served the people of our state. In fact, our fellow Baptist disaster relief workers came from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

The services these teams provide are unbelievable. Mud-out teams help to clean homes after floods. Chain saw teams remove fallen trees from homes and property. Cooking/feeding units provide hot meals. Chaplains extend encouragement and spiritual help during times of trouble. Child care workers offer special attention for preschoolers and children.

The remarkable thing is that the recipients never pay a dollar for these services. The amount of work and money saved to those affected by crisis is staggering. To date, chain saw teams have served 1,814 homes following the December ice storm, and at least that many remain to be cleared. Fifty thousand meals were served to people in shelters while they waited for electricity to be restored in their homes.

I have been with some of our teams when people tried to pay them. Their refusal to accept payment frustrated those who had been blessed, but the teams were firm in their response. In most instances, they ask only for the opportunity to pray and share a word about Jesus. They give their time and work their fingers to the bone just to demonstrate the love of Christ.

Although the volunteers give their time, it is not hard to understand that significant expense is associated with maintaining equipment and providing for housing, meals and other needs of the volunteers. One catastrophe follows another, and the funds set aside for these needs are constantly drained. The money budgeted for Disaster Relief comes from the Cooperative Program and the Edna McMillan State Missions Offering. In addition, many people find great joy in donating to this work above and beyond their regular giving. Those gifts are used directly to help provide free services to people in need.

The seven disasters of 2007 have left our funds depleted. Some of you may feel led to give a love gift to help restore those resources so we can continue to meet the needs of people in crisis. If you would like to give to Disaster Relief, please make your check payable to BGCO Disaster Relief and mail it to BGCO Disaster Relief, 3800 N. May Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73112.

Thank you and God Bless.