Above: Jason Yarbrough, right, and Ryan Deatherage give leadership to Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief.

The year 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of one of Oklahoma Baptists’ most well-known, widely respected ministries.

Yarbrough and Deatherage are featured on the cover of the February 2023 edition of the Baptist Messenger.

Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief (DR), founded in 1973, has a storied history of serving in some of the most devastating crises in the state and nation.

As the 50th anniversary year of ministry begins, two new leaders have stepped into leading roles with Oklahoma Baptist DR, with hopes to build upon the strong legacy and foundation of ministry founder Laddie Adams, longtime director Sam Porter and others who established and built the ministry.

Jason Yarbrough accepted the role of Oklahoma Baptist DR director, and he will give leadership to the DR ministry, succeeding interim state director Sam Porter.

Meanwhile, Ryan Deatherage has accepted the role of part-time DR associate director for the ministry, with a focus on readiness and deployments. Both of these men have been uniquely prepared by the Lord for their respective roles.

Yarbrough has pastored in churches in Oklahoma and Texas and is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University. He most recently served as pastor of Glenpool, First, where he served for more than 11 years.

He has served in a DR volunteer capacity for several years and vividly recalls serving in the wake of fires in Mannford in the summer of 2012.

“In that (Mannford) response, I was part of the feeding responses,” Yarbrough noted. “In that capacity, you don’t always get to connect with victims or those directly affected.

“But the Lord gave me an opportunity to be on site and see the devastation—to see how these homes were reduced to pile of ashes on a slab. When I saw our DR volunteers out there helping these homeowners for free, all to share the Gospel, that is so impactful.”

Yarbrough feels called to his new role and said he appreciates the fellowship built among the DR team members. “When these volunteers from across Oklahoma come together, working side by side, these are powerful moments of ministry.”

It has been estimated that Oklahoma Baptist DR has more than 5,000 trained volunteers, and it is considered to be one of the largest DR ministries across the Southern Baptist Convention.

Oklahoma Baptist DR has served in nearly every kind of disaster—from hurricanes to tornadoes to floods to fires—from the OKC Murrah Building Bombing to 9/11 to other tragedies—the DR volunteers in yellow have been bringing help and hope amid disaster for 50 years.

Yarbrough hopes the Lord will continue to bring forward Oklahoma Baptists willing to be trained to serve in DR and people to support the ministry with prayer and financial support.

“When people give their volunteer time and their dollars, it goes far to advance the Gospel in a crisis situation,” Yarbrough said.

Deatherage is a member of Kingfisher, First and has volunteered with Oklahoma Baptist DR for more than five years.

One of his first deployments came in the aftermath of the Vici fires. Deatherage, who has operated a large landscaping business with contacts in multiple states, has direct experience in heavy equipment and overseeing large numbers of workers.

“When people lose their house, they believe they lost who they are as a family,” he said. “A disaster has a major impact on people. When crisis comes, to be able to serve them and listen to them and pray with them, that makes a huge impact.”

Deatherage says the big “payoff” moment for DR is when the Gospel is shared.

“We do not accept financial payment when we help homeowners,” said Deatherage, who played a leading role in the recent deployment of Hurricane Ian relief in Daytona, Fla.

“We serve for the opportunity to share about Jesus,” he said.

It’s been said that the Lord is always preparing people now for how they will serve in the future. In the case of Yarbrough and Deatherage, the Lord has been preparing these men to serve and lead a ministry that impacted countless Oklahomans and others for 50 years.

With God’s help, this next phase of DR ministry will continue to make a difference for Christ, offering hope in the face of heartbreaking disasters.

Oklahoma Baptists can learn more about opportunities to serve with DR at the okdisasterhelp.org; for more information on volunteer training, email Pat Jones at pjones@oklahomabaptists.org.