FBC Tuscaloosa thanks Samaritanís Purse as it wraps up disaster reliefcomment (0)
July 18, 2013
By Sammie Jo Barstow
As I look out over the homeowners here tonight, I see a story in everyone’s eyes, and it has been our honor to serve you,” said Dan Burton, project manager of the Samaritan’s Purse team that has served in Tuscaloosa since the devastating tornadoes of April 27, 2011.
Emotions spanned from laughter to tears, including loud applause, cheers and standing ovations, as First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, hosted a Thank You Celebration on June 26 to honor Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers as they wrapped up their time in the Tuscaloosa area.
Two days after the 2011 disaster, Samaritan’s Purse staff began arriving in Tuscaloosa. The church provided housing, showers, kitchen and office space and an area for training thousands of volunteers during the clean-up phase, as well as parking space for the 18-wheelers containing equipment.
In September 2012, Samaritan’s Purse transitioned to the rebuild phase to remodel and rebuild houses that belonged to homeowners who were uninsured or underinsured.
Gil McKee, senior pastor of First, Tuscaloosa, reported that volunteers have come from all 50 states and eight countries to participate. About 9,000 volunteers participated in cleanup throughout the city, and more than 1,000 skilled volunteers worked to remodel and rebuild 32 houses.
Jon Mason, director of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in Gov. Robert Bentley’s office, presented a proclamation from the governor honoring Samaritan’s Purse. Mason is also a member of First, Tuscaloosa.
“That’s why these walls are standing, so that we can serve like this,” he said.
Several city and state officials attended the celebration, including First Lady Dianne Bentley. Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox also presented a proclamation to Samaritan’s Purse. “Twelve and a half percent of our city was destroyed,” Maddox said. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without Samaritan’s Purse.”
During the celebration, homeowners who either had their home remodeled or rebuilt sat in a designated area of the sanctuary, and many wore Samaritan’s Purse T-shirts. During the building process, each homeowner was presented a Bible signed by the Samaritan’s Purse staff. Kris Sullivan, business administrator for First, Tuscaloosa, announced that the homeowners wanted to return a similar gift to the staff, so they presented each Samaritan’s Purse staff member with a Bible signed by all the homeowners.
Several Samaritan’s Purse staff members expressed appreciation for the help of volunteers and the friendship they have experienced in Tuscaloosa. McKee presented Burton with a check for $52,140 designated for use by Samaritan’s Purse for assisting the families whose homes were destroyed by recent tornadoes in Oklahoma. “In all, this church has donated more than $200,000 (to Samaritan’s Purse and others) above our regular offerings in the past two years for disaster relief,” McKee said.
Wrapping up the evening, Burton said the church, Samaritan’s Purse and all the volunteers had helped many people “get out of the ditch.” He explained that in the story of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke, several people walked by a man who was in a ditch and needed help. But a Samaritan stopped and offered him help and made sure he was restored.
“I would encourage you to look around you with Kingdom eyes and Kingdom ears to see who is in the ditch. That’s the way the Kingdom grows,” Burton said. “And by the way, we’ll have all eternity to talk this over. We can retell all the stories in eternity.”