Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief team responds to Colorado wildfire victimscomment (0)
August 1, 2013
By Gary Hardin
A fter a series of fires scorched through forests and homes in Colorado for several weeks, a 10-member team of Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers deployed to help homeowners clean up what was left behind. The team served July 21–27 in the Black Forest area of Colorado Springs.
William Letlow, blue-cap team leader from Tuskegee Lee Baptist Association, said the team included heavy equipment operators, chainsaw handlers and a chaplain. “People in Colorado welcomed us with open arms,” Letlow said. “It was devastating out there. Black, burned trees and rubble piled up where homes once stood.”
Disaster relief chaplain Tom Drake from Tuskegee Lee Association visited numerous home sites completely destroyed by the forest fires. He said some homeowners saw the fire coming and had only a few minutes to gather some papers and belongings before fleeing in their cars.
The disaster in Colorado touched Drake’s heart because he lived in Colorado Springs during the early years of his life. “Much of this area is in sticks. It’s a horrible sight to see.”
During the week Drake had opportunities to share the gospel with several homeowners. “We gave them Bibles after we talked and prayed with them. They were extremely appreciative of our ministry with them,” Drake said.
Disaster relief volunteers Phillip McMillan and Lindsey Mothershed, both from Elmore Baptist Association, ministered by using their heavy equipment skills. “We operated skid steers and concrete and metal extractors to remove pieces of metal and concrete walls, to scoop up ashes and then unload it all into dumpsters,” McMillan explained.
The two heavy equipment operators worked not only with the Alabama disaster relief team but also with teams from other states. McMillan believes God gave him the abilities he used in Colorado. “I need to use my skills to help people,” he said.
Letlow said Alabama’s disaster relief chainsaw team cut burned trees and limbs around homes. “Their work enabled the heavy equipment to move in,” Letlow said.
Alabama’s disaster relief team traveled two days and more than 1,400 miles to get to Colorado. First Baptist Church, Moore, Okla., hosted the group on their first night traveling. During the week in Colorado the team was hosted by First Baptist Church, Black Forest, and Vista Grande Baptist Church, Colorado Springs.
Mel Johnson, Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions disaster relief strategist, said he spoke with Colorado Baptist disaster relief leaders and “they were ecstatic that Alabama sent a team.”
“Here in Alabama we have disaster relief volunteers ready and willing to go, and ... they did so gladly,” Johnson said.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from other states are also actively responding to the fires in Colorado, as well as blazes in Arizona and California. Ministry to flood survivors continues in Canada, New York and Texas. The long-term response to Superstorm Sandy is at its peak. And volunteers have been distributing clothes to tornado survivors in Oklahoma City. (BP contributed)