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Students commissioned for summer missions also offered first-ever DR trainingcomment (0)

April 24, 2014

By Anna Keller

Students commissioned for summer missions also offered first-ever DR training

In April 2011 when a tornado outbreak blew through Alabama leaving huge destruction in its wake, people statewide — including college students — were anxious to offer help in any way they could. Matthew Dunson, currently a sophomore mechanical engineering major at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), recalls wanting to assist as best he could without any formal disaster relief (DR) training.

So when the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) offices of global missions (which includes DR) and collegiate and student ministries recently teamed up to host a DR training session at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega April 11–12, Dunson was eager to participate.

“I’ve grown up doing yard work and also was a part of World Changers in high school, and I felt like this training would combine the things I liked most about each of those activities — manual labor and ministry,” Dunson said. He learned about the event thanks to an email blast that went out to UAB students who are part of the school’s Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM).

UAB’s Baptist campus minister Bill Morrison said the 2011 tornado devastation became the seed that would eventually grow into this training session for college students.

“There were a lot of collegiate students that were put into action during that time, and we had several students that right in the middle of finals took their books and went to the fairgrounds to help out or went to help move debris,” Morrison said. “What we realized then was that we were underprepared for a disaster on such a huge scale, and so we’ve been having conversations for a few years now about getting training for college students so they can be even more help than they were before.”

Participants in the recent training received an overview of DR before choosing an area to focus on during the training weekend: feeding units, chaplaincy, clean-up/recovery or chainsaw.

Nate Young, senior Baptist campus minister at the University of Alabama, helped head up the chainsaw training portion of the event and hopes to see this program repeated to train even more students.

“The students in the chainsaw group really enjoyed falling a tree, but they also liked learning the history and scope of SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) DR,” Young said. “I’m just thankful and excited to have taken this step toward involving collegiates in SBC DR.”

Though DR training and education programs are not new, the training specifically for college students is. 

Dunson said one of his favorite parts about the weekend was the fact that he was surrounded by peers.

“I like the fact that it was tailored to college students and that we got to be there with people our age,” Dunson said. “It was neat getting to be around people our age, meet new people and share things outside of school.”

Given the positive feedback received from student participants and leaders alike, Morrison hopes to be able to replicate this event soon.

“Overall it was a very successful weekend, and I didn’t hear anyone say anything negative,” he said. “It was a very different kind of ... training ... much more hands on,” he noted.

Despite enjoying his chainsaw training, Dunson said the sessions on how to talk to people who have just been through a disaster were equally important and enlightening.

“They were emphasizing that these people have been through tremendous heartache, which is something I hadn’t thought of,” he said. 

“That means we have to approach them differently, and we learned about how evangelizing to people who have survived something traumatic is very different than in everyday life.”

Mel Johnson serves as DR strategist for the SBOM office of global missions, and Mike Nuss serves as director of the SBOM office of collegiate and student ministries.

For more information about the office of collegiate and student ministries, visit www.onemissionstudents.org. 

For more information about DR training, visit www.sbdr.org.

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