April 17, 2020
By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist
Doug Vance said every time he stands in someone’s yard with a chainsaw, the person talks about how amazing it is that someone would come all the way there to help them.
And every time, Vance — leader of the Cahaba Baptist Association disaster relief team — tells them that’s not the amazing thing.
Much bigger story
“I say what’s really amazing is all the things God has done in our lives to make it possible for us to be here just because He loves you,” he said. “I tell them there’s not enough paper to write down all the things He put in our stories to get us to that point.”
Vance knows it’s a story much bigger than just him — God started crafting it long before Vance had ever heard of Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief. He once had a career with the power company. Before that, he worked as a tree trimmer.
“In those jobs, the storms hit, and you go. I was already used to it,” he said.
So in 2014, when he got something in the mail about the need for more disaster relief volunteers and teams, he showed his pastor and told him he thought that would be a great idea.
“He said sure, and he told me to run with it,” said Vance, a member of Siloam Baptist Church, Marion.
And he hasn’t stopped since.
“I don’t know that there’s any way possible God could’ve set my life up any more for this ministry,” he said.
Along the way, Vance has worked with chainsaw, flood recovery and tear-out teams. He’s helped build the Cahaba Association disaster relief team to around 15 volunteers and seen God provide a trailer and equipment.
Tom Stacey, director of missions for Cahaba Association, said Vance is “constantly recruiting” and an encourager.
“He’s all in and excited about the ministry,” Stacey said, noting that Vance keeps the focus on evangelism. “I’ve been involved in disaster relief since the mid-90s, and I’ve yet to see anyone more joyful in his calling.”
Vance can’t help it — the evangelism side of the ministry “lights my hair on fire,” he said.
He can tell story after story of how he saw God meet people right there in their yard after a disaster hit — and brought others there by divine appointment too. One woman who had come over to cut her elderly mother’s grass met the team working in the neighborhood and ended up meeting Jesus as she talked with Vance.
‘See the change’
“You could just see the change happening as we talked and she prayed,” he said. “By the end, she was just squalling, and she walked away as happy as can be. That’s what it’s all about.”
Whether it be working with the cleanup crews, administration, feeding teams, shower trailers, child care, you name it — disaster relief needs more volunteers, Vance said.
“It’s an opportunity to meet people where they are, and whatever you can do, disaster relief ministry can use you,” he said.
To learn more about how to get involved in disaster relief work, call 800-264-1225 or visit sbdr.org.