The White River Association, the local chapter of the Southern Baptist organization, were joined by volunteers throughout the state as they left Indiana on Tuesday, Nov. 6 to help in the area effected by Superstorm Sandy early this month.
Local volunteers were J.C. Hall from Central Baptist Paoli, Ron Henry from White River Baptist in Bloomfield, Bill Ledgerwood from First Baptist in Linton, Carman Smallwood from Way of the Cross Baptist in Camby, and Georgia Flinn from First Baptist in Bloomfield.
Henry, the oldest surviving member of the White River Association, said the Indiana Chapter of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief project began in Greene County 20 years ago under the direction of Allen Haynes.
Since the inception the local relief volunteers have traveled all over the country to help the American Red Cross when natural disasters strike.
The local volunteers were stationed in Edison, N.J., and traveled daily for a week to help with the relief efforts.
"We left Edison each day and headed east toward the coast where most of the flood and damage was," Henry said.
The team helped with flood relief by doing "mudouts" in homes with severe water damage.
The mudouts consisted of removing the wet installation, wet floors and destroyed property to help homeowners prepare for rebuilding efforts.
"There were houses half-standing, houses half-destroyed and houses with a foot to 10-foot of water in them," Henry said of the aftermath of the Superstorm.
Henry said the experiences are always moving for himself and the volunteers, but no single memory stands out as they volunteered their time.
"They all stand out when you meet people that are lost and hurting. ... We want to show people what Jesus Christ would do if he was walking the earth today," Henry said.
Despite the cultural difference between small towns in Indiana and the cities in New Jersey, Henry said everyone has important aspects in common.
"The culture in that part of the country is a world away from Greene County. There is a mix of nationalities, but you always find people hurt the same way, and they love and laugh the same way," Henry said. "Often times the experiences are the same. What we want to do is to plant the seed that God loves them and we love them as servants of God."
He added people get so surprised with the generosity of strangers as they travel across the country to help in a time of need.
"They always want to give us money, but we don't take the contributions or solicit funds. Some people are just so overwhelmed, they just say 'I got to do something', but we are not asking for anything, and we do not want anything materially. All of our people are volunteers. I tell them to wait 30 days or so to think about it and then let us know if they would still like to make a donation," Henry stressed.
He added another interesting part of the work the volunteers do is helping those who may not be the ones in need.
"The neighbors are watching. They may be doing so in a clandestine manner at first. There was a gentleman who was watching us through the windows. He finally came out and he was a super nice guy. We talked to him and witnessed to him. You may have an effect on people you aren't working with directly," Henry added.
"One of our priorities is to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of the people, and not just the physical needs. ... Hopefully we have made a positive impact on the people we meet."
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief also assists the American Red Cross in feeding families as they try to sort through the chaos of the aftermath of the storm.
"We work at the pleasure of the Red Cross. They have monster units now in New York and New Jersey, and some provide thousands of meals a day. Southern Baptist does the cooking," Henry said.
While the Whiter River Association does not solicit donations, they are still accepted by sending donations to White River Association c/o Melissa Rowe, PO Box 92, Oolitic, Ind., 47451.
"We accept donations, but we simply do our work for the love of the Lord and as his servants. But, if they feel led they can donate through our administrative body," Henry said.