Nearly 200 staff members from The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., devoted their annual leadership “fun day” on Oct. 9 to participating in disaster relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Florence. The group tackled 12 projects under the direction of Baptists on Mission (also called North Carolina Baptist Men; NCBM) based out of a recovery site at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Lumberton, according to on-site reports.
Pictured are The Summit staff members, from left: Eric Stortz, director of cultural engagement; J.D. Greear, pastor; Amy Kavanaugh; Chris Pappalardo, editor; and Jason Douglas, executive pastor of weekend ministries.
J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he wanted the staff to experience the evangelistic opportunities created by disaster relief efforts and see what kind of impact Cooperative Program ministries can make on communities.
Greg Riggs, NCBM site coordinator, said the Lumberton operation has completed 180 house cleanup projects and is currently engaged in more than 380 others. He estimated several hundred more are on a waiting list.
Riggs expressed gratitude for the large group of volunteers from The Summit.
“We need money, but we need labor as much as anything else,” he said. “Money won’t clean those houses out. The manpower is what we need. If people will come with a servant’s heart, we’ll move mountains.”
Riggs, an avid fisherman, recounted his experience as a volunteer on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He worked with a team removing downed trees from damaged rooftops.
“One day while we were up on a house, a guy was saved,” Riggs said. “From that experience, I realized what I was really fishing for – I’m fishing for men. I’m fishing for men, now.”
Greear said encounters like Riggs’ are what he wants The Summit leaders to experience.
“Our staff is engaged in evangelism every single day,” Greear said. “We wanted to see this kind of evangelism, participate in it and support it so we can better inform our people, so they can catch this vision and realize God has a plan for them also.”
He continued, “If you have a servant’s heart and willing hands, you can prepare a meal, you can clean out a house, you can sit on a porch, pray with someone and give them hope. I want our staff to see that.”
Lori Francis, The Summit’s director of sending, met a family whose mobile home was damaged during the recent storm. The Arthurs, along with their son and grandson, have been living in the mobile home as a temporary shelter. It sits on the same property as their house, which still has damage from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, she said.
Amid debris, Francis recounted stories from the Bible about Jesus, Peter and a storm. Another staff member, Tony Diana, told the Arthurs how Jesus is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” from Hebrews 4:14-16 and prayed for them.
The grandmother, Clara, started crying, Francis said. “No one had been to see her yet, and she was so thankful.”
The Summit staff members shared the gospel with the Arthurs, and have plans to connect the family with N.C. Baptist churches in the area. Clara was open to discussing more about Jesus, staff members said.
The Summit’s pastor, J.D. Greear, and Greg Riggs, site coordinator for North Carolina Baptists on Mission.
Francis also praised the work of NCBM volunteers and leaders, including Riggs, Tom Beam, NCBM mobilization consultant and Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director.
“It was beautiful to pray with their long-term blue hat and yellow hat volunteers,” she said. “I believe it was motivation for our staff to work with intentionality and joy. We love our partners at NCBM.”
As The Summit staff removed debris and cleaned houses in North Carolina, the National Weather Service predicted another storm would hit the Florida Panhandle and move northeast in the coming days. Greear said Southern Baptists should prepare to “pray, give and go” as they brace for Hurricane Michael, which is expected the make landfall today (Oct. 10).
“We’re praying this thing will pass with no incidents, but if it hits, it provides us an opportunity to do what Christians do best,” said Greear, “to put the love of Christ on display in a way that awakens in people an awareness for their need of the message of the gospel that we bring.”
Greear also said he is thankful for how the Cooperative Program supports disaster relief and other ministries.
“All of our cooperative giving goes toward mission, and it’s spent in wise and prudent ways. But there are a few things, when you see them in action, you’re like, ‘I'm really glad I give to this. I’m glad I play a small part in it,” said Greear. “Things like disaster relief remind me, not only why it’s important to give, but why our church is committed to the Cooperative Program.”
NCBM is funded by the North Carolina Missions Offering. Visit ncmissionsoffering.org for more information.