LOUSIVILLE, Ky. (KT) – The Blue Hats in the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief team bound for New England this weekend carries a combined 75 years of experience.
They were born for this.
Say hello to Keith Stinson (chainsaws), Randy Foster (chaplain) and Karen Smith (feeding), who will be organizing their groups and patiently awaiting gospel conversations as they minister to an area wrecked by tornadoes on July 23.
“Bad being used for good is what we see in Disaster Relief,” Smith said. “They maybe wouldn’t allow us to evangelism on their doorstop, but when you’re cutting down trees and helping, it’s a whole other ballgame.”
Smith, a member of Pleasantville Baptist Church in Waynesburg, will be feeding the volunteers with five others in the new mobile kitchen.
The mouth-watering menu includes biscuits and gravy, French toast casserole, eggs and bacon for breakfast and roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy and peach cobbler for dinner. There’s more but you get the idea.
“A lot of the churches (in the northeast) are much smaller than we’re accustomed to in the South,” she said. “We could be feeding 50 to 60 people and they don’t think the church kitchen will support that. We’re excited to use the resources God has given us. I’ve been praying that God would open hearts and doors before we even leave.”
Smith has worked with Disaster Relief for 25 years.
A rare EF-1 tornado touched down on Cape Cod on July 23 with three towns hit, according to the National Weather Service.
The tornado caused damage to buildings and trees and left some areas too treacherous for people to return even while the region was packed with tourists. There were no reports of injuries or deaths but a lot of destruction.
The tornado reached wind speeds of 110 mph, the NWS said. Roofs were torn off some homes in the Cape.
Stinson, who is from Richmond where he attends First Baptist Church, has been working with Kentucky Disaster Relief since 1994.
“God has given me a skill set to do,” Stinson said. “I grew up in church, grew up on a farm and around equipment, chainsaws, heavy equipment and was an Army Engineer officer in the military. I got a postgraduate degree in psychology. It’s a skill set that helps me do a lot of things.”
He said the psychology can come in handy when dealing with people who are emotional over obvious physical loss.
“Our physical work provides the platform” for the gospel, he said. “We’re sensitive to the emotional needs and mindset of the person.”
However, Stinson said the Disaster Relief team members are ever mindful of opportunities that present themselves.
“We’re always looking for an opportunity to share our faith and share the gospel with folks,” he said. “We had people who are appreciative of the help but say, ‘I don’t want to hear any of that Jesus stuff.’ But when you’re helping and they see it personally, we’ve seen them start asking questions. We’ve had folks come to accept Christ.”
Stinson has worked Disaster Relief in Massachusetts in 2011 when Kentucky Disaster Relief Director Coy Webb redirected him from Paducah.
Foster, who has worked Disaster Relief since 1995, said the people in New England are “typically more reserved.” He said it’s important not to push but “be available and show that you care. They’re real. They’re hurt and they’re grateful.”
However, he said many are not spiritually where they need to be.
“Materialism is the primary worldview,” said Foster, a member of Crestwood Baptist. “They just lost their key material. The materialism has been taken away. They are a little confused and not in control. People like to be in control. It’s a new situation for many of them.
“You have to be careful not to push but allow the spirit to guide.”
The Blue Hats will work together and determine a strategy early on in the eight-day trip. They also fill out the reports that are sent back to Webb.
“If it hasn’t be accessed, we do the assessment of what needs to be done,” Foster said. “We’re dealing with safety issues, spiritual issues and trying to give people some comfort.”