NEW YORK CITY (BCF)—No more sleeping in tents or working long hours during a cold New York City winter. For college students who spent part of their Christmas break ministering to Hurricane Sandy survivors, it was back to their routines of school, work, church and friends.
Many also returned with memories and experiences that’ll last a lifetime.
“For our students, it was a life changing experience for many of them,” said David Coggins, a team leader for the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville. “While there were many firsts, it will not be the last for these students. This is what many of them have been waiting on.”
The last team of students serving in disaster relief roles in the Northeast headed back to school during the week of Jan. 21. More than 500 Southern Baptist students from 22 states have participated in the DR initiative, including 21 from BCF who were part of a early-arriving group of students who built living quarters for subsequent groups in early December and began mud-out efforts with Alabama disaster relief volunteers.
“I love helping people,” BCF student Patricia Lally said, “and telling them about Jesus.”
Coggins said the Florida students got off their bus and jumped right in to help when they arrived, setting up housing for college groups serving over the following weeks. Throughout the time they were there, the BCF students shared the Gospel message with various individuals, and listened to stories of loss, hurt, anger and frustration.
One team member said: “It’s like all the people here have been able to do is share their misery with one another. Now they have someone from the outside to come and pray with them and talk with them. A burden has been lifted.”
Speaking personally and on behalf of the students, Coggins said of the experience, it was meaningful to “make a difference in Jesus name to people who are hurting.”
“The students have been waiting to use what they were trained for, [and] now that they have experienced that, it makes them more eager to be a part of the ministry of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief,” Coggins said. Thankful for the efforts of SBDR, Coggins said his wish is that through the opportunity to participate in Sandy relief more students will become involved in Southern Baptist Convention life.
“This is our goal at BCF, not just to have a one-time response opportunity, but to equip students for a lifetime of ministry service,” Coggins said. “This opportunity, and others like it, will help us train and equip this generation of students to be good church leaders and servants for the future of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.”
The event was filled with many firsts, but Coggins noted that it certainly won’t be the last.
“I believe it is just the beginning of many things to come for these students and others at our college,” Coggins said. “I hope the other colleges, once they get exposed to and hear the stories of giving help and hope in Jesus name, that others will want to be part of the experience.”
As the students headed back to school, Southern Baptists will continue transitioning to a long-term strategy of ministry to Hurricane Sandy survivors. Fritz Wilson, the North American
Mission Board’s executive director of disaster relief, said SBDR ministry in the region will continue for as long as a year.
Long-range SBDR plans in the Sandy-affected areas will focus on places where the Baptist Convention of New York and Send North America: New York City teams will be starting new churches. Wilson hopes the relationships and goodwill garnered by SBDR efforts will help church plants as they reach out to their communities.
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