Christian compassion ‘peculiar,’ ‘not normal,’ NAMB leader says




ARLINGTON?”It’s good to be odd for God.”

That’s what Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization at the North American Mission Board, told yellow-shirted disaster relief leaders at the annual Disaster Relief Roundtable, April 25-27 at Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington.

Burton quoted 1 Peter 2:9, which describes Christians as “a peculiar people” set apart to do God’s will. Disaster relief volunteers exhibit abnormal behavior as they travel hundreds of miles in crowded vehicles?often with strangers?to volunteer, he said, relating his son’s description of their wardrobe as “inspired by Big Bird.”

“It’s not normal to choose to sleep on a floor or shower in a trailer that has wheels on it. It’s not normal to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning?if you even get to sleep at all?to cook thousands of meals, often in high heat and high humidity,” Burton said.

Carrying chainsaws to other states to remove debris from the houses of strangers, packing up materials to care for children they’ve not yet met, and risking health by shoveling mud and muck out of flooded homes are other indicators that Southern Baptist volunteers don’t lead normal lives.

“Folks, you’re peculiar, you’re different because God has done something in your lives,” Burton said. While sitting at home viewing a disaster on television might be easier, he noted, “Our norm is defined by our calling, however peculiar that might be to the rest of the world.”

Burton cited examples from among the 51,782 trained Southern Baptist volunteers ?half of them new to disaster relief during 2005.

Sarah Jo Trimble, an assistant state feeding coordinator from Florida, led feeding units in Hattiesburg, Miss., and Lake Charles, La., and later served as a liaison to FEMA for Hurricane Dennis and to the American Red Cross during Hurricane Wilma.

Looking across the audience to Trimble, Burton said, “Sarah, you’re not tired and you’d do it again. That’s odd and I’m glad,” prompting cheers in the crowd.

Carrying chainsaws to other states to remove debris from the houses of strangers, packing up materials to care for children they’ve not yet met, and risking health by shoveling mud out of the flooded homes, are other indicators that the Southern Baptist volunteers are not living normal lives.

“Folks, you’re peculiar, you’re different, because God has done something in your lives.” While sitting at home viewing a disaster on television might be easier, Burton said, “Our norm is defined by our calling, however peculiar that might be to the rest of the world.”


Burton gave examples from among the 51,782 trained Southern Baptist volunteers?half of them new to disaster relief during 2005. Of the 2,089 SBTC volunteers, 1,939 signed up in 2005.

Even the Cooperative Program method of funding Disaster Relief is outside the norm, Burton explained. “Our choice is to cooperate?it’s our strength.” In less than 20 years God has taken Southern Baptist Disaster Relief “from buddy burners to mobile units that can produce tens of thousands of meals,” Burton said. “He’s chosen you for this task. You are set apart.

You are his treasure, his possession, and that’s worth celebrating.”

During the 2005 hurricane season, 500 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units representing 41 state conventions operated for 184 days, utilizing 21,000 volunteers whose time amounted to 165,748 volunteer days. That accounted for more than 14.5 million of

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