Satan in the backyard, Jesus in the front

Disaster relief volunteers see God move in Eagle Pass following torrential rains and flooding.

EAGLE PASS—Wayne Barber, who spent two weeks serving in the Eagle Pass area of the Rio Grande Valley as a disaster relief chaplain following flooding from 17 inches of rain June 14-15, said spiritual conversations come with the work.

“We would assess damaged homes and ask the residents, ‘If the Lord had called you home, where would you have spent eternity?’”

Sometimes the answers were surprising, such as that of an elderly woman who responded, “In hell.”

“Why do you want to spend eternity in hell?” asked Barber through an interpreter.

“Because I am mean and hateful and I don’t read the Bible,” replied the woman, who went on to recount a life of tragedy, poverty, strained relationships and bitterness.

Within two hours, the woman had trusted Christ as her savior and vowed to call both her son and another relative from whom she had been estranged to tell them she loved them.

“We returned the next morning and here she came. Boy, she was smiling. She gave us a big old hug,” said Barber, a member of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jasper. The woman had phoned her relatives and shared her love for them. They had responded to her outreach as she had responded to the good news of Jesus.

A middle-aged mother of two embraced the gospel after Barber witnessed to her teenage children, who also trusted Christ.

“I was saved when I was a little bitty girl, but I have done a lot of bad stuff,” he recounted the mother saying.

“We shared Scripture with her,” Barber said. “We asked, ‘Do you believe the Bible? Do you believe God’s Word?’ She realized she had never been saved. She prayed with us and accepted Jesus.”

In fact, during that first week, Barber said he saw 62 people come to faith in Christ. The second week, after Ann Barber joined her husband in Eagle Pass, the couple saw several more trust Christ.

Barber credits two volunteer Spanish language interpreters, Eagle Pass natives Luisa Trevino and Mary Ann Glammeyer, with making the work of evangelism possible.

“These two young ladies were on fire for the Lord; they knew every street and even knew most of the people we encountered,” said Barber of the interpreters. “We wouldn’t have been any good at all without them.”

Even apparent misdirections proved to be divine appointments.

One morning Luisa Trevino directed Barber to turn into a subdivision by mistake. Trevino immediately apologized for bringing Barber to the “wrong place.”

“God sent us here for a reason,” Barber replied.

Barber and Trevino had been to the street earlier in the week. They used the opportunity to follow up with residents of a home they had previously visited. Twelve relatives were helping the owner clean up. “We talked to them awhile and I asked the same questions,” Barber recalled. “Nine of the 12 prayed to accept Christ. Three were already saved.”

There was no “wrong place.”

Another morning Barber and an interpreter drove down a gravel road to assess damage to a double-wide trailer. The trailer had an addition on the back that was leaking, but when Barber walked back to the addition he got an unpleasant surprise.

“I ran right up on a rattlesnake,” Barber said. “It was swallowing a bird, so he could not bite me. I took some pictures and chopped its head off.”

Meanwhile, in the front yard, the woman who owned the home and her sister who was visiting prayed to receive Christ. “I now know why I’ve come to spend the night here,” said the sister. “So I could get Jesus in my heart.”

“As I told everybody, we found Satan [the serpent] in the backyard and Jesus in the front yard!” said Barber of that memorable day.

“God just blessed in such an awesome way. It is beyond human comprehension what he did down there,” Barber said.

Sixty-five people have recorded professions of faith through the witness of DR volunteers, SBTC Disaster Relief Director Jim Richardson said.

THE WORKLOAD

SBTC DR volunteers were deployed to the area immediately following the disaster and have been working cooperatively with other relief groups, including the American Red Cross and Salvation Army. SBTC personnel have served alongside volunteers from the Texas Baptist Men and Baptist teams from Arkansas and Mississippi, said Scottie Stice, who served as the “white hat” incident commander during the first phase.

Initially, the SBTC volunteers teamed with the Red Cross and Salvation Army to feed the community, serving 3,000 meals a day, Stice said. By mid-July, volunteers had helped prepare and serve more than 16,000 meals, Richardson said.

Other DR efforts involved what are termed “mud-out” operations as volunteers cleaned out sodden homes, removing furniture and sheetrock and treating affected areas with a chemical to prevent the growth of black mold, bacteria and viruses.

The workload has been heavy, Stice said, with more than 300 homeowners requesting help. Nearly 250 of these were completed by July 15.

SBTC DR workers have been housed in Eagle Pass at Primera Iglesia Bautista, Iglesia Bautista Peniel and First Baptist Church, and at First Baptist Church of Quemado, Stice said.

Four white hats in addition to Stice were used during the month-long deployment.

Relief efforts into Mexico have been ongoing as well, Stice said. The city of Piedras Negras also suffered severe flooding. Baptist DR workers from Mexico have deployed feeding and clean-up units from the relatively new Brigada Esperanza.

“This is the first real chance they [Mexican Baptist groups affiliated with regional conventions or convenciones regionales] have had to deploy the Brigada Esperanza,” said Stice, who noted that the Brigada served some 1,500 meals per day. A grant from Baptist Global Response enabled the Mexican feeding unit to continue operations after the first week, Stice said.

Some 180 professions of faith have been reported among Mexican flood victims, noted Stice, who commented that the new believers were being incorporated into church plants in Mexico. 

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