SBTC DR teams experience unusual, productive summer of ministry

Jim Blount of Missouri DR (yellow hat) and Ian Stan, a Romanian pastor and translator, hand out water at the Ukrainian border. PHOTO BY DEBBY NICHOLS

Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief volunteers have experienced a busy and unusual spring and summer.

Just as SBTC DR volunteers, in cooperation with other state DR teams, wrapped up work assisting Ukrainian refugees in Romania in late May, additional SBTC DR volunteers began deploying to Moldova in June.

DR teams helped along the border of Romania and Ukraine in a variety of capacities, helping Romanian Baptist churches man a border station; distributing water, food, and coffee to refugees, truckers, and first responders; and serving in church-run refugee shelters.

“The border was about two to three U.S. blocks from where we set up,” said SBTC DR chaplain Debby Nichols, who was part of the last group sent to Romania. “We were not allowed closer than that unless we were assisting a refugee to carry bags or luggage to the border.”

Baptist DR volunteers worked also to establish connections with the Pompierii, the Romanian firefighters assisting with border security.

“They were very helpful to us. Most are not Christian, so we tried to build relationships with them,” Nichols said.

Six SBTC DR teams comprised of a total of 24 volunteers teamed with Southern Baptist DR teams from Missouri, California, and Alabama, to minister along the Ukrainian-Romanian border, SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice confirmed.

Working under the leadership of North Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief, three SBTC DR two-person teams have ministered in Moldova, rotating in and out over the last five weeks, Stice added.

“The Moldovan ministry is occurring in a whole different context,” Stice said. Volunteers are working in a children’s home that is hosting Ukrainian refugees. They are also working alongside Ukrainian refugees themselves helping to improve conditions at the home.

Ministry in Moldova included landscaping and running waters lines. PHOTO BY DIANA VANN STEWART

“We helped with everything from landscaping to running water lines to working on streets,” Stice said, adding that Baptists, including SBTC DR volunteers, have led English classes and Bible classes in the evenings at the children’s home.

Volunteers stayed busy.  For example, James Crawford of Bonham unloaded 1,200 solar panels from a semi-truck one day, enlisting the aid of a young man from Odessa, Ukraine, with whom Crawford shared Scripture and developed a relationship. Diana Vann Stewart of Bryan taught English as a Second Language to adults and children and assisted with Bible classes and children’s activities for refugees.

While language remained a barrier, Vann Stewart said the Ukrainians were “wonderful people in need of kindness and knowing there is help for them as they work through the changes in their lives.” She added that it was a “wonderful experience to worship with them.”

While all SBTC DR volunteers have returned stateside, Stice said he expects a request for additional international volunteers in the future.

COVID affected the groups, Stice added. Three SBTC DR volunteers came home with the virus, but all recovered. It is unknown if they contracted COVID at the children’s home or during travel.

In other SBTC DR news, a mud-out team is scheduled to deploy to Missouri the week of August 7 to respond to flooding. Shower and laundry teams are also on standby to minister in Kentucky, in response to massive flooding there.

The threat of re-flooding and the logistics of getting teams into affected areas safely have delayed the Kentucky deployment.

“Usually by this time, we are working on our first hurricanes,” Stice said. “That hasn’t happened yet.”

It has been an unusual yet productive season, he added. “The gospel has gone forth as we have been the hands and feet of Jesus in unexpected ways.”


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