Juice box, broken fence, lost cap lead to salvations in disaster areas

VAN—For Wayne and Ann Barber, anniversaries—even golden ones—mean Southern Baptists of Texas Convention disaster relief deployments. The Jasper, Texas, couple celebrated their 50th anniversary on May 28 in Wimberley with a group of SBTC DR volunteers initially responding to flooding along the Blanco River.

“Two years ago we were in Moore, Okla., for our anniversary; last year we were helping in Brownsville,” Wayne Barber said.

The Barbers were routed to Wimberley fresh from assisting victims of the EF-3 tornado which swept through Van, Texas, on the evening of May 10.

DR teams offer not only physical assistance but also spiritual help in times of crisis.

“In Van, we had 14 spiritual salvations and one physical one,” said Barber, who serves as a DR chaplain and assessor.

Sometimes conversations of eternal significance begin with something as simple as an offer of juice.

Barber spotted a little girl standing near her parents in the yard of their Van home, which had been destroyed. “I took her a children’s Bible and a little juice drink,” Barber said. “Then we talked to her parents.”

The couple, in shock, listened as Barber asked, “If you had lost your life in this terrible disaster, do you know for sure where you would be spending eternity?” The wife spoke no English, but the husband shook his head no.

Another woman on site, helping the family clear debris, walked over, and Barber asked if she would translate for the mother. “I sure will!” the bilingual woman exclaimed.

“We have never been in a situation that God didn’t provide an interpreter,” Barber said. The couple tearfully prayed to receive Christ.

“I looked at their little girl,” Barber recalled. “Her face had the sweetest expression. I asked, ‘Sweetheart, did you just ask Jesus to come into your heart, too?’” The little girl said yes and smiled.

It started with a juice box. Another time it began with a fence and a lost cap.

The Van deployment sent Wayne, Ann, and fellow DR volunteer Gary Hunt on an unusual errand to a rural area north of town. Trees uprooted in the yard of the home of Christian missionaries had fallen upon a fence belonging to their neighbor, a disabled man in his late 50s who was frustrated.

“He had the tools, equipment and materials, but he did not know how he would be able to repair the fence,” Barber said.

“I know how to fix a fence,” Hunt said, and he and Barber did so. When they returned the man’s tools, they shared the gospel with him, and he trusted Christ. Barber accidentally left his cap at the property.

Returning later that afternoon to retrieve the cap, Wayne and Ann met his wife as she drove up. They had hoped to talk to her and explained that her husband had accepted Christ. She burst into tears. She had prayed for his salvation for years.

In this case, a fence led DR volunteers to be good neighbors, resulting in changed lives and even a saved life as the Barbers stopped on their way back to Van to assess a property with a work order for tree removal.

As they pulled into the home’s driveway, they spotted the homeowner, a man in his late 40s, leaning shakily against his lawnmower. He seemed disoriented. The Barbers rushed over.

“He was unresponsive, but we knew what to do from our SBTC first aid training,” Barber explained. “I got cold Gatorade and a chair from the back of my truck. We eased the man into the chair and cooled his body with ice and water while his wife called 911. He could not even drink.”

Following instructions from the 911 operator, the Barbers removed the man’s shirt, eased him to a prone position and iced him down further.

“His heart was racing, but his breathing stopped entirely,” Barber said. “As soon as the EMTs got there, they hooked him up to oxygen and IVs. We heard later that he made it.”

Had it not been for a juice box, a broken fence, a lost cap and volunteers ready to serve, the story might have turned out differently. 

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