DR teams in Austin see souls converted

AUSTIN—Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief volunteers continue to serve victims of flash floods that ravaged Central Texas on Oct. 31. The work has been fruitful beyond the immediate physical needs, however.

To date, 44 people have professed faith in Christ through the ministry of DR volunteers.

Feeding teams, chaplain assessors and mud-out teams are deployed to the Austin area and were expected to remain for several weeks.

“The main thing we are doing is mass feeding. One mud-out team is here. Chaplains and assessors are out roaming the neighborhoods,” Doug Scott, SBTC incident leader, said following the floods.

But the eternal results of disaster relief ministry were quickly seen.

On Nov. 8, Barber and an interpreter approached a home that chaplains Bob and Mary Sapp had visited earlier in the week. The Sapps had prayed with the homeowner and given her a Bible, but she was reluctant to trust Christ. By Friday, that had changed as Barber and an interpreter followed up with her. The woman and a friend both trusted Christ. “I am ready now,” she told the Sapps.

Assessment efforts were focused on the southeast side of Austin in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood and Bluff Springs Road, where work on about 30 homes was ongoing.

“We are encountering mostly water damage,” said Scott, who noted that several neighborhood resident died during the flooding.

The last death toll reported was four, according to the Associated Press.

One woman told Scott that the floodwaters sounded like a “freight train” when they unexpectedly hit on Oct. 31. The woman escaped to higher ground.

Scott commended city and county services for quickly removing damaged items piled outside homes in the flooded areas.

SBTC volunteers under the direction of Ralph Britt were manning the feeding unit from First Baptist Church Pflugerville, which was set up at Austin’s Oak Meadows Baptist Church. SBTC DR volunteers were also housed at Oak Meadows.

In Austin, the SBTC crew had prepared and packaged around 4,400 meals per day, said Britt, with feeding volunteers working long days that begin at 4 a.m.

In the neighborhoods, spiritual encounters were frequent and fruitful.

A family of four was among the 16 who accepted Christ on Nov. 5, Barber said. The father’s initial hesitance was overcome by the enthusiasm of his sons and daughter-in-law.

“What was so sweet was getting to talk to that man and share with him that he was the head of the house and the spiritual leader. He was so excited about getting to be the spiritual leader of the family,” Barber said.

A Spanish-speaking volunteer from Oak Meadows Baptist Church who had come to complete a work order ended up sharing the gospel.

“Art, do your thing,” Barber told the Oak Meadows member. “He presented the gospel in Spanish and the lady accepted Jesus.

Eight people had trusted Christ in the Oak Meadows church service on Nov. 3, Barber reported.
An older Hispanic couple gratefully received Bibles provided by First Baptist Jasper. The woman’s niece walked out while Barber and crew were witnessing to the couple. She, too, wanted to receive Jesus.

“Most had a Catholic background. We shared with them that we don’t teach religion and we don’t teach church. We share Jesus and him crucified,” Barber said.

“We’d be witnessing to one group and some others would walk up. One lady was witnessing to a woman and another woman walked up and accepted Christ.  It’s kind of like the crowds when Jesus was out and teaching. When people see these yellow shirts, they know we know Jesus and they want what we have in their lives. They see us talking and they just come up,” Barber added.

One middle-aged couple that sought safety on the roof of their home during the flood trusted Christ. They had encouraged rescue workers to help neighbors across the street who were stranded in trees. The Lord had been dealing with the husband, who shared that he had inexplicably been moved to tears earlier.

“He said the other night he cried for 20 minutes. He didn’t know what was happening. Now he knew. God was dealing with him,” Barber said.

Bob Sapp followed up with the man later, jokingly asking him if Barber had “charged” him much.

“He didn’t charge me anything,” said the man. “He gave me Jesus.”

Sapp also told of a couple with a toddler who was trying vainly to access their roof amid the flooding. A car floated up and they stepped on the top, but the roof was just out of reach. Then two logs floated up, boosting the car just enough so that the family could climb on the roof.

“We didn’t have to tell them about Jesus,” Sapp said. “They told us about Jesus!”

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