Mud, mold and prayer: Arkansas Baptist college students help Hurricane Harvey victims

TEXAS – Last year, Adam Venters remembers sludging through 8 feet of flood damage in his in-laws’ Louisiana home. “It was heartbreaking,” said the Assistant Baptist Campus Minister at Metro Baptist Collegiate Ministry in Little Rock. So when the call came from Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont, Texas, to help Hurricane Harvey victims, Venters felt a sense of urgency.

“I remembered how fast they needed response in Louisiana. There’s only a certain amount of time–3 weeks–to mud out a home.”  If it’s not done within three weeks, he said, professionals need to finish the job because of the mold infestation.  For the last three weekends in September, Arkansas Baptist college ministries sent teams to help Hurricane Harvey flood victims.

The second and last weekends of the month, Adam Venters brought a team of 22 from the Metro Little Rock Area and Baptist Collegiate Minister at Southern Arkansas University Mike Sandusky brought eleven students to Beaumont, respectively. Both groups found Calvary Baptist Church had turned into a community disaster relief force.

The children’s minister Debby Martin ran the operations and command center; Student Pastor Kevin Goodwin was one of the mud-out leaders and Senior Pastor Nathan Cothen used a backhoe tractor to move debris. Even though Sunday morning worship at Calvary continued, other church programming would not resume until the end of October, said Venters. The pastor told him, “It is hard for me to try and start programs back with so many in the community hurting.’”

Sandusky’s team helped rebuild four homes. “All four lost completely everything,” he said. “There is so much hurt going on in the area, but there are teams from all over the U.S. showing up on a daily basis to help.”

The Metro group assisted eleven families, including a senior adult named Gale. After moving Gale’s furniture, Venters saw the affects of 7 feet of flooding: “Mold had already spread to her ceilings: nasty stuff!” A church follow-up crew removed the carpet, walls, sheetrock and electrical outlets while the Arkansas team prayed for her and for all those affected by the storm.

Two of Venters’ students had life changing experiences while serving in Texas. University of Arkansas in Little Rock student, Amber Hartness, “didn’t feel so whole anymore” the weekend before the trip. “I barely ate,” she said. “I began to remember life without Christ and (to) wonder if this was really any different.” But when she found a photo album and handed it to the owner, God restored her faith. “After all of the blisters, gallons of sweat and hard labor, to bring a soul one moment of joy in this unimaginable time was completely worth any amount of hard work. Any pain and longsuffering that I had to endure to get to that place of selflessness was entirely worth it.” Venters said another student who served accepted Christ.

On Sept.22-24, 27 Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) students, staff, and faculty also travelled to Texas for disaster relief–this time to work in two areas assisting two churches: Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston and Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy. Partnering with them were the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team and the Texas Baptist Men. “Our team washed dishes for the Disaster Relief distribution,” said James Taylor, director of campus ministry. “In some neighborhoods, house after house lost everything,” he said. The people were thankful for any kind of help, he said. “Students would jump in and be willing to do anything.”

On the OBU web page, another university team leader told about the immensity of the disaster. “I think we could send a team every weekend for the next year and still have work needing to be done,” said Dr. Terry DeWitt, professor of kinesiology and leisure studies.

Lisa Falknor is a writer for the College + Young Leaders Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and is the northwest regional correspondent for the Arkansas Baptist News