By Sarah Kenney
Shower, mud out, chainsaw, feeding and driver may seem like distantly related words, but these were all names of classes offered at the Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief training. Every other year, a large disaster relief training is held in greater Phoenix.

The most-recent disaster relief training was held at Gateway Fellowship, Feb. 24-25. A total of 72 people attended, and one-third were new to disaster relief work. Currently, Arizona Southern Baptists have 300 active volunteers.

Patty Kirchner, Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief feeding unit manager, emphasized the power of reaching out to the less fortunate in times of crisis.

“When we provide a hot meal or clean up debris from a flood or fire or some other destructive event, we are in effect putting our arms around them in comfort,” Kirchner said.

Naturally, this compassion opens doors to share the good news that Christ has come to save all people, not from mere physical surroundings, but from spiritual dangers. Homeowners in crisis often reevaluate their previous views on God and his church, Kirchner said.

“Often, because of the hurt of a disaster, people who would never attend a church to hear a message will be open to hearing the message that God loves them and has a plan for their lives,” she said.

These trainings provide education and encouragement for disaster relief workers. New volunteers begin the process of background checks necessary to gain their disaster relief identification. Brand-new and experienced workers alike study new techniques and basic skills for how best to serve during times of crisis.

“Being well trained brings skill, credibility, and dependability to our ministry as we serve our communities in times of need. Government agencies from local and county emergency managers to those in FEMA and Homeland Security are recognizing the value Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units can bring in times of crisis,” Kirchner said.

Several longtime volunteers were honored at the awards banquet at the training. Lifetime achievement awards were bestowed posthumously upon Chuck Schroeder, a member of First Baptist, Chandler, and Merle Doubet, a member of First Southern, Wickenberg.

The Volunteer of the Year Award was given to Tom Smith, a member of Emmanuel, Sun City.

According to Kirchner, the most important reason for the intense training is the simple fact that Southern Baptist disaster relief workers represent the Lord in their work. He deserves our best efforts.