A reflection on the recent Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Deployment

by Chaplain Bill Hoops


You cannot say, “Oh, I can’t do that,” when God is calling you to participate in ministry.  From October 20 through November 1 I found myself being challenged to manage the on-site kitchen activities supporting the law enforcement officers searching for Eric Frein, who allegedly killed Corporal Dickson and critically wounded Trooper Douglass.


My task was to supervise a commercial kitchen in an elementary school, so that those on the man-hunt could have three hot meals a day, regardless of what shift they were on.  With that in mind, you need to know that I do not even know how to operate the appliances in my own house.  When I load the dishwasher, my wife always reloads it, the proper way.  When I want to bake something, I always have to ask for help in programming the timer.  My wife will not even let me near the washer and drier.  With that ability to operate kitchen appliances, I agreed to supervise a commercial kitchen with all kinds of very large, shiny, stainless steel equipment that I did not even know the name of, let alone how to start or operate.


I had a choice.  I could either say, “Oh, I can’t do that,” or decide that God is gracious and God knows how to operate a kitchen.  God led my wife and me to follow Him and work as a team with several gifted Disaster Relief members.


First we noticed a large commercial dishwasher, which of course I did not know how to turn on.  As God is our Provider, he led a former commercial dishwasher installer to be on our team.  The dishwasher needed some parts to operate.  The former installer called a friend who was only 20 minutes away, and had the parts in his car at the time.  The two of them fixed the washer, which was a tremendous blessing.  It was far better than using a power washer, which I contend is the worst job on any DR deployment.


We started taking pictures of the kitchen equipment, sending the images to a professional cook via cell phone and asking what the equipment was and how to operate it.  He gave us advice and soon we were ready to provide meals.


Ordering food for that many men and women, and figuring out how large the portions needed to be to feed people wearing 50 pounds of gear (bullet proof vests, weapons, and handcuffs) while searching up and down mountains for hours at a time was another thing I had no idea about.  I usually just watch my wife buy the groceries (occasionally sneaking something in the cart) when we shop for food for the two of us.  On deployment God provided the idea of just using math to come up with a number and then adding some wiggle room.  Our gracious God made the food orders, not me.


For the first four days, God provided the Assistant Director of the Pennsylvania/New Jersey Disaster Relief to be the Incident Commander and Head Cook.  On the fifth day, it seemed it would all be left to me, but God provided a Head Cook from Virginia that very day.  He took care of the kitchen, which allowed me to take care of the rest of the deployment.  He left just before the last dinner and breakfast.  Then God provided a wonderful lady, who despite no experience as a head cook, jumped in and did the job.


Members of other agencies noticed that we could incorporate someone new into our operations and within five minutes be functioning as a well oiled machine.  As they made comments on their observations, we were afforded the opportunity to tell them about our God and Christ the center of our group, giving God all the glory and honor.  Some of them even made the decision to start attending a Southern Baptist Church, because they want what we have – to be part of a team that had endless amounts of joy, patience and cooperation.  I knew God was guiding, when a big burly state trooper wearing two bullet proof vests and enough ammunition to start his own war, gave me a long bear-hug and began crying.  That is true ministry – having an impact on someone’s life.


My first inclination is to tell you that you should never turn down an opportunity to minister in the name of Jesus Christ or an opportunity to bring honor and glory to God by saying, “Oh, I can’t do that.”  After thinking about it for a while, I would have to say that I agree with you.  You can’t do it, but God can.  If you obey God, allowing Him to lead, guide and direct, you will be surprised at what you can do for the kingdom of our Lord and Savior.  It was not a difficult task the Lord put in front of me.  I prayed a lot, listened for the Holy Spirit a lot and then just sat back and watched God do what God does.  He provided everything.  How gracious our Lord is when we humbly submit to His will.

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