It was a cool and early morning when the Campbell University Baptist Student Union (BSU) anxiously loaded up the vans and embarked on the 14-hour ride to Gulfport, Miss. Over Spring Break, March 5-12, Campbell's Baptist Student Union was privileged to take a part in the hurricane Katrina relief effort through the NC Baptist Men. "I was amazed at the devastation we saw and the amount of destruction we witnessed in Gulfport as a result of Hurricane Katrina.," said campus minister Terry Michael Newell. "It was a good experience to see it firsthand. It is necessary that we all take our time and resources to be a part of the rebuilding and renovation." The Campbell BSU was honored with the opportunity to lend a helping hand. Each morning the Campbell group joined over 13 other colleges and relief groups at Pass Road Baptist Church. Outside the church, Pass Road's marquee stood tall and proud, adorned with letters that spelled "We love Baptist Men." The Baptist men and women, signified by their bright yellow hats and big smiles, joyfully lent their time and effort to provide food, shower and laundry services for the volunteers. During spring break, they were flooded with volunteer groups and served upwards of 1,300 meals in one day. Eddie Williams, who is the primary coordinator for the Baptist Men relief effort in Gulfport, affirms the commitment and hearty dedication of the Baptist Men. Six months after Katrina, the Baptist Men's volunteer efforts are running strong and it is William's prayer that that the ongoing work will remain a service of joy. "The trip went better than expected," said Sarah Gardner, of Hickory, N.C., the missions coordinator for BSU. "I was very impressed by the overwhelming response of the students here who wanted to go and serve for a week doing disaster relief," she continued. "It was truly amazing for me to see 40 different people come together to serve the people of Mississippi in the name of Christ." At the beginning of the work week, the group of roughly 40 Campbell students was divided into five teams assigned to meet the needs of different houses in the area. Some worked with demolition, tirelessly tearing down old and dilapidated walls, floors and ceilings and removing and replacing insulation. Others spent the day sanding, priming and painting freshly mounted walls. Another team concentrated on sheet rocking different houses, while yet another worked removing debris and laying fresh shingles on roughly battered roofs under the high afternoon sun. Undoubtedly, the sincere thanks and appreciation from the local community and homeowners made the work all the more worthwhile. After the workday, all the college and church groups gathered together after dinner for a nightly corporate worship service, often followed by popcorn and snow cones. Dave Calvert, who is the graduate assistant to Campus Minister Terry Michael Newell, led the worship while various campus ministers and leaders delivered the devotion. Six months into the aftermath of Katrina, the devastation is still daunting. The hurricane, which struck in August of 2005 , redefined the city of Gulfport along with many others. One local woman from Biloxi, Miss., described the event as "Armageddon." For many students, experiencing the wreckage firsthand brought the news and television pictures to life "The storm that seemed so far away on the television six months ago became very real to all of us there. I am just very thankful that so many of us were able to be a part of the rebuilding effort down there," said Gardner. Despite the grim reality that daily plagues the hurricane-ravaged cities, there is hope for a new beginning through the many relief efforts. Amy Kelly, of Salemburg, N.C., said, "Even though the devastation is great, every little bit is a small progress toward renewal. I encourage everyone to help out and be a part of the effort."
Photo Copy: North Carolina Baptist Men volunteer in relief efforts at Gulfport, Miss.