By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
POTTS CAMP – The disaster relief team of Potts Camp’s First Baptist Church made preparations this week in anticipation of Hurricane Isaac.
“We have our trailer decked out,” said Robert Luther, a team member.
The group received training three years ago through the Mississippi Baptist Convention based in Jackson. An instructor came to Potts Camp to work with the group. From a certified instructor, they learned effective cleanup tactic.
“For instance, if a tree has fallen on a house, we know how and where to cut it apart so it doesn’t fall through the roof,” Luther said.
The involvement in the ministry of disaster recovery stems from the group’s experience with Hurricane Katrina.
“We made three trips to the Coast to help clean up after Katrina,” said Randy Walker. “And we thought ‘what a great way to help people.’”
Since then the group has acquired a sizable trailer through donations from the church, and over the past two years they have outfitted it with everything they could possibly need. Inside the trailer are chainsaws of any and all description, a work bench, ladders, ropes, toolboxes, safety equipment, a generator and more.
The Potts Camp team and teams like them must wait for direction from the MBC before they can take action. Once assignments have been made, the MBC sends assessors out to disaster sites to make sure proper safety measures are being observed. An assessor may dismiss a party on a one-strike basis, so safety is the primary concern of the group.
If they are called in for Hurricane Isaac, it will be the first time they have been deployed as a group.
The group is made up of hometown men who have grown up together, except for Pastor Paul Hicks who hails from Louisiana but has been welcomed with open arms. They rib and joke good naturedly, excited at the opportunity to help people.
“We laugh and cut up and have fun,” said Hicks. “Even victims need laughs.”
Hicks has received Clinical Pastoral Education that qualifies him as chaplain, a position required of each team for the purpose of ministering to the people themselves.
Members of the group refuse to take payment in any form, money or gift.
“We want it to be clear why we are helping, and it isn’t for money,” said Luther.
According to Luther about 30 church members all together have received training, even about half a dozen females.
“Don’t let them fool you,” said Luther. “Some of these women can sling a chainsaw.”
The relief team works through the Lee and Itawamba County Baptist Association. When workers are needed, the association puts out a district-wide call and trains those who respond. There are 76 churches in the district and about 80 certified relief workers.