JACKSON, MI – It’s an early Monday morning in September, and the sun is just rising over the horizon casting cool shadows over the empty parking lot of Grace Church in Jackson. Honestly, part of me dreads the twelve-hundred-mile trip in front of us. But along with the rest of the crew from our church, we decide to be joyful as we finish loading the van and trailer. We’re driving to Texas to remove mud from homes after a devastating flood brought on by a recent storm. As I start to close the trailer doors, my eye catches the shovels, hammers, and saws in the corner. Tools of the trade I remind myself. But next to those tools, I see the tools of another trade, a trade that removes mud from the souls of men- a stack of Bibles for children and adults. It’s a beautiful picture of the work we do in Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
For a moment, I stop and reflect on all the places Jerry and I have gone over these last fourteen years, places where these tools have made a difference. Recent memories of Granite City, Illinois come flooding back. A major thunderstorm flooded the town causing families to abandon their homes and cars. The water damage was extensive. The heat oppressive. The mold dangerous. The impact on families in the area was almost indescribable.
I think of one young family’s home that was flooded, mold was setting in, and they had lost nearly every possession they owned. Most of their belongings ended up on the curb to be hauled away unceremoniously. But this family had something more precious than those disposable possessions. This young mom was expecting any day. I’m a mom, too, and I feel the desperation in these young parents’ eyes as they stare at their home. In an instant our team knew what needed to be done. We grabbed our shovels, hammers, and saws from the trailer, and went to work mudding and cleaning their home. Later, as Jerry and I were falling asleep on the floor of the local church that hosted us, we prayed.
We prayed for that young family, our team, and us. It took three days of strenuous labor in the summer humidity and many trips to our knees in prayer to complete the cleanup. Using the Bibles in our trailer, we ministered to them, cried with them, and then a week later said good-bye. It’s usually like that, we minister to people for a week, maybe two, and then we return home. We often never hear how God blessed the families after our work is complete. But then, my thoughts return to that young family. A few days after getting home, Jerry and I got an email with an attached picture. I still have the photo of that young dad holding his newborn, his eyes full of hope.
As I closed the trailer with Jerry, and we gathered for prayer in the parking lot before heading to Texas, I thought about how God uses those tools. He uses them to change disasters into His glory, tragedy into Divine hope. Like other Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams across the state and throughout the nation, our team from Jackson does this because each one of us is called. The work is far from easy, the time away from home difficult, and the work, well, it physically wears us down. But our hearts remain strong because Jesus’ love is stronger.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry and Jeannie Dolson live in Jackson, Michigan where they attend Grace Church. They have been married for 58 years, have six children, fourteen grandchildren, and fifteen great-grandchildren. Jerry is a Navy veteran and Jeannie a former salon stylist. For nearly fifteen years the Dolsons have been actively involved with Michigan Southern Baptists in the Disaster Relief ministry. Their ministry has taken them throughout the country to feed others, mud-out homes, clean up neighborhoods, chainsaw fallen brush and trees, assess the needs of communities, and comfort others as chaplains. Jerry and Jeannie are 77 years old, still active in Disaster Relief, and continue to serve the Jackson community and Grace church.