Nga Phan, a Vietnamese-born woman and non-practicing Buddhist, worked in a casino as a card dealer until Hurricane Katrina hit on August 29. She now marvels at how quickly Southern Baptists set up a field kitchen the day after the storm, cooking lunch for 5,000 in Biloxi, Mississippi. "They are doing a lot to help people," she told Christianity Today. "They are the only ones doing that in our neighborhood."
The Baptists of Mississippi have often opposed honky-tonk evils like gambling. But Phan decided to overlook that in joining the volunteer corps at First Baptist Church in Biloxi.
This story is not unusual. Throughout the Gulf Coast region, thousands of Christians showed up unannounced with food, Porta Potties, diapers, and prayer. Historians may judge this mobilization as the largest in the nation's history.
Americans associate the Red Cross and the Salvation Army with home-front disaster relief on a grand scale. After Katrina, much of the $1 billion in private giving for relief efforts went to those two high-profile organizations.
The Southern Baptist North American Mission Board (namb) has been less known for disaster relief. No longer. The extent of Southern Baptist relief preparation was clearly evident after Katrina hit in late August and the less potent Hurricane Rita in late September.
From Mobile, Alabama, to Houston, Texas, the story was often the same. The leaders of a damaged church couldn't call or email anyone and were praying about what to do. More often than not, the brakes of a big truck pulling into the parking lot punctuated the end of their prayers.
That's exactly what happened in Hammond, Louisiana. Pastor Leon Dunn and his leaders regrouped to pray and a truck from Texas was waiting ...