Disaster relief volunteers honored at annual conference

HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Eight Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers have been recognized for their commitment and sacrifice in disaster relief efforts across North America and the world.

More than 300 leaders from state Baptist conventions throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico were on hand for the recognitions during the 2004 Disaster Relief Roundtable meeting April 27-29 at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn.

About 28,500 trained volunteers currently are part of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief network nationwide. The disaster relief units generally are owned and operated by state conventions, local associations and churches and are coordinated nationally by the North American Mission Board.

In 2003, nearly 13,000 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers responded to 176 disasters and prepared more than 1.5 million meals.

Larry Koch, who has served as the disaster relief director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention since 1997, was presented the 2004 “Robert E. Dixon Award.” The award is named in honor of the Southern Baptist Texan who pioneered the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief ministry.

Koch, a former pastor, has responded to nearly 40 disasters since 1988.

Mickey Caison, adult volunteer mobilization manager with the North American Mission Board, described Koch’s leadership of the Kentucky Disaster Relief unit in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as invaluable.

Caison said that while the Kentucky feeding units waited for their supplies to arrive, Koch led volunteers in prayer several times a day near their Brooklyn Bridge location. At least six people prayed to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior as a result of the Kentucky unit’s witness.

Larry Murphy and Tim Bearden, disaster relief ministry leaders from Alabama and Tennessee, respectively, received the “Outstanding Service Award.”

Murphy has served as the Alabama Baptist Convention’s disaster relief coordinator since 1995. Most recently, he led a team of volunteers to Bam, Iran, following the devastating earthquake in December 2003. A retired military helicopter pilot, Murphy is a member of the Bethany Baptist Church in the Coffee Baptist Association.

Bearden, mission mobilization group leader with the Tennessee Baptist Convention, served as the state convention’s disaster relief director from 1995-2002, leading in more than 50 disaster relief responses. Bearden also served as the Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief director from 1981-87 before joining the staff of the former Brotherhood Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Four disaster relief ministry leaders -- from Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina -- were presented the “Distinguished Service Award”:

-- Jerry Butler, of Guntersville, Ala., has served since 1995 through the Alabama Baptist Convention’s cleanup and recovery disaster relief ministries. In 1999, Butler became Alabama’s cleanup and recovery chainsaw coordinator and now oversees 17 units in the state’s fleet. Butler also serves as pastor of South Sauty Baptist Church in the Marshall Baptist Association.

-- Dick Leonard has helped lead the Marion Baptist Association in becoming one of the largest and most active disaster relief teams within the Florida Baptist Convention. Leonard volunteered six times, serving a total of 40 days, in the disaster relief efforts in New York City in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He has served more than 200 days as a disaster relief volunteer over the past eight years.

-- Bernard Randall, a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church in the Wayne County Baptist Association, volunteers through Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief on chainsaw, mud-out and feeding units. Randall, who is retired from government service, is often part of the first team to respond to a disaster as well as part of the final team to conclude a project.

-- Terry Shinkle, a member of Belleview Baptist Church in the Northern Kentucky Baptist Association, leads the association’s cleanup unit. Shinkle has served in disaster relief since 1989.

-- Ken Norton, a member of First Baptist Church in Greer, S.C., serves South Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief as a state task force leader for communication and provides leadership on the associational level as well. Norton, a ham radio operator, assisted in the development of a national disaster relief communication manual for multi-state responses.

(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: KENTUCKIAN HONORED and SHARING THE HONORS.

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