Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief is a lot more than chainsaws and soup ladles.
Just ask Jeff Free, a 26-year veteran of the organization that not only brings hope over physical needs but victory in spiritual ones to people who are experiencing some of the worst days of their lives.
Free said when they rolled up to a residence in Alexandria, Louisiana, on Wednesday morning that had huge tree limbs littering the property and the rooftop, a porch full of children were anxiously and excitedly awaiting their arrival.
“It was kind of special,” he said. “When we were pulling in and parking, most of the grandkids, except the little ones, were out on the porch. When they saw us, they started jumping up and down and clapping.”
The standing ovation from the little ones touched Free’s big heart. That’s not unusual for these golden-shirted heroes. They know how to fix things, including broken spirits. While they are known for their workmanlike skills, it’s their gospel ones that make the difference.
When they had done all they could for the home of a Black grandmother and her grandbabies, they went to her porch and visited with them. They also had a Bible that they had signed to give to them and asked about any spiritual needs they might have.
Much of this was captured on two photographs sent to me in a group text Wednesday night. One showed Free praying with the grandmother and the other showed him in front of the children (it looked like he was singing a song but he said no way that happened).
What both showed was what Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief workers are best at doing and that’s showing compassion for others.
Cleaning up property and clearing out mud are part of the job and they do that as well as anyone in the country. Being the hands of feet are Jesus though is the goal.
Free said giving the Bible to the homeowner when they’re finished is one way they sometimes find an opportunity to share the gospel.
“We asked the grandmother if we could pray for her and if there were any special requests,” Free said. “She said, ‘I just want everybody to love everybody.’’’
The racial tensions that have conflicted the country had been on her heart, Free said. “Black and white people can get along and love each other,” he said. “It’s something our world is not showing right now. It’s heartbreaking.”
Free is good with the kids and he comes prepared with Kentucky Disaster Relief Teddy Bears. After asking the grandmother if he could, he went to the car and brought back two for the 3- and 5-year-old. Now he was even more of a hero.
“Those kids, you should have seen them,” he said. “They loved those Teddy Bears.”
Free is nothing more than a big ol’ Teddy Bear himself. He gave another one to a pastor’s son who had Down’s Syndrome. Again, the reaction of the young boy was his priceless reward.
The appreciation shown to these Kentucky Disaster Relief workers keeps them coming back for more. They look forward to every opportunity given to share the gospel and to help a friend that they may never see again. Sometimes you have one chance to tell others about Jesus. These men and women don’t miss those opportunities.
Another pastor whose home they had repaired wanted to buy them one of Louisiana’s favorites — Popeye’s chicken — for supper. They told him that food is provided and he should save his money. But he bought it anyway, bringing them back boxes of delicious cajun-spiced Popeye’s chicken from the chain that started in this state.
When asked if it was better than KFC, Free said it was good but it’s awfully hard to beat the Colonel’s chicken.
“I don’t know if it was as good as KFC — I really like that — but we sure ate it like it was as good,” he said.
Did I mention they work up good appetites too?
Mark Maynard is managing editor of Kentucky Today. Reach him at email@example.com