Volunteer crews ‘stars’ to West residents

Members of all ages from First Baptist San Marcos united together to clean up houses affected by the West fertilizer plant explosion.  (PHOTO/Molly Livingstone)

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WEST—Evelyn Hamak—whose home sustained damage when a fertilizer plant explosion rocked West—dangled her feet off her hardly stable porch. She gazed at her neighbor’s home, where a volunteer crew from First Baptist Church in San Marcos shoveled brick and cleared debris.

“You Baptists shine like shining stars,” she said.

west molly tammy hadley400Tammy Hadley sorts bricks out of the debris pile to help someone else after she received help from a church group in 1998 when her home was flooded. (PHOTO/Molly Livingstone)Thirteen members of the San Marcos congregation, ranging in age from 26 to 74, helped during Loving West—a weeklong volunteer event sponsored by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

“At times like this, the body of Christ just has to come together,” said Mark Newton, pastor of First Baptist in San Marcos. “What happened here could happen to anybody.”

Homeowner Billy Ramsey found the scene of volunteers at his house a little unsettling at first.

“I’m used to do doing everything myself,” he said.

However, he realized demolition and reconstruction of the home would have cost him around $280,000, he said. With the help of the clean-up crew, he expects it to cost less than $100,000.

“Everything has worked out so perfectly. When there’s a need, it’s filled,” he said. “Having the group here is such a godsend.”

Members of First Baptist in San Marcos cited varied reasons for traveling to West.

Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery team at “Loving West.”For Leslie Carrier, a broken finger gave her the week off work as a sign language teacher, providing availability to go. She gave credit to her father’s wisdom for the extra motivation.

“He died in February, and I’m having a rough year,” she said. “His words just echo in my mind that when you’re hurting, you should help other people. That’s why I’m here—to help someone else.”

Carrier discovered shoveling bricks was just what she needed to aid in her internal healing.

“It’s easy to get in your own self and your own hurt and not look outside and realize other things are going on in the world that we can help each other through,” she said.

west monica wheelbarrow300Minister of missions Monica Followell from First Baptist Church in San Marcos takes a load of brick to the dumpster.  (PHOTO/Molly Livingstone)Tammy Hadley’s home flooded in 1998. She was grateful to have a church that provided for her family’s needs. By coming to West with First Baptist in San Marcos, she was able to be that provider for someone else.

Monica Followell joined the staff at First Baptist in San Marcos as minister of missions three weeks before the West trip.

“We’re here to help our neighbors. A neighbor is more than just who’s next door,” she said.

Growing up, Followell was not allowed to attend church. She desired growth in her spiritual life, so she signed up for free newsletters from a Christian organization. When she was 16, she convinced her parents to allow her to go to Peru on a mission trip she read about in a newsletter. Since then, she has longed for a missional lifestyle and is thrilled to have a job where she can encourage others to be involved in missions.

west john lassitter400Minister of Music John Lassitter from First Baptist Church in San Marcos helps remove a door for homeowner Billy Ramsey.  (PHOTO/Molly Livingstone)Hamak sat on her porch for hours watching the San Marcos crew help her neighbor. She paid close attention to their diligent work and positive attitudes.

“I think so highly of the Baptist people,” she said. “They have just been so helpful with anything a person wants. … I feel like a miracle is in the works here.”

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