Volunteer love connection links West and San Marcos

A Texas Baptist Men disaster relief crew works in the home of Nancy and Larkin Smith in San Marcos. (PHOTO/Courtesy of Nancy Smith)

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SAN MARCOS—Nancy Smith led volunteers from First Baptist Church in San Marcos two years ago to help residents of West recover from the fertilizer plant explosion that destroyed dozens of homes in their town. She never dreamed she and her husband, Larkin, would lose their home to a disaster or that other volunteers—including members of First Baptist Church in West—would minister to them.

sanmarcos kolaches425Bill Means (2nd from right), a Texas Baptist Men volunteer chaplain from First Baptist Church in West, delivers kolaches to Nancy (2nd from left) and Larkin Smith and Monica Followell (left), minister of missions at First Baptist Church in San Marcos. The kolaches were part of a “love package” women at First Baptist in West prepared for the Smith family, who had been involved in ministry to their community two years ago. The Smiths lost their home to floods. (PHOTO/Courtesy of Bill Means)The Smiths were visiting family in Baytown May 24 when they learned the Blanco River had overflowed, flooding homes in San Marcos and nearby Wimberley. They lived the last 38 years in a house on a one-acre lot about three-quarters of a mile from the river.

“On our cul-de-sac, 13 or 14 homes were destroyed,” she said. 

The Smiths returned to San Marcos to find five feet of water had filled their home—and discover their homeowner’s insurance policy did not cover flood damage. But the couple remained determined to trust in God and count their blessings.

“Our family is great. Our house is gone, but God provides,” she said. “Our faith is our stronghold, and we know our God is in control.”

Soon after the floodwaters receded, volunteers from First Baptist in San Marcos arrived at the Smiths’ home to begin the long and messy process of ripping out soaked flooring and mud-stained drywall. 

“Our church family has been absolutely amazing,” Nancy Smith said. 

Smith, who taught school 37 years, noted former students also joined members of First Baptist in working on their home, and several coaches came by to help with heavy lifting. 

sanmarcos loveyou425Larkin Smith and other San Marcos residents express appreciation to Texas Baptist Men for their disaster relief work. (PHOTO/Courtesy of Nancy Smith)The Smiths volunteer with numerous community organizations, including School Fuel San Marcos, a program that provides sack lunches for low-income public school students. People they met through their volunteer service went to work clearing out the Smiths’ home.

“This is an amazing community we live in,” she said.

When a Texas Baptist Men disaster relief crew arrived to work on the Smiths’ home, they discovered the earliest steps in the mud-out process already completed.

“Our house was already gutted when the Texas Baptist Men came by, so they cleared the debris, and then they power-washed the floors and disinfected the house,” Nancy Smith said.

sh165 blancorivertxdot425Washed out bridge over the Blanco River at SH 165. (PHOTO: Texas Department of Transportation)Bill Means, a member of First Baptist Church in West, served as a volunteer chaplain with the TBM disaster relief volunteers in San Marcos. He knew volunteers from San Marcos participated when Texas Baptists’ Disaster Recovery ministry sponsored the “Loving West” project to help his community rebound from disaster. When he found out Nancy Smith led that team, and floods destroyed her family’s home, he sent word back to his church. 

“The ladies in our church wanted me to deliver a love package to her,” he said. “We just wanted to love on her, after she did so much for us.”

So, the women at First Baptist in West assembled a package of gift items—including kolaches and cookies from a Czech bakery in West—and sent it to San Marcos. 

After the Sunday morning worship service at First Baptist in San Marcos, May 31, Means presented the gift package. 

sanmarcos flooding city425Many areas of San Marcos were flooded when the Blanco River overflowed. (PHOTO: City of San Marcos)The West church “showered me with gift cards, kolaches, a Jesus Calling calendar and other fun items,” Smith posted on her Facebook page. “I feel so undeserving. … When teaching, I used to say my halo had a dimmer switch; I believe they have it on the brightest setting!”

Means told her a team of TBM-trained volunteers from the church in West planned to make an initial trip to work in San Marcos June 6, and First Baptist hoped to work through Texas Baptists’ Disaster Recovery program to send other volunteers later.

The Smiths have decided to sell their property and rebuild “on a hill” on the other side of San Marcos, near First Baptist Church, she said. So, future teams from West likely will work with other families in San Marcos.

While ministry directly to the Smith family “brings it full circle,” John Crowder, pastor of First Baptist in West, sees his church’s involvement in San Marcos in a larger context. He views it less in terms of “giving back” and more in relation to being responsive to the doors of opportunity God opens.

“One of the blessings that has come out of the explosion (in West) is the opportunities we have to serve now we would never have had otherwise,” he said.

Means shares that perspective. He reflected on how God has called people in his church to serve after the explosion in West and the subsequent outpouring of ministry there.

“This is the only Jesus some people see,” Means said, as he looked at a TBM mud-out crew cleaning a home. “It’s such a great witness. … It’s God’s people doing God’s work.”

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