Sunday, April 16, 2006

Focus on....Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

This is the first in a series of articles focusing on the volunteers of Pearlington, Mississippi

When Hattiesburg, Mississippi was hard hit by Hurricane Katrina, Pastor Philip Reynolds of the University Baptist Church there leapt into action.

With his congregation, they started helping the members of their own church first and quickly became a P.O.D. - a Point of Distribution - for their area. They busied they themselves with a blue roof program and started clearing fallen trees from homes. In the meantime, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi knew there needed to be a long-term response not just in Hattiesburg, but also on the coast. CBF's tradition is to serve those parts of our society often overlooked and selected the town of Pearlington as their focus.

Dr. Charles Holmes, known affectionately in Pearlington as "Mr. Charlie," had created a Disaster Response Plan that concentrated on CBF being proactive, rather than reactive and this model will serve for future emergencies. In the meantime, Greg Wolfe was dispatched to Pearlington to lead the effort. They looked at the immediate needs and mudding out houses became their first task. Even though they knew some of those homes might be eventually taken down they, like others, understood the psychological benefit to the residents of Pearlington of seeing some kind of action and in taking part immediately in helping themselves. This dynamic and flexible policy of following the most obvious need has been their operating principle since the beginning.

Money has been set aside on the national level at CBF and it is their goal to have homeowners, if possible, match their funds and rebuild five or six homes. These funds flow through University Baptist Church in cooperation with national CBF.

Greg Wolfe did a wonderful job in Pearlington and, at the end of his six month term as Disaster Recovery Director, took up a new position as a Pastor of a Maryland Church in early April. Pearlington was fortunate enough to have him replaced by none other than Charlie Holmes. Charlie has been a volunteer since the beginning and, along with Marion and Shirley Black and many others, his commitment to Pearlington is strong. It is the goal of CBF to continue as their funds permit - at least through December 2006 and hopefully beyond.

Group after group from churches all over North America arrive in Pearlington to do their work under the CBF umbrella. Cooperation is the operative word and Charlie and his teams have lent hands and materials to other groups as required. The goal, like all the volunteers in Pearlington, is to work together to get this massive task accomplished. According to Charlie, the Fellowships providing the most groups to assist him are coming from North Carolina, Colorado and....Canada! North Carolina alone has contributed 45% of the teams working under the CBF banner in Pearlington. It is Charlie's hope that Fellowships from all over North America will see fit to assist in this massive rebuilding effort by raising funds and teams to aid in the effort.

To date, CBF has performed 11,396 labour hours from 667 volunteers on 46 teams. They have done 62 mudouts, gutted 52 homes, installed 103 shallow well pumps, installed over 1000 sheets of dry wall, donated 190 trailer starter kits, etc. etc. etc.

Greg Wolfe and Charlie Holmes are both well-respected men in the Pearlington volunteer community. CBF has done an enormous amount of good here and we all hope that they continue to support the people of Pearlington. As Marion Black had printed on T-shirts for the teams:

Together, we WILL rebuild.

Photo of Charlie Holmes by Canada Jon


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