If there is anything I have learned after 30 years in the Army and working with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (DR), it’s that things are always subject to change, and one must be willing to flow with the tide to make the mission successful. In the military, your value is your ability to “adjust fire” to ensure the mission is completed. DR’s assistance during COVID-19 was the time for the church (“us”) to shine in our community.
Ellen Udovich reached out for volunteers across Maryland to serve in their counties to assist the Maryland Department of Aging. We were asked to work with the county health department to distribute personal protective equipment (masks and gloves) to health care providers serving senior citizens.
Cheryl Gates, a member of Smithsburg Valley Baptist Church, and I were the designated volunteers for Washington County, and my pastor, Clayton Clark of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Rohrersville, was unofficially my backup. But, as time passed, it was clear that the health care workers were not taking advantage of our services. So, we pivoted.
Our coordinator for Washington County asked if we could deliver medicine and food to families affected by COVID-19. We agreed to the new mission and made numerous deliveries of medical supplies. Families called their local drug store, and we picked up the medicines and delivered them to their homes. We wore protective masks and gloves throughout the entire procedure. Everyone was very grateful. They knew we were volunteers, giving our time freely.
We discovered that some people had no family or friends in the area to help them. That touched us. It was rewarding to be called upon to carry out this mission of love. I was reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25–37. Another DR mission involved working with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staff and volunteers at the Greenbelt Metro Station Vaccination Center, where over 115,000 people were vaccinated. There, we worked alongside volunteers from various religious groups, individuals, and DR “Yellow Shirts,” like me. We were all drawn together to help others.
My responsibilities varied during the four days I served. I started as a monitor, scanning the area for people in distress after getting the shots, responding to those individuals, and answering any questions or concerns they had. The next position I had was handing out vaccine information leaflets in English and Spanish. My final assignment was assisting those with mobility issues, pushing them in wheelchairs, and guiding them through the process from start to finish.
I met many wonderful people during this mission, including FEMA staff, military personnel giving the vaccinations, other volunteers, and those being vaccinated. All of them were grateful for our service.
This pandemic has been a time when I believe God is clearly calling out to His church (“us”) to serve our neighbors. There are many volunteer missions available.
This is not a time to withdraw. It is a time to explode into the mission field. “Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38)
Ron Pitts is a Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware DR volunteer.
Cover photo: submitted photo.