Don and Kay Arnold were looking to get more involved in missions when they learned about Southern Baptist Disaster Relief 10 years ago. Since then, the couple from Topeka, Kansas, has helped with 16 disaster relief projects.
“We asked God, ‘What can we do? How can we serve?’ and this just lined right up with what our schedules were like, what our health was like, our capabilities, and it fit well with what we believe God wanted us to do,” Don Arnold, who is a member of Shawnee Heights Baptist Church, said during a recent TAB Amplify podcast.
Christians are compelled to serve, he noted. The blessings of good health, energy and a willingness to serve enable believers to be active in ministry, whatever their calling. Even through weakness, Arnold said, volunteers can offer encouragement to the team and those they serve.
“God wants our obedience more than our sacrifice,” he explained. “It’s so rewarding to be able to see, regardless of our capability and our strength, how [God] can use us to bring hope to people in crisis.”
‘Not always easy’
Arnold admitted the commitment is not always easy. Serving reveals strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important for volunteers to rely on God to accomplish the task He sets before them.
“He knows our capabilities, and He has faith in us,” Arnold said. “We need to have faith in Him in order to accomplish what He has purposed for us.”
The Arnolds work together, balancing each other’s talents, gifts and even fears to accomplish each task for God’s glory — and a focus on the victims compels them to DR service, he said.
With each news report of a natural disaster, their hearts go out to those impacted.
“You’ll hear people say, ‘You came here for us. You don’t even know us.’ It’s like, ‘Well, God put you on our heart.’ And we feel like this is something that we can come and help with,” Arnold reflected.
A two-way blessing
There’s beauty in hearing and understanding survivor stories, he added, and it can be a double-edged blessing — to the volunteer and those they serve.
The couple often finds themselves praying for people they haven’t met while they travel to assist with a project.
“We don’t know these people,” Arnold acknowledged. “[We say], ‘God, put the people in our path that You want us to meet with and be with, and give us the words of encouragement that we can say and be able to understand their situation.”
Several years ago after tornados devastated a community in Longmont, Colorado, the Arnolds assisted a couple whose home had been destroyed. While the team worked to clear debris from the property and locate household items, the survivors served them by handing out food and water.
“[Our service] made for an effective ministry. It grew our faith and [was] just so effective in what I believe God wanted us to do in that situation,” Arnold said.
Learning to seek Him
As a young person his faith was sometimes shallow, Arnold acknowledged — trusting God but still trying to have his own way. As he grew spiritually, Arnold learned to ask, seek and knock, then step out of the way and watch God work.
“Countless times in the DR missions trips a need will arise where we need more equipment,” he said. “We need help with arranging schedules. A survivor needs something found. And I found that the approach that works best is to just ask God for the provision and protection, and then expectantly wait.”
During one DR effort, a tropical storm hit before the team could begin recovery. For the first couple of days, rain poured down, delaying planned efforts. But rather than wait for clear skies the team set out to see what could be done.
A survey of one site revealed the homeowners had experienced flooding. The DR team went to work mitigating the damage and helping with recovery.
“We would have missed that opportunity if we had not listened to what God was saying,” Arnold recalled. “Had we just said, ‘Okay, well, I can’t do what I came here to do. So I’m not going to do anything.’ Rather, let’s see what God can do.’”
The objective of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is to share Christ, Arnold noted. A victim’s house may be damaged, but their greatest need is Jesus Christ, and volunteers look for ways to share Him.
“[Disaster survivors] are in a very vulnerable situation, but I believe God has placed them there. And we are there and God has brought all of that together for a reason: to expand God’s kingdom. And we can do that by sharing.”
For more on sacrificial service, check out the TAB Amplify podcast, “Talking sacrificial service with Don Arnold” at thealabamabaptist.org/podcasts.