Today felt like Spring Break. We all went out to our sites and worked half a day before heading to Panama City Beach. Although the high for the day was only 66 degrees, it felt like 80 on the beach. Everyone had fun swimming, sunning playing beach volleyball before heading to dinner.
The devastation we’ve seen at and around our worksites is unbelievable. Those familiar with the Joplin tornado will understand the suffering of a community literally torn asunder. Only it isn’t a single community. It’s dozens, if not hundreds of communities.
One of the highlights of the week so far has been the attitudes of everyone here. Sleeping on the floor in a strange place, eating strange food, riding in the shuttle for hours on end and working like dogs… We’re tired, but smiling. Worn, but laughing. One of the crew chiefs asked about that today. “What makes these groups so different?” The answer is purpose. We aren’t here for a paycheck. It isn’t just another project in a long string. It’s us here together, united in Christ, to do something special.
More pics on our Facebook page: MSSU Baptist Student Union.
When Hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle last October, the city of Mexico Beach had about 1200 permanent residents. Today that number is less than 300. Next door at Tyndall AFB, not a single building was left inhabitable. These places will never be the same. “Norma” will never be normal again for those residents. That does not, however, excuse us from helping the survivors recover.
Today our teams went out with different directions and objectives. One team went to nearby Mexico Beach, the other stayed in Panama City.
The Mexico Beach team was tasked with helping Miss Lisa, the local newspaper owner. A tree crushed the rear portion of her house and her roof was a shambles. Students got to work immediately after arriving and were able to get about half the work finished. They tore old shingles off, put new shingles on, hung drywall and listened to the homeowner, Miss Lisa, as she lamented the danger she felt for the community she loved as a result of the storm.
Our Panama City team worked with chainsaws, cutting trees and clearing debris at FBC Deer. They also spent time inventorying a library, making sure each book was in good condition, throwing away those that had molded.
More pics on our Facebook page: MSSU Baptist Student Union.
Our first full day in Florida was a good one. Because of the size of our group, we’ve been divided into two separate teams, but today everyone (there are five teams) worked together. One of our teams chose to do a devotion together before breakfast, but we all started the day worshiping with the congregation at Immanuel Baptist Church where we’re staying all week. After lunch we went to Greater Bethel A. M. E., an African-American congregation nearby, where we gutted the building with the help of crews from Southern Arkansas University and University of Cincinnati. Like many people in this area the they were shocked to find out that their insurance doesn’t cover hurricane damage. Apparently that requires a separate policy. The real labor, however, isn’t found in the physical work, but in listening to the storm survivors as they worked alongside us. Members of the church came by to help out, and their stories are at times frightening, encouraging and heartbreaking, but always amazing. For more pics and info check out our Facebook page.
We made it! Sixteen students and three adults in two shuttles made it from the Baptist Student Center in Joplin to Immanuel Baptist Church in Panama City in just over 24 hours. Special thanks to Forest Park for the use of their shuttles and the Little Rock Metro BCM for letting us crash on their floor Friday night. Send Relief, part of NAMB’s GenSend group, did a great job of getting us situated after we arrived. Tomorrow we’ll worship with the church and other teams here to serve before heading off to our first project–gutting a nearby church that was flooded out by the storm.
This week at Common Ground we were blessed to have with us the recently ordained Philip Schildknect. Philip and his wife, Emily, were with us on our trip to New Orleans for the Defend apologetics conference in January. He is the Associate Pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Webb City. Asked to cover 1 Corinthians 11 for us, here are a few of the highlights he shared:
First, context. The church in Corinth was by culture and economic status. They needed to come together for the sake of the gospel, but that’s easier said than done. There’s a reason there are over 300 Christian denominations today. That said, Philip offered four characteristics necessary for the people of God to be successful in that task.
- God’s people must follow Biblical instruction. (v.1-2)
- God’s people must submit to authority. It’s a bit of a minefield, what with all that stuff about hair and head-coverings in this chapter, but authority is about role, not value or significance. Men and women, although different in their roles and expectations for authority are nevertheless equal. Just like Jesus could submit to God the Father without impacting his value or significance, so we can learn to submit to one another in the same way. (v.3)
- God’s people must be united. Our unity is found in Jesus Christ. He is the source of our dignity and strength. Any issue that calls that into question (as head-coverings did for the church at Corinth) needs to be sorted out and dealt with in a way that preserves dignity and Christian witness.
- God’s people must serve others. If you’re going to Tweet, tweet this: “When are you at your best? It’s when you’re others-focused, not self-focused.” The church in Corinth forgot that. We shouldn’t.
This week at Common Ground we were blessed to welcome back Kirk Baker, the Director of Missions for the Spring River Baptist Association. The SRBA is a group of over 40 local churches that supports the ministry of the Baptist Student Union. If you haven’t found a church home yet, look them up. God is doing some amazing things through them. Anyhow, after a rousing game of “2 truths and a lie” Kirk spoke to us from 1 Corinthians 10 on Tuesday night. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Don’t take advantage of God’s grace. (v.1-5) The Israelites tried this after the Exodus and it didn’t work out so hot. (Romans 6:15 is a good verse here as well.)
- Learn from the mistakes of others. (v.6-12) It’s amazing how many people struggle with this. Israel served as an example to Christians in Corinth, the Corinthians (who were supposed to know better) serve as as an example to us… Let’s get it right this time!
- There is always a way through temptation. (v.13-14) Jesus is the best example here. When He faced temptation, he turned to scripture. If you taken time to really get to know it, it will help you too. (Psalm 119:11, Hebrews 4:12)
- There is ONE body of believers. (v.15-22) Unity matters. It is one of the most prominent themes in the New Testament. Sometimes we’d do best to remember that.
- Seek the well-being of others. (v.23-33) Following Jesus really is an exercise in putting others ahead of yourself. That can be hard to remember and often requires the sacrifice of personal liberty and privilege, but that IS the job. Jesus gave up a pretty cushy spot in heaven to live down here in the dirt with us, for us, when he didn’t have to. How are we doing?
ICYMI, this week at Common Ground we flew through 1 Corinthians 7-9. Actually we started a bit into 1 Corinthians 7, but still, that’s a lot of ground to cover. With such little time to dig deep, we took in the broad scope of the text and drew several conclusions.
- Best not jump from ship to ship in the middle of a raging storm. The latter half of 1 Corinthians 7 talks about various life situations and the advice Paul the Apostle gives is to hang in there where you’re at. That said, he does hedge his bets a little and admits that sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. He assumes that life in Corinth is about to be complicated by a wave of persecution, so it makes sense to consider very carefully any major life choices you’re about to undertake.
- Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul points out that although there is great freedom in Jesus Christ, there is also a responsibility to consider others, specifically to consider how they might misinterpret your actions in ways that could lead them to sin… which would lead you to sin. The key point to remember in matters of Christian liberty, such as alcohol or gambling, is that there are good reasons to show restraint. First, there’s no inherent spiritual advantage in partaking. Second, partaking could possibly damage the lives of others (even inadvertently this matters). Third, if other do sin on account of your actions, you are equally guilty.
- Sharing the good new of Jesus Christ is the only thing that really matters. Whatever it takes, the price is worth it. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul rails quite humorously at the Corinthian church for not paying him, but then goes on to deny payment because he doesn’t want anyone confusing his motive for sharing with a desire for earthly comforts. His point is that there’s no room for pride, no room for dignity, when it comes time to tell people about Jesus. Do whatever it takes. He advocates for discipline and self-control; a life lived intentionally for the sake of the gospel. We should be so compelled!