By Lisa Sergent
Injury doesn't stop Disaster Relief volunteer from returning to serve
Readers might remember Ken Cummins’ name from September 2011, when the long-time IBSA Disaster Relief volunteer from Emmanuel Baptist Church in Sandwich, was injured while serving on a chainsaw team in Maryland in September 2011. While cutting a tree limb, he fell 20 feet from a tree and suffered seven fractured ribs and three fractured vertebrae. Cummins underwent four surgeries and took seven to eight months to recover from his injuries.
After his recovery, it didn’t take Cummins long to get back into disaster relief and other ministries. “People were surprised. I said, ‘I’m just back to what I was doing. Yeah, I’m going to do it differently,” he laughed in a telephone interview with the Illinois Baptist.
Last November Cummins took a Disaster Relief team to Long Island for 13-day trip to minister to victims of Hurricane Sandy and returned in January to lead a group of college students in disaster relief ministry. In addition he has participated in World Changer projects in Indianapolis and St. Louis. He plans to participate in the Illinois Changers project this June at Lake Sallateeska.
Cummins still loves to minister through Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief. “God is good all the way,” he said. I’ll probably be doing this until I die.”
Peoria | The television series “Dirty Jobs” comes to mind when Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers talk about their assignments in flood-affected communities. Mud, mold and more coat the furniture, floors and walls of flooded homes. The mud-out teams remove it all as they strip walls down to the studs, power wash and sanitize homes for thankful homeowners.
Mud-out teams have been busy in the Peoria area and in Marseilles since the Illinois River flooded homes last month.
“We’ve been received real well,” shared Jim Weickersheimmer, an IBSA Disaster Relief executive team member who coordinated the Peoria call-out. “When people find out they don’t have to pay for getting their homes cleaned, they’re really happy.”
While chainsaw teams can complete as many as 10 jobs in one day, one mud-out job can take four to five days. “It’s a different mindset,” said Rex Alexander, IBSA Disaster Relief Coordinator. “Mud-out teams must be very patient. Disaster Relief people like to check off things from their lists. Mud-out teams may have worked hard all day long and will have only just started on a house.”
Peoria area mud out assessments began early this month. Before work was complete May 20, three teams from Williamson Association, one from FBC Eldorado and another from Palestine Association where joined by four from Missouri and one from Tennessee. Together, the teams completed 22 jobs for homeowners.
Disaster Relief volunteers often have opportunities to pray with homeowners and neighbors and engage them in conversations about salvation. A team from Williamson Association serving in the Peoria area led one homeowner to Christ. “Way to go God. I just was blessed to be there,” wrote Chaplain Jan Kragness on the IBSA Facebook page after a photo was posted of her with the homeowner she led to Christ.
The mud out teams were preceded by an IBSA Disaster Relief feeding unit which arrived April 22 to help feed volunteers and families pushed out of their homes by rising flood waters. The team of 20-25 volunteers prepared nearly 12,000 meals before they were able to stand down on May 6. A portable kitchen from Fox Valley Association supplemented the operation.
A team from Three Rivers Association began mud out response in Marseilles April 25. Parkview Baptist Church opened its doors to house and feed volunteers. Teams from Greater Wabash Association, Sullivan Southern and FBC Galatia joined the response, and were relieved by two teams from Kentucky and one from Tennessee after serving for a week. A team from the Metro East Association is also serving.
Ken Cummins, another IBSA Disaster Relief executive team member, spent a month in Marseilles coordinating the relief effort. He expects volunteers to have completed mud-out work on 70 homes before the teams finish their work before the end of May.
Cummins worked with Pastor John Patterson of Parkview Baptist Church in Marseilles to house and feed volunteers. The church, with a resident membership of 143, fed and supported 25-35 volunteers a week for a month through God’s providence. “The Lord has really provided through his people and even outside means,” said Patterson. Local civic groups such as the Rotary Club, IBSA and private individuals have made donations to the relief effort.
Illinois Disaster Relief volunteers were housed in “every nook and cranny” of the church, Patterson joked. “We moved all the furniture out of the Sunday School classrooms for them and even had people in my office.” The fellowship hall, sanctuary, sound area and library were also used for bed space.
The church has used the community’s negative situation for the positive. “We’ve had a great opportunity to minister to people,” Patterson said. “This is my first disaster and you do what God calls you to do and He stretches you into it. … God has given us a great opportunity to minister and to witness to people – young and old.
“We just want to do it to the honor and glory of Jesus Christ and just pray His kingdom will increase.”