Becky Noland knows what it’s like to be at your wit’s end and have someone show up with food.
“I grew up on the Gulf Coast in Texas and experienced what it’s like to go through hurricanes,” she said.
And after she moved to Alabama, she often would go back to help her parents with cleanup after a storm.
“I know how frustrating it can get and how much it can mean to get some help,” Noland said. “You’re without power, without water, and a truck pulls up and says, ‘Hey, do you want a hot meal?’ Or someone drives up and says, ‘Can I help you with this?’”
That’s what got Noland, a member of Valleydale Church in Birmingham, interested in disaster relief ministry in the first place.
‘I was hooked’
“I’ve always had a tug whenever I hear of any of the disasters,” she said.
So she signed up to be an Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer, and she was in a training session the day the winds of Hurricane Katrina made it to Alabama in 2005.
After training ended, Noland deployed with a team to help those affected.
“I was hooked,” she said.
She had a flexible job, and she started spending a lot of time working with the state’s mass feeding unit, a mobile kitchen that can crank out up to 20,000 meals a day when it’s working at top capacity.
“I just fell in love with it,” said Noland. “I’m a background worker, and I love helping people who are in a bind. When a disaster hits, the first thing people worry about is how they’re going to feed their family, so food is the first [thing] we need to satisfy … them.”
‘In Jesus’ name’
From there, volunteers can move on to helping people solve problems like cleaning up their house, she said.
“It’s a special thing,” Noland said of the work. “God commands us to take care of people; that whole theme is ‘give them a cup of water in Jesus’ name.’”
For the past several years, Noland has served as the state feeding coordinator for Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief, pulling together teams to prepare meals in the days after a disaster hits.
“It’s a pretty big operation when it gets going,” she said.
In recent weeks, the unit was at work in Arcadia, Florida, preparing meals for the Red Cross to deliver to people affected by Hurricane Ian. Noland said it took a minimum of 35 to 40 volunteers rotating in and out every five days to keep that effort going.
“They work hard,” she said. “We appreciate them so much. There’s a whole army of them working from morning to night.”
In need of help
Noland said Arcadia is just one place of many where the kitchen has been used to help people in need — she’s constantly looking for more help for the mass feeding unit and the crew feeding kitchens that keep the cleanup crews fed so they can work.
She encouraged Alabama Baptists to consider getting trained so they can join teams that get called up to help out after disasters.
“Everybody can stir a pot,” Noland said.
Noland said disasters are never convenient, but she’s passionate about helping those who have no choice but to figure out how to live in the midst of great loss.
“I have to make time for it,” she said. “If that’s my mission, that’s what I’ve got to do. I’m so thankful for other people who feel the same way.”
Mark Wakefield, disaster relief and chaplaincy ministries strategist with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said Noland has taken this on as her ministry.
“She loves it,” he said. “And it’s such important work. We are really trying to strengthen the ministry of feeding, building the camaraderie of the teams and working together to feed the volunteers who are out doing the cleanup work. Napoleon said an army marches on its stomach, and the same is true of disaster relief work.”
To learn more about training to be an Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer, visit sbdr.org.