One of the main callings of Christians is to serve others, and West Central Baptist Association and Water Avenue Baptist Church in Selma stepped up in March to help meet local needs.
The two were key in assisting Team Rubicon, an international disaster relief nonprofit comprised primarily of U.S. veterans and first responders. The group chooses areas worldwide that need disaster relief aid but don’t qualify for government assistance. They noticed Selma, which in recent years has been battered by a hurricane, tornadoes and a deep freeze.
“They called and said, ‘We’re coming,’” recalled Lee Tate, associational mission strategist for West Central Baptist Association. “Their lead man, Beau Rodriguez, had reached out to one of our pastors to find their team some [housing] … and that pastor gave him my number. Beau called me, I called pastor John Goings, and this great Kingdom-minded pastor just took the ball and ran with it!”
Rodriguez, a Team Rubicon site supervisor based in Houston, explained further how the group partnered with Water Avenue Baptist, where Goings is pastor.
“[We] started the process about nine months ago,” Rodriguez recalled. “We were looking for a place that is struggling. Selma is one of those places where it is very, very impacted from lack of opportunities. It is the second-fastest shrinking city in the United States.”
After choosing Selma, Rodriguez said he called nonprofits, churches and schools in the area, explaining who they were and that they “wanted to pay their gifts forward to the community.”
When he talked to Goings, things just clicked.
“It was like a two-minute conversation. He said, ‘Absolutely. My door’s open to you,’” Rodriguez recalled.
‘We come through’
Rodriguez said about 20 people came to Selma to serve. Water Avenue provided housing, with people sleeping in the fellowship hall and other spots throughout the church. The folks from Team Rubicon were satisfied with the accommodations, Rodriguez said.
“That’s what we do: We come through,” he said. “We don’t complain. We just want to get stuff done.”
Members of the team worked on homes in Selma selected through a screening process based primarily on the homeowner’s age, disability and lack of resources.
After logistics are determined — securing materials through corporate and private donations, lining up volunteers and finding lodging — work begins. Family belongings are packed up and stored on-site; the house is gutted; electrical and plumbing issues are addressed; new flooring, walls and ceilings are installed.
‘Here to help’
The work in Selma centered on two homes, one owned by a grandmother who recently took in four of her grandchildren, some of whom are disabled. One of her grandsons helped with the rebuild after school each day and gained some important skills.
The other home was owned by a woman who recently died at age 101. Both homes had to be gutted and rebuilt to make them safe.
“A lot of people in this community, unfortunately, meet those criteria,” Rodriguez said. “We’re just here to help people hopefully get back in a home.
“One of the neatest parts about what we do is all of our services that are given to the homeowner are free of charge. They have certain requirements they have to meet [but] no payment is ever wanted or accepted. That is why we come.”
Volunteers drive up to 450 miles to the homes to work 12-hour days for a week. Team Rubicon staff members stay two weeks.
While Water Avenue only has about 20 regular attendees ranging in age from 2 to 87, Goings said he asked members if they “would agree to open the door to the organization.”
“[We] cleared the fellowship hall, moved some furniture around and communicated with Beau Rodriguez several times before their arrival.”
While Team Rubicon is thankful for Goings’ and Water Avenue’s support, the pastor and congregation have loved the arrangement.
“[The members] have been very supportive and excited seeing the work of the group,” Goings said. “It has been a great experience … seeing their hard work in helping others.”
He added he’s enjoyed joining with Team Rubicon to help the community, especially “going out to the job site and seeing the team’s dedication to helping someone in need and fellowshipping with them in church service on Sunday.”
Tate also is thankful for the opportunity to engage with local churches and organizations in serving the community.
“Doing what I do allows me time to visit other churches, worship with them and promote an eternal perspective to their lives, love for the brethren and passion for Christ and His Great Commission,” he said.