Volunteers follow God’s call into disaster zones


By Donna Thornton/News Editor

For about four years, Ginger and Denny Sanders of Southside have been part of Samaritan’s Purse, the evangelical organization headed now by Franklin Graham that may be best known for distributing Christmas gift boxes – that church members have filled with small gifts – to children in impoverished or war-torn countries.

Samaritan’s Purse does much more: providing medical care, shelter and assistance when disasters occur across the United States and around the world, and it has volunteers from all over as well. In addition to Ginger and Denny, several church members at Southside Baptist are involved in the ministry.

Volunteers like Ginger and Denny, and fellow Southside Baptist Church members Dan Childs, Royce Chambers and Pam and Tim Weeks are the ones who go into these places of need and provide assistance, offer spiritual guidance and share the message of God’s love.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is a familiar one to most people. The Gospel of Luke recounts Jesus’ story of a man beaten, robbed and left on the roadside, where he is passed by other travelers until a man from Samaria stops to help.

He cares for the man and takes him to an inn. There, he opens his own purse and gives denarii to pay for the injured man’s care. The Samaritan leaves, saying he will be back, and if the money he left has been used up, he’ll give more.

Ginger Sanders said she and husband Denny don’t see themselves as the Samaritan of the story that gives the organization its name.

“We’re just a couple of denarii that God takes out of His purse to provide help,” Ginger said. “When we’re used up He’ll provide more denarii,” she said, to help at the sites of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or other natural disasters.

And as Ginger explained, that help is provided in the wake of man-made disasters as well.

Ginger and Denny were in Toms River, New Jersey, along with Pam Weeks, Dan Childs, and other Samaritan’s Purse volunteers, helping people still struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on the morning of Dec. 14.

“We got a call that there had been a mass shooting in Connecticut,” Ginger said, and she and Denny headed to the scene.

They didn’t have details of what happened, she said, but they learned the devastating details from radio news reports on the way to Connecticut.

In Newton, the Sanders worked with others providing chaplain services to the families who lost loved ones in the shooting. She said the team wore their Samaritan’s Purse shirts, when they approached families or others touched by the tragedy, they were often recognized.

“Sometimes they would just fall into our arms,” Ginger said. “They know we’ve got strong shoulders.”

Just as they were nearby when the shooting in Newton occurred, Ginger said she and Denny were in Colorado Springs when the mass shooting happened at a movie theater in Aurora, and there were sent to comfort and counsel families.

The strength, Ginger said, is not their own, but God’s, and it has taken the Sanders and other Samaritan’s Purse volunteers all over the globe to help meet physical needs, and spiritual ones.

“We went to a lot of funerals,” Ginger said, in Newton. She recalled on particularly difficult day, when they attended the funeral for a 6-year-old boy slain at Sandy Hook. When they left the funeral, she checked her phone.

“I found a message from Bro. Scott Harris at Southside Baptist,” Ginger said, letting them know they were in his thoughts, and praying for them. Those prayers and support help the volunteers to do the work that is needed.

But it is God, Ginger explained, who makes this help in time of need possible. “He has blessed us with good health and the ability,” Ginger said, and He supplies what the Sanders and other volunteers need to serve.

Ginger said those who work with Samaritan’s Purse stay ready to leave on disaster response missions with 20 minutes notice.

“We keep our bedrolls ready,” she said. Typically, they may be gone three weeks at a time. When the couple initially got involved, Ginger said she expected they might be gone three weeks a year.

It has turned out to be much more time than that, she said, because it seems it has been one disaster after the other for some time now.

Spending time in such sorrowful situation, Ginger said, can take a lot out of the volunteers. “It is exhausting,” she said. “It is very emotional.”

That makes breaks and time back at their home church important to the Sanders.

“We get a chance to come home to Southside Baptist and get our cups refilled,” Ginger said, and ready for the next call to help.

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