SBTS students put feet, hands to Gospel in face of massive power outage

Communications Staff — September 16, 2008

With power outages in Louisville stretching into their third day, students and faculty at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary took to the streets in a spontaneous effort to help the more than 200,000 people in their city left without electricity after severe windstorms, the remnants of Hurricane Ike, battered the area Sunday.

Students from both the seminary and Boyce College, Southern’s undergraduate school, removed fallen tree limbs from neighbors’ yards and helped clear debris from city streets.

“It’s showing the Gospel through what we’re doing,” Tim Sweetman, a Boyce student from North Beach, Md., said of the relief efforts. “It’s putting the Gospel into action even in something small like this. It’s not the magnitude of Hurricane Ike down in Texas, but at the same time we have a great opportunity to really put the Gospel into action and share what it means.”

Blake Wolf, a Boyce student from Newton, Ill., added of the community ministry efforts, “It’s to show we’re a part of the community. We’re not just our own little Christian world here and our little Christian group.”

Sweetman and Wolf said a group of Boyce students living in Carver Hall went out on Monday to help the seminary’s neighbors clean up their yards.

Mike Marrs, a master of divinity student from Whitefish, Mont., organized an effort to rent chainsaws from Home Depot and assist the seminary’s neighbors with clearing fallen limbs and trees. Five students, including Marrs, were part of the effort.

“We’re just going out on our own and helping the community,” Marrs said. “We just figured we’d do that yesterday, and we put calls in to Home Depot (asking them) to let us know when chain saws came in. Two of them came in yesterday, so we picked them up.”

Seeing people who are unable to clear their property moved Marrs to want to do something, he said.

“We know there’s so much debris and so much damage that a lot of people don’t have the tools or equipment to be able to remove,” he said. “We hope also to be able to help some of the elderly in the area that can’t do it
themselves.

“It seems like it’s a time when a lot of people come out
and take advantage of other people. And instead of that, we’d kind of like to be a light in the community and show people there’s another side. There are people helping people without any type of remuneration.”

Marrs added that prior to the chainsaw effort he and several other students helped a blind student move out of his apartment. Multiple back surgeries had rendered the student unable to move his things, Marrs said.

John Starke, a master of divinity student from Tucson, Ariz., lives across the street from the seminary campus and said that his wife Jenna participated in a community effort to clean the neighborhood park. In addition to spending extra time with family, the outages have provided opportunities to help others, he said.

“We and others have tried to clean up branches and stuff like that,” he said.

For faculty member Peter Richards, who lives near the seminary campus, the crisis provided an opportunity to assist a neighbor.

“We were helping the neighbor next door move some limbs,” Richards, associate professor of theology and law, said. “We moved some branches into the street.”

He noted that in his neighborhood, students’ willingness to lend a hand to all in need has been evident.

“There were quite a few students walking through the
neighborhood yesterday,” he said. “As things come up and people need help, I’ll be happy to help them.”

Anthony Canalle, a Boyce student from Boling Brook, Ill., didn’t set out to clean up the neighborhood around the seminary. But when he and a friend went for a run and saw limbs in the road causing a hazard for drivers, they were compelled to action. The duo picked up limbs in the road all the way from the seminary campus to a local park.

“I did it for the safety of the drivers and because the Lord has given me a love for His creation,” Canalle said.

In addition to spontaneous relief efforts by students, the seminary administration is organizing efforts to clean up the community.

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