Cooke County resident Ben Blythe is on the Texas coast. But he isn’t there for a vacation.

He’s part of a local group from the Texas Baptist Men who feed and help victims of natural disasters .

League City — located in Galveston County — is an area Blythe described as receiving “moderate damage” when Hurricane Ike hit Texas on Saturday.

“There’s a lot of electricity out. They’re under a curfew to conserve energy and keep people off the streets. Some business like restaurants close by 8 p.m.,” he said.

The Texas Baptist Men are divided into seven geographical regions. Representatives from the organization work in a large number of areas including agriculture, building, church renewal and disaster relief.

“We cover just about any area you can think of,” he said. “We also have wash and laundry units, chain saw units, bricking and carpentry units, child care units,” Blythe said.

The ministry is not limited to the United States.

Texas Baptist Men volunteers are currently on a feeding operation for refugees in the Black Sea in the country of Georgia, according to the organization’s Web site.

Closer to home, Blythe said he is part of a cooking unit.

His group is preparing meals for evacuees in shelters.

“If the shelter doesn’t have a designated cooking unit, they will send us a count of how many people are at the shelter. We work mainly through the Red Cross or the Salvation Army. Once the shelter lets us know how many we cook for those particular people,” he said.

Tuesday, Blythe said, the unit prepared meals for 17,000 people.

“We fixed beef stew,” he said. “Most of our large meals are one-pot meals something like chicken and rice or beef stew.”

He said he always wanted to serve with Texas Baptist Men.

“It’s something I wanted to do, but wasn’t able to do until I retired,” he said.

Blythe’s unit is based in Whitesboro and is part of a state unit from Dallas, he said.

“A lot of churches don’t have a (Texas Baptist Men) unit,” he explained.

He said he has “no clue” how long he’ll be there.

“We’ll probably be here until Saturday, and then a relief crew is coming. They’ll be here at least another week or ten days. When they shut the shelter down, we shut down,” he said.

Like many of the men who work with the organization, Blythe went without his wife, although some units are comprised of couples. A few women are part of the group in League City, he said.

“We have four or five ladies in this group, and around 50 altogether,” he said.

Blythe said another group from the Plains area recently joined his unit. They are from a region known as “The Top of Texas.”

Although it isn’t exactly “roughing it,” Blythe said accomadations are nothing fancy.

“We basically sleep in churches or gymnasiums. We take cots and bed rolls,” he said.

The work requires long hours but is rewarding he said.

“Last night the church we stayed at didn’t have electricity. They had to find generators to run the air conditioner. But for the most part conditions are acceptable. Talk to some of the oldtimers and they’ll tell you, there were times when they had to sleep outside,” he said.

Blythe said safe drinking water is a concern for the hurricane victims.

“They are asking us to boil our tap water, and our unit carries its own water filtration system. We can filter any water that we use,” he said.

Providing clean drinking water is another of the organization’s specialities.

Volunteers often set up filtration systems in other parts of the world.

“Water filtration is another division of Texas Baptist Men,” Blythe noted.

Texas Baptist Men is a Christian organization bent on helping wherever there is a need. And it’s not just for Baptists.

“We’re called the Texas Baptist Men, but we will accept anyone who wants to join us. All we ask is that they have a servant’s heart,” he said.



On the Web:

For information on the Texas Baptist Men go to texasbaptistmen.org.





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