Southern Baptists serve during Nebraska fire

Kansas-Nebraska Southern Baptists are asked to pray for the victims of a massive wild fire in north-central Nebraska in late July.

The fire struck the area between Ainsworth and Valentine. Nebraska Southern Baptist disaster-relief volunteers took the lead in serving firefighters and local residents.

The disaster-relief unit from Oregon Trail Baptist Association was based at the high school in Ainsworth. The team arrived early Sunday afternoon, July 22, and served for a week. KNCSB volunteers came later in the week to assist. More than 5,200 meals were served.

The disaster-relief shower unit from Eastern Nebraska Baptist Association was sent to the Springview area. The ENBA shower unit closed down on Saturday, July 28.

Myron and Marilyn Porter delivered the shower unit and brought it home. (Myron took the lead in constructing the unit.)

Darrell and Cathy Cumpton staffed the ENBA shower unit. They also did some double duty and helped the Oregon Trail Association feeding unit.

Darrell Cumpton also worked on equipment for several of the volunteer fire departments who were helping fight the fire. He is a retired Air Force chief mechanic. A lot of the fire equipment in the area is military surplus.

“I’ve heard from members of two different churches about the positive impact that the disaster relief response has had on the people in the area,” said Mark Elliott, ENBA director of missions.

“Every disaster is bad, but this one is very personal to many of us,” said Joyce Huffman. Her husband, Tom, is director of missions in Sandhills Baptist Association. Homes, outbuildings, cattle, horses, other farm animals and pets, crops, grazing and hay land were lost.

High winds and temperatures in the triple digits hampered efforts to contain the fire.

Efforts to fight the fire brought a lot of emotional ups and downs, said Doug Lee, director of missions in Oregon Trail Association.

“Thursday [July 26] began with a lot of hope that all the fires would be put out and the only concern would be hot spots,” Lee said. “A number of fire departments were sent home. [But] one of the fires jumped the fire line and was out of control. It all looked as if the firefighters would be fighting fires for more days. Then Thursday evening a call came that the fire was contained.”

On Friday night, July 27, the Oregon Trail team served a steak dinner to firefighters and the local community to say “Thank you” for all of their hard work.