Bobby Welch, the President of the largest Protestant denomination in the States “dressed down” in jeans and hiking boots to help the victims of Hurricane Charley, August 18, 2004. According to the Southern Baptist Convention, Welch, whose own Daytona Beach house and church were still without power from the storm, drove to Punta Gorda to “joined forces with the North American Mission Board and many other state Disaster Relief units to coordinate what has been the largest relief effort since 9/11.”
“The only place I have ever seen to rival what happened at Homestead (Fla.) in the night was the war in Vietnam. You have a lot of that same stuff here,” said Welch upon surveying the destruction. “I think the overwhelming thing to me is the unexpected devastation that can come and change things in some huge numbers of people’s lives, hundreds of thousands, in just the blink of an eye.”
Despite the destruction, Welch said he was moved by the relief efforts of Christians and others who made a decision to “just abandon themselves to rise to the occasion to try to meet the needs.”
“The fact that our people and Southern Baptists from all over have come together to this place is touching and moving and astounding,” Welch continued. “What thrills me, though, is the fact that we have not lost focus on why we are doing this.
“We are doing this to help, yes, but also, we want to keep in mind and in the forefront of our heart that the worst disaster that can happen is a spiritual disaster where people do not know the Lord,” Welch said. “There are many people who can give a cup of cold water, but we should be giving it in Jesus’ name.”
By the day’s end, Welch concluded that the needs of people are “spiritual as well as physical.”
“It’s good to see everyone working together,” he said. “The fact is that Southern Baptists are not losing focus and they are ministering to people’s needs and they are getting the Gospel into the field,” Welch said. “That’s thrilling to me.”