We often hear about how Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief (ABDR) meets the needs of people trying to recover from natural disasters. Storm victims aren’t the only ones who experience turning points in their lives. ABDR volunteers often find their lives dramatically changed as well.
Justin Murphy knows this all too well. As pastor of Beck Spur Baptist Church in Forrest City, Justin is part of an ABDR team made up heavily of fellow pastors. On March 31, Justin and his team watched as a devastating storm swept through the Little Rock area then gathered strength before descending on Wynne. As soon as they were cleared to go in, the local ABDR team was ready and able to mobilize to Wynne to offer help.
Justin had plugged into ABDR years before when a tornado hit Forrest City. Seeing the impact of yellow-shirted volunteers drove Justin to become a part of disaster relief efforts.
This time, though, would not be an ordinary deployment for Justin. Wynne was his hometown, and it was a town he had no intention of ever returning to.
Growing up in Wynne, Justin had been a miserable troublemaker. His behavior was so extreme that no one in town wanted anything to do with him. He spent his final years of high school isolated from his fellow students, ultimately being banned from the school.
Justin left Wynne as soon as he could, and it didn’t take long to realize he would not be able to go back. Even years later, people in Wynne remembered him as that horrible young man, and they had no qualms about reminding him of his miserable past.
Forrest City represented a new life for Justin. God had used the prayers of his wife and her faithful prayer group to bring Justin to the point of surrendering his life to Christ. Later, he recognized God’s call to preach, a call that ultimately led him to minister at Beck Spur Baptist Church.
Happy in Forrest City, Justin never had any intention of returning to Wynne, but the March 31 storms changed everything in an instant. He knew without hesitation he had to mobilize with ABDR to go help his hometown.
At first, Justin and his team were fully focused on the work at hand, and he had no time to wrestle with his past. A few days in, as he worked to clean up the very high school he had been banned from, it all hit him. His own spiritual scars were being healed even as he worked to help Wynne physically heal from the storms.
Justin returned to Forrest City to prepare for Easter at his own church, but after the morning services he felt a heavy burden for Wynne. That afternoon he drove back over to prayer walk through the city. Time spent praying over his damaged hometown continued to minister healing to his own damaged heart.
The faithfulness of Arkansas Baptists to give to the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering and support ABDR allows hurting people to know the love of Christ. That same faithfulness brings turning points in our own lives as we set aside our hurts and fears and give our all to serve those around us.