Giving Hope to Survivors of Disasters

It’s been more than a decade since Henrietta Gentry first took up the plow—or in her case, a chain saw—in the missions field with Texas Baptist Men’s (TBM) disaster relief ministry. She has served the survivors of disasters—Hurricane Ike, Hurricane Rita, and a volcano eruption in Hawaii—in the hopes that those in the most desperate situations would realize God’s plan for their lives.

“We want to be able to help and give hope,” Gentry said.

She currently serves as the chaplain coordinator for TBM’s disaster relief ministry, equipping men and women to serve a missions field ripe with those seeking hope. It’s a physically demanding job, Gentry said, but one that carries the added joy of pointing others to Jesus.

“It’s giving a cup of cool water in Jesus’ name,” she said, referencing Mark 9:41. “We minister to the physical needs first. Then, once they are comfortable, the chaplain can talk about spiritual matters with them.”

This type of ministry requires each participant to connect with his or her identity in Christ, Gentry said. Without that realization, TBM’s disaster relief ministry dissolves into a sea of other organizations that simply rebuild in disaster areas.

“A lot of organizations go out and serve others,” she said. “We want them to ask us why we do the hard physical work, why we leave our families, why we travel so far—that is the question we want them to ask.”

When they answer, the TBM chaplains are able to answer in a way that testifies to the power of Christ to whoever is willing to listen: homeowners, first responders, and even the members of a disaster relief team. It’s difficult work but certainly worth it when considering the grace God gave His children when He provided a way for their salvation, Gentry said.

“To go out and sweat for a day or week is not a sacrifice, not compared with what Christ did for us,” she said.

Jamie H. Wilson is a freelance writer from upstate South Carolina who bonded with Henrietta Gentry over the fact that they both own their own personal chain saws. Contact Wilson at

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