If you have followed my writings, you will know that I am often humbled and honored to be a part of the Pro BBQ World…our family. Never more so, than now, after participating in the Operation BBQ Relief effort in Hammond Louisiana following the devastating floods this past August. What was anticipated to be a moderate deployment of 5-7 days serving an estimated 70,000 meals, blossomed into a 15 day, 313,000 meal heroic relief effort.
The thing about this flood was that it was never dramatic. There were no vicious winds or thundering clouds…it just rained, and rained and rained. Eventually the lands ability to absorb and run off the water was eclipsed and hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes, businesses devastated and entire families without a place to go for days without food, water, or contact with others. Katrina was bad, this was horrendous.
For the BBQ family, in steps Operation BBQ Relief, the organization started by Stan Hays and Will Cleaver 5 years ago in response to the Joplin MO Tornado disaster. Early on, My wife Caroline and I knew this was going to be much worse than was being reported. It took 1 Facebook message to Stan, that we were going to need help down here and the wheels started turning.
I was quickly hooked up with Bryan Ropollo, the Louisiana lead and with the help of Scott Jones – Liberty BBQ, we secured the Oak Tree Church and School as a location to set up camp. By Sunday afternoon on the 14th of August, Deployment had begun. Mike Whitlow from Papas Smoke Pit, and Tangipahoa School Board member jumped in and began harnessing local contacts for getting the operation running with bread, vegetables, meat and volunteers to get the cooking started.
Along the way, teams from all over the country started showing up to help, Barry Smith – Bayou Boogie, Mike Richter – Chic Swine and Bovine, Adam Goutrea – Cajun Blaze – Bubba Latimer – Bubba Q – Kenny Nadeau – Unkle Kenny’s BBQ -David Clark – BBQ Grillbillies – Brad Orson and family from the Shed, Johnathan Huddleston, Damon Blue….and the list goes on and on… including John Wheeler and his crew from Natural Born Grillers bringing down their trailer with 3 huge Ole Hickories for some monster volume cooking capacity.
The volunteer crew, their work ethic and willingness to take on any job was inspiring. Once we got all the wheels in motion we quickly hit the 25,000 meals a day mark and several time eclipsing 30,000. During the deployment OBR eclipsed the 1 Million Meals Served mark, a stunning accomplishment for such a young, completely volunteer organization…. Wow.
I share all of this to just reflect on the accomplishment of all the men and women involved in OBR’s Hammond Deployment from the Board of Directors down to the student volunteers cleaning up the continuous messes we made.
For me, from my perspective, I had an on-field, sideline pass to watch God work miracle after miracle. Cooking 200 pork butts from 127* and a stone cold pit, to DONE is 1.5 hours to make a way for us to push out 8,000 meals by 9 AM…. To the amazing bonds and friendships forged by the exhausting work 12-16 hours per day and the desire to return day after day…. And story after story of the appreciation that a hot meal made to the lives of people and their families in such a tragic time.
My prayer is that we never have to see Operation BBQ relief again in this part of the country. With the reality of weather in our area, that’s not likely, and so I have comfort in knowing that wherever disaster strikes, Our Amazing BBQ family will show up to help soften the blow of disasters and send out hugs through hot meals, one person at a time.
I love my BBQ family and I am honored to have served in this way. God bless all of you.
God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. [Mat 5:4-8 NLT]
Jeff Loves Jesus and since being saved... born-again... my desire is to work for Him in whatever capacity that becomes. :)