By Vicki Brown, Word&Way Associate Editor
Columbia — Called a "man of passion" who caught others up in it, Gary Morrow was honored Sept. 30 for his passionate service to Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief.
Disaster relief volunteers hosted a banquet for Morrow and his wife, Marilyn, in Columbia as the longtime director stepped down from the Missouri post. He has been asked and has accepted a post as a volunteer coordinator in the New Orleans area to assist with Hurricane Katrina cleanup.
"Gary, we see you as a servant of God," event speaker John Dowdy, retired Missouri Baptist Convention strategy implementation consultant, said. He noted that "literally thousands of people" have heard about Jesus because of Morrow's work.
Using the Old Testament story of Esther, Dowdy asked Morrow if he ever thought he had been put into disaster relief for a purpose.
Right person with the right ideas
Dowdy said he felt that God had put Morrow in the Missouri disaster relief position because Morrow was the "right" person with the "right" ideas.
"We needed someone for whom disaster relief would be a passion and a ministry in their lives," Dowdy said. "Because of his passion, many of you...have caught that passion."
When passion consumes an individual, he doesn't care how others react to it. Dowdy added that Morrow used every opportunity to get others involved.
"Gary would put a pen in your hand and lead you to sign up for training..., or then ask, 'Where's your checkbook?'
"Or he would put a tool in your hand and point to something that needed to be fixed."
Disaster relief meets spiritual needs
Dowdy pointed out how disaster relief had become a way to minister to individuals' spiritual needs.
"It has taken a long time in Baptist life to convince a lot of people that when you touch someone in his physical needs, then you can touch his spiritual life," he added. "You have to earn trust."
Dowdy turned to Morrow and said, "Thank you for showing the way. Thank you for helping us do God's work."
At the banquet, Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief honored Morrow as the first recipient of an award named for him — the Gary Morrow Lifetime Achievement Award.
In addition, he received a quilt, created by Blanche Harness, of photos of scenes from disaster relief work. He was also given a framed photo of a beer truck he had helped "convert" for use in the work.
Morrow: Followers critical
Choked up at the accolades, Morrow reminded the banquet crowd that they compose the disaster relief teams. Among MoDR's longest-serving volunteers, he noted that many current disaster relief participants came out of the response to floods that ravaged parts of Missouri in 1993.
"Just because you have a leader, but no people to follow him, you have nothing," he said. "This night is for you as well as for me."
The Morrows started working with Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief in 1986 and went on their first MoDR trip after a tornado touched down in southeastern Missouri the following year.
For about 25 years, Morrow has been an electrical and plumbing contractor. His business also included a lot of dirt work. Last year, the couple shut down the business to devote their lives to relief work on a fulltime basis.
Morrow first got involved with hurricane relief efforts in the Gulf Coast by coordinating a Missouri kitchen unit in September 2005. He sent that unit to First Baptist Church, McComb, Miss., where volunteers fed people for three weeks.
No longer needed in that location, he moved the unit to Calvary Baptist Church, New Orleans. While there, the Morrows tore down a house on the church's lot that had been badly damaged. They spread rock for three parking lots to accommodate volunteers and constructed an RV lot to serve up to 16 volunteer RVs.
Morrow also served as project coordinator for repair and remodeling of the church's nursery building.
Getting ready to head for New Orleans to take up his new post, Morrow also reminded the banquet crowd that he will be looking for Missouri churches to "adopt" homes that still need repair and that he needs all the workers he can get. (10-19-06)