Published February 11, 2010
His grandfather taught Tracy Lettelleir how to use a chain saw. He’s used it since he was a teenager at home and on the mission field, so he was confidant that he was ready for chain saw school.
“Our church – Royal Baptist in Newnan – goes to Alaska every year to cut wood for the elders in a remote village. I thought I was safe with my chain saw,” he said. “But I would have failed this class.”
Lettelleir had already seen the ministry opportunities for someone with a chain saw in hand and he wanted to put that to use for Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief. In order to do that, he had to take a required two-day chain saw class.
“I thought, two days? You’ve got to be kidding. Now that I’m here, I’m thinking we might need three days,” admitted Lettelleir during a training school held at Camp Rockridge in Franklin.
Every year during storm season, the number of chain saw accidents spike. In fact, typically more people are injured and killed after a storm than during a storm.
“Electrocution and chain saw accidents are the two biggest killers after a storm,” said Bart Smith, director of Georgia chain saw schools and a member of First Baptist Church Elberton.
Every year during storm season, Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers respond with clean-up and recovery units, which include a trailer full of chain saws and volunteers trained to cut down – and cut up – fallen trees.
There has never been a Georgia Baptist volunteer who has had a chain saw accident during a disaster relief assignment. Smith is proud of that statistic.
“We plan to keep it that way,” he said.
Chain saw school is the only disaster relief training that requires volunteers to pass a test before being certified – and Smith isn’t afraid to fail anyone.
Disaster Relief training
All Georgia DR volunteers must complete Phase 1 training. For details and registration information on all disaster relief training events, see www.gbcdisasterrelief.org
Phase 1 training events
• March 12-13, First Baptist Church Thomson; registration deadline is March 5.
• April 10, Ingleside Baptist Church, Macon; registration deadline is April 2.
Chain Saw schools
• Feb. 19-20, Hebron Baptist Church, Dacula; registration deadline is Feb. 12.
• March 26-27, Camp Daniel Marshall, Lincolnton; registration deadline is March 19.
• May 14-15, Global Youth Ministries, Chatsworth; registration deadline is May 7.
“We allow only five safety violations during the school. More than that and you fail. You can come back and try again – most people do – but if we don’t think you’re going to be safe, then we don’t pass you,” he said.
Classroom learning consists of knowing the parts of a chain saw, how to clean it, and how to use it properly. Then students are taken “on the field” to put what they’ve learned to practical use. The final exam includes cutting down a tree and laying it in a predetermined spot using only plastic wedges and the techniques they learn.
Smith went through the same training 14 years ago.
“I was an Airborne Ranger in the Army before I got saved. I had a rough B.C. life – before Christ,” Smith said. “God did so much to keep me safe and alive that after deliverance, I wanted to give something back.”
Disaster Relief seemed to be a perfect fit for the 30-year-old new Christian.
“I went to chain saw school pretty cocky. I’d been running them most of my life, but I got to chain saw school and learned everything I did was wrong,” he said.
He prayed for humility and passed with flying colors. The next year he trained to be a chain saw trainer and now he runs Georgia’s five schools every year.
Along with the safety training, he’s quick to point out what the ministry is all about.
His first disaster response was in Albany after massive floods, he tells participants.
“An elderly woman had been ripped off by people who had come before we did. I offered to clean up for her and she kept asking, ‘Who’s paying for this?’ I told her, ‘It’s paid for. Jesus loved me enough to die for me. I love him and want to serve him. It’s paid for,’” he said.
That may be the most important lesson he tries to teach at every chain saw school.
“This is a ministry,” he tells the students. “Don’t ever forget that.”
Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief is a ministry-based approach to impacting people for the Kingdom of God by serving people who are victims of disaster. Volunteers focus on five ministry areas:
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