DALLAS - He left his cattle and cotton farm with his wife early Saturday morning, hitching a trailer with four showers to the back of his truck. It's a mobile disaster unit built from scratch after Hurricane Katrina, with Bible verses painted on each side.
Travis Mires is prepared to leave his ranch on the outskirts of the city, heading to Houston for two months. His wife, Kay, will move into a familiar position, presiding over the family business while Travis takes his place among the volunteers of the Texas Baptist Men.
"Probably one of the greatest things in my life is the smile you get when someone's worked all day, and sees our trailer with hot showers inside," Mires said in an interview Saturday. "There are clean towels, too, since we also have two washers and two dryers in the back."
The TBM volunteers responding to Tropical Storm Harvey now number more than 200 across the Gulf Coast, as the Baptist relief organization prepares for a year deployment throughout the region.
The group serves alongside FEMA and the Red Cross, with federal authorities assigning 30,000 flood-ravaged homes for the Baptist Men to assess, repair or tear down.
"We come equipped with chainsaws, toothbrushes, you name it," said Mickey B. Lenamon, CEO of the organization. "In our view, it's a disaster until things are back to normal for the families we serve. And we'll be there until we bring them back to normalcy."
Lenamon's father founded the organization 50 years ago, a small group of volunteers mobilized through Texas' network of Baptist churches. Today there are more than 7,000 trained volunteers within the state, a tradition Lenamon continued through disasters from the chemical plant explosion in West, Texas, to Tropical Storm Harvey.
"My dad taught me two things: love the Lord your God with all your heart, but love your neighbors," Lenamon said. "The Bible doesn't say who your neighbor is, so that's anybody we can go and help."
While thousands may be physically or emotionally afflicted by the disaster, the volunteers pack Bibles in bulk, for those who are spiritually harmed. The books are leather-bound and carefully wrapped in plastic inside the group's Dallas warehouse, ready to be distributed by the latest volunteers heading south.
"When I go, it's my greatest joy," said Kay Mires, seeing her husband off and preparing the shower trailer for its latest departure. "God makes a way for us to come here, to serve His people."
TBM includes women within its ranks, a misconception from the group's name - unchanged since the 1960s. The volunteers now have five kitchens spread across the disaster declaration counties, cooking 10,000 meals per day.
As the latest shipment left Dallas by Saturday afternoon, forklifts finished one task and simply moved on to the next.
It's with devotion and dedication that the staff in standard yellow shirts and signature blue hats finished packing and preparing - ready for a mission of grace and goodwill, and the long road ahead.
"When we pull in, people ask, 'why did you leave your family and job to come and do this?'" Kay Mires said.
"It's the mantra of the Texas Baptist Men. It's anyway, anytime and anywhere."
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