For Pam Stallings and her mother, Nan Hancock, disaster relief is more than a compassionate ministry to those in crises; it’s a family affair.
Stallings’ father, Bill Hancock, a retired Air Force veteran and ordained minister, started a disaster relief ministry at Hebron Baptist Church in Scranton about 25 years ago. When he passed away about five years ago, Nan told her daughter, “Pam, we’re not letting disaster relief drop to the wayside.”
“No, ma’am,” Pam replied, “we’re going to keep it going.” Together, the duo has done just that. The church’s disaster relief team, comprised of 11 of its 40 members, continues to actively respond to disaster relief needs across the nation.
“There are very few instances in the history of South Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief that a family has contributed to the creation of a unit and provided leadership to that unit for 25 or more years. They’re truly a God-sized blessing,” said State DR Director Randy Creamer.
“Without a doubt, that reality has greatly enhanced the long-term effectiveness of the Hebron Feeding Unit,” Creamer said. “When I think of Pam Stallings, I am encouraged by her desire to take the baton her dad passed along,” he added. “It is so inspiring for a daughter to follow in her dad’s footsteps.”
Stallings is officially the unit’s “Blue Hat,” a moniker bestowed on team captains by the South Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief. Yet Stallings quickly acknowledges that Nan, who has been affectionately dubbed “Mama” by crew members, is the real “boss.” After all, she makes certain Pam does her job well.
“My mom is 84 years old — and she’s a spitfire, I’m telling you,” Stallings laughed. “And because I call her Mama — I’ll say, ‘Mama, do this, Mama, do that’ — everybody whom we meet also will call her ‘Mama,’ because that’s who she is. She’s Mama for our unit.’”
When a crew from Hebron Church or Florence Baptist Association is called out to serve, one can usually find Stallings and her mother serving together in a fixed kitchen at a church or with the mobile feeding unit.
“We started out working in a shelter with the Red Cross. From there, we went to a chainsaw crew, and from chainsaw to doing mud-out,” Stallings recalled. “Then we got some common sense because we both love to eat, and we joined the cooking team. I tell everybody that we decided ‘Baptists like to eat,’ and we can control the menu when we’re the ones cooking,” she laughed.
Hancock was unable to go and cook with her daughter when a disaster relief team recently went to work in Kentucky. “She was so upset,” Stallings said. “That’s the first time she’s not gone with me anywhere.”
But Hancock probably wasn’t the only one who was upset that she couldn’t go. “If we get a call out to go to a fixed kitchen, my mom makes bread from scratch and sweet rolls,” Stallings explained. “She makes enough so she can feed all those volunteers sweet rolls one morning.”
Her mother also has been known to make peach cobbler for the volunteers, Stallings added. “She loves to go and do for people,” Stallings said.
Stallings and Hancock also can call upon approximately 190 volunteers from Florence Baptist Association churches to serve with them on cooking teams working across the nation.
Director of Missions Chris Smith recalled meeting Bill and Nan Hancock his first week with Florence Baptist Association and hearing of their longtime ministry through disaster relief. Their daughter, Pam, now has developed into the most visible leader in disaster relief in Florence Association, he noted.
“As Pam and Nan have traveled to other states to cook for volunteers, they are now requested by various groups that they have served before,” Smith said. “Nan has continued with her daughter what she did for years with her husband, Bill,” he added. “Pam has taken it up a notch with her willingness and availability to serve.”
“It all started with my dad. He was one of those who believed that ‘any way we can serve to show people the love of Christ, that’s what we need to do,’” Stallings said. “So, after my dad passed away, my mom said, “You and I need to get out there and work, and do whatever we can do.”
Her dad’s love for disaster relief work even inspired Stallings’ daughter, Melissa, to get involved. “She did a lot of his reports so that he didn’t have to do them,” Stallings recalled. “She was hooked from the start. She loved it so.”
Working with her dad, her mom and her daughter through disaster relief has had a big impact on Stallings spiritually. “Disaster relief is not just cooking or cutting trees or cleaning mud out of houses,” she said. “It’s witnessing to people who are hurting.”