Ronnie and Connie Roark are the most hard-working, retired couple you will ever meet.
Both more than 70 years old, this pair of go-getters have been volunteering with Southern Baptist Texas Convention (SBTC) Disaster Relief as a Quick Response Unit since 2018.
Ronnie and Connie run a food truck, conducting mass feedings of about 700 people a day during emergency disaster responses. The days are long, and the work is hard, but they go to sleep every night excited to do it all over again the following day.
When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in the fall of 2017, the couple saw how much devastation a single natural disaster could cause, and they decided to do something to help. As they put it, “God tells us to go, but so many people don’t. By us going, we found our ministry at 68 years old. You talk about God working His way, and we finally listened to Him.”
And the ministry hasn’t slowed down since.
The Roarks were trained in disaster response efforts the Saturday following Harvey’s impact, and by that Sunday, they had been recruited to start serving on an SBTC relief unit: “We had just been trained the day before and didn’t even have our yellow T-shirts yet, but we hopped on the road early the next morning, not knowing exactly what would happen, because that’s where God was calling us.”
Ronnie shared, “After retirement, so many of my friends expected me to be a farmer or carpenter or electrician, and [I would] look over at Connie and say, ‘I will not be one of those old men who just cooks all day.’ Well, God does have a sense of humor, and He showed me.”
In an ironic twist of fate, SBTC Director of Disaster Relief Scottie Stice placed them on a mobile kitchen, a transportable feeding unit that could be restocked and ready to go the second disaster struck. The following months were packed with trips all over Texas, Louisiana and Nebraska, responding to everything from floods and tornadoes to ice storms and fires. Their first year on the job as first responders, Ronnie and Connie spent nearly one-third of their year on the road serving survivors.
While circumstances have changed slightly in light of COVID restrictions—with adjustments being made to the truck for a drive-thru instead of a walk-up window—the Roark’s central mission of being present and showing love to hurting families remains the same.
Volunteer work is still Ronnie and Connie’s mission, and they have found a deeper purpose in their meal-making: “I’m not one of those people who feels comfortable going up to random people to tell them about Jesus, but once you get that yellow shirt on, it’s like putting on the armor of God—it gives you strength. You can watch hurting people on the news and feel so far removed, but when you’re looking into someone’s eyes one-on-one, you see the hurt and know you’re meant to be there.”
If you would like to learn more about Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts and volunteering with them, click here for more information on your next steps.
Published April 9, 2021