Baptists on Mission individuals and groups stay busy with jobs in Charlotte and Conover areas, even as Hurricane Florence activity continues.
Roger Carlson (yellow hat), Neil Brown (blue hat) and Randy Glazier, all volunteers with North Carolina Baptists on Mission (NCBM), pray with a Conover family. While the family’s house was safe from the flood waters, they were only able to access the house by foot.
Storms in early June left flooding in areas of Mecklenburg and Catawba counties. Crews set up at Calvary Baptist Church in Charlotte and Oxford Baptist Church in Conover.
“It’s a ministry, not a work detail,” said Jimmy Lawrence, the North Carolina Baptists on Mission (NCBM) state disaster recovery coordinator. Mud out and tear out teams were needed most.
“We’ve just had people that’s displaced,” he said.
Lawrence noted that crews worked the week of July 4, including the holiday, to help families return to their homes. He said he and his wife Pam “feel really called to do this kind of work.”
As a former fire chief, Lawrence has seen firsthand what Baptists do when disaster strikes. Lawrence was answering an emergency call in 1998 to a tornado site. NCBM was there with chainsaw teams clearing property and helping the local people.
“I had been going to a Baptist church but didn’t really know anything about Baptist disaster relief,” he said. “The rest is history.”
As members of First Baptist Church in Mayodan, the couple serves together: he coordinates sites and Pam helps with administration. “It’s a lifelong commitment for us,” he said.
Lawrence said one guy had lived in his home since 1971 and flooding had only ever gotten to the second step leading into his house. But “this time, he had 43 inches of water in his house.”
Lawrence said many people had to be evacuated in the middle of the night and early morning hours.
Hurricane Florence recovery continues
While work winds down in the western part of the state, volunteers are expected for at least the next three years at rebuild sites related to Hurricane Florence devastation.
“Hurricane Florence was the worst natural disaster to ever hit our state,” said Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director-treasurer. “Over 80,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by Florence.”
Teams are needed to clear out houses and help rebuild for victims of Hurricane Florence. The North Carolina Baptists on Mission have several sites where volunteers can serve.
NCBM hosts four large rebuild sites and two smaller sites where volunteers can help people recover from the damage.
Brunson said it is helpful to have skilled workers on volunteer teams, but volunteers are not required to have training. “We have experienced leaders at each site who help coordinate the work of the volunteers,” he said.
NCBM uses one of its mission camps – Red Springs – as a location for volunteers, along with three rebuild centers. Brunson said it is likely at least one of these three rebuild centers will be turned into a mission camp in the future.
Because of the generosity of North Carolina Baptists through the North Carolina Missions Offering and other gifts, Brunson said NCBM owns sites in Lumberton, Rose Hill and New Bern. The three rebuild hubs combined house and feed up to 500 volunteers at a time. NCBM also is partnering with churches in Wilmington to house up to another 200 volunteers.
“There are many stories that could be told of how God is using volunteers to share His love with hurting people,” he said.
A site coordinator in Wilmington called a homeowner after Hurricane Florence because he had enough workers to help at another site.
“The homeowner told the site coordinator that he was planning on taking his own life that day because he was in such despair,” Brunson said. Those students offered hope to the homeowner through their work tearing out damaged floors and walls. Because of the volunteers, that homeowner and many others have hope and know that God and others care about them.”
Visit baptistsonmission.org for more information.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dianna L. Cagle is Assistant Editor for the Biblical Recorder, brnow.org, news journal of the Southern Baptist Convention of North Carolina.)