North Carolina Baptists are waiting to see what super storm Hurricane Sandy will do before responding.
“We are preparing for a major response,” said an update on the NCBM website.
NCBM has three feeding units on standby to respond to New Jersey. They are working with the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey to assess what is needed and respond accordingly.
Cities up and down the Eastern Seaboard were shutting down Sunday (Oct. 28) and today (Oct. 29) to prepare for the worst from Hurricane Sandy.
Other Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) leaders were preparing for a large response as well.
“This has the potential to be an unusual storm,” said Fritz Wilson, disaster relief team leader for the North American Mission Board (NAMB). Wilson said SBDR leaders began preparation for response last week.
“We worked through the weekend to make sure we have a solid plan in place,” he said. “And not only a plan, but we have already begun to make sure the people to work the plan will be in place to respond and meet needs. This storm could bring a hurricane response and a winter storm response, in the same event.”
Wilson transported one of NAMB’s mobile recovery units to Harrisburg, Pa., Monday. The Pennsylvania-South Jersey state Baptist convention mission house in Harrisburg will serve as the area command center for the storm response. Given the wide range of possible damage, and the potentially large area affected, Wilson said he fully expects multiple incident command centers to be established for the response.
Other Baptist conventions were ready to respond as well including the Baptist General Convention of Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland-Delaware, New England, New York, Ohio, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, Tennessee and West Virginia.
High winds and localized flooding have affected North Carolina as well. The western portion of North Carolina was also getting snow. The storm’s center is more than 300 miles off the coast, but it is still expected to bring life-threatening storm surge flooding to the mid-Atlantic coast, including Long Island Sound and New York Harbor, bringing coastal hurricane winds and heavy Appalachian snows. Landfall is expected Monday night (Oct. 29) or early Tuesday morning (Oct. 30) between New Jersey and New York. Predictions call for possible landfall in Atlantic City with storm surge as high as 11 feet.
In an Oct. 26 email Richard Brunson, executive director of NCBM, asked for prayers for the people of Cuba. With sustained winds of 105 mph, Sandy, then a category 2 storm, struck near Santiago, Cuba. NCBM has a partnership with the Eastern Baptist Convention of Cuba.
“The pastors and churches are already showing the love of Christ,” Brunson said, indicating one pastor had traveled from house to house ministering to people. This same church “had a prayer meeting in their church with about 15 people present to cry out to God to ask for His help and direction. After the prayer meeting they pulled out their generator and charged cell phones and flashlights.”
An estimated 100 neighbors thanked the church family for helping them this way. The pastor says that he wants to try to cook at least 100 hot lunches a day on a gas oven for the community around his church for at least a couple of weeks. Other churches will do the same.
Electricity in Cuba was expected to be out for 2-3 weeks. “Many have completely lost their homes and all their material possessions,” Brunson said. “The vast majority of structures were already in terrible shape before the hurricane struck. There are many homes partially destroyed, with roofs that blew away or walls that crumbled. Several of the Baptist church buildings received damage. There was also a lot of damage at the elderly home that N.C. Baptists have helped build. The challenge now is trying to find the right materials and the needed quantity to fix what can be fixed.”
For updates from NCBM visit its Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/ncmissions) or website: (http://www.baptistsonmission.org/Projects/Type/Disaster-Relief/Hurricane-Sandy).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway from the North American Mission Board contributed to this story.)