EDISON, N.J. – Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) leaders are preparing to continue superstorm Sandy feeding efforts into December, and have opened a new avenue of service with long-term national implications.
“Although we’ve been told by New York officials that some of our kitchen operations may consolidate in the state, they told us to expect to continue providing meals into December,” said Fritz Wilson, North American Mission Board (NAMB) disaster relief executive director.
As of Nov. 11, Southern Baptists volunteers had served more than 670,000 meals to Sandy victims.
North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) volunteers have provided more than 250,000 and logged more than 2,000 volunteer days. There have also been five salvations through ministry of the Baptist Men. The Piscataway kitchen (Rutgers) closed Nov. 11 but recovery efforts are ongoing.
NCBM is serving meals and helping with recovery efforts in Toms River, N.J. Meals are the focus for the center at The Meadowlands where Manna One is stationed. The comfort station in Atlantic City, N.J. closed Nov. 9, while shower and laundry will continue to serve volunteers and survivors in various places.
While most of NCBM’s efforts are focused on New Jersey, there is work going on elsewhere. Recovery teams are also doing tear-out work and other tasks at Graffiti Church on New York City’s lower east side. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has a Great Commission Partnership with New York and its churches. There are relationships there that will most likely result in future Sandy ministry with NCBM or the convention.
N.C. Baptists help remove a tree from a house in New Jersey. While providing food is still important, more crews are needed to help with recovery efforts.
Volunteers are also providing leadership in a new rapid repair DR ministry method pioneered in response to Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana. NAMB DR team leader Mickey Caison helped forge the partnership for the rapid repair outreach.
“Volunteers from Tennessee are providing leadership and logistics for the rapid repair warehouse for the New Jersey response,” said Caison. “The warehouse opened today in Port Monmouth, N.J., at Middletown. At the request of FEMA and the [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers, Southern Baptists have been asked to give leadership among responding entities for this part of the response.
“FEMA and the Corps have been watching Southern Baptists,” Caison said. “They have seen our capacity, both in our size, and in the manner and amount of work that we accomplish. They feel we can bring critical leadership to this task.”
Close to 900 SBDR volunteers from 27 states and Canada continued to provide ministry with shower trailers, mud-out and clean-up crews, and home repairs. Wilson is providing leadership from the New York and New Jersey incident command centers hosted by Raritan Valley Baptist Church in Edison, N.J. A second NAMB mobile incident command center is in transit to the church.
Missouri SBDR volunteers will man a second location in New York, Caison said. The warehouses are the central locations for construction supplies, such as roof tarps and lumber needed to make quick repairs to damaged homes. Caison said this opportunity could become a long-term ministry for Southern Baptists.
The Sandy response will also include childcare provided by SBDR volunteers, with units en route from Ohio and South Carolina. Planning continues to allow college students to use their holiday breaks to voluntarily serve in the affected areas.
Even when plans don’t work out, God can still use available volunteers in a DR response, Wilson said. For example, members of a Michigan team delayed while awaiting deployment at Fort Dix, N.J., used the time to build a relationship with a person at the base, eventually sharing the gospel and seeing the person come to faith in Christ, Wilson said.
From its disaster operations center in Alpharetta, Ga., NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through a partnership between NAMB and the Southern Baptist Convention’s 42 state conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.
SBDR assets include 82,000 trained volunteers, including chaplains, and some 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
If you would like to make a contribution, please make your check payable to NC Baptist Men, designated for Disaster Relief, and mail to: N.C. Baptist Men, Baptist State Convention, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512. You can also give online at baptistsonmission.org. Also, please support the N.C. Missions Offering. All of N.C. Baptist Men’s regular budget comes from the N.C. Missions Offering.
Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for "Disaster Relief."
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. BR Assistant Managing Editor Dianna L. Cagle contributed to this report.)