A month after heavy Midwest rains created historic flooding that damaged hundreds of homes and killed at least two dozen people along the Mississippi River, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) will wrap up relief jobs this week and begin to consider the need for long-term rebuilding efforts.
SBDR volunteers from 18 state conventions have served at sites throughout Missouri this month in a variety of flood-response roles. Volunteers have completed about 400 relief jobs, according to Dwaine Carter, the state director for Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief.
“I hope [the people of Missouri] see that we’ve been ‘help, hope and healing’ as we come,” Carter said. “The help is physical. We give them hope that things are going to be OK. Then we trust that God will bring the healing in their lives.”
Carter also says SBDR volunteers presented the gospel 110 times, and 13 people expressed a desire to commit their lives to Jesus. Southern Baptist volunteer hours totaled 2,908 days during the flood response.
Photo by Mike Hubbard, courtesy of the The Pathway
This waterlogged scene from Eureka, Mo., was a familiar site throughout Missouri after torrential rains fell between Christmas and New Year’s. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from Missouri and 17 other state Baptist conventions have responded with assistance.
Carter says volunteers served throughout the southern part of the state from the Arkansas/Oklahoma border north to the I-44 corridor. Disaster relief units focused much of their efforts in the St. Louis area. Units worked out of First Baptist Church of Arnold, Central Baptist Church of Eureka and First Baptist Church of Ellisville.
While Missouri took the lead in the efforts, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) supported the work by providing equipment, funding and personnel, according to Mickey Caison, interim director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
Caison notes that in addition to all the physical work provided by SBDR volunteers, Southern Baptists provide spiritual support as well.
Chaplains made more than 550 chaplaincy contacts in the past month in Missouri.
“[We let] them tell their story,” Caison said. “They get to share what happened to them with someone who cares about them, someone who is sympathetic to them. The hope is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We care enough to want them to know the God that we serve, the God who loves us. We want them to know that God as well.”
Illinois volunteer Butch Porter served during a week of the flood response in Missouri. He said the team developed such a reputation in one neighborhood that local residents were referring others to them. He specifically mentioned a heating and air repairman who had been working on an elderly woman’s house. Realizing that she needed more help, the repairman found Porter and his team and asked them to help her.
Porter says he enjoyed being a part of SBDR because it gives him an opportunity to help others.
“I can’t preach, and I can’t sing. But I’m good with people,” said Porter, who is a member of First Baptist Church of Galatia, Ill. “My wife and I feel like this is a great way to serve. When the Lord walked this earth, He helped people.”
The Southern Baptist state conventions that participated in the effort included Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Baptist General Convention of Texas, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Kansas-Nebraska, Iowa, Utah-Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico.
SBDR leaders from NAMB and state Baptist conventions are meeting this week at First Baptist Church of Hendersonville, Tenn., for the annual Disaster Relief Roundtable.
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call (866) 407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state Disaster Relief ministries.
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, 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.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)