Mark MacDonald walked around his Jacksonville home Sept. 11 assessing the damage done by Hurricane Irma.
“Our roof is leaking and a few trees are down,” MacDonald said. “I was curious as to how our neighbors were doing. Their garden was completely torn to shreds. It’s not ideal, but it really could have been worse for us. We’re all thankful to God for that.”
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Sept. 11, MacDonald will be working on his own home and aiding his neighbors. But as the sun rises Sept. 12, MacDonald will help lead teams of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers and trained experts in feeding units, mud-out and more.
As the strategic communications catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, MacDonald said he is “overseeing all our communications strategy for Hurricane Irma. Just like the early response in Harvey, we’ve anticipated Hurricane Irma and the response she’d require ahead of time. I’ve met with our disaster relief teams over the weeks. We are ready to provide 500,000 meals a day in the southern parts of Florida. Feeding is the first thing we will be doing Tuesday.”
Preparations are being made by the Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Pennsylvania/South Jersey, New York and Virginia Baptist conventions to respond to the needs of hurricane survivors as Irma continued to crawl up Florida and into south Georgia.
Counties in northern Florida as well in south Georgia were prepared for the worst. MacDonald was grateful that many reports they’ve received from Southern Baptist pastors hosting hurricane survivors came back better than expected.
“We’ve had some pastors call to say they need hot meals and laundry units,” MacDonald said. “Others who are hosting in the southernmost parts of the state have asked for cleaning crews and volunteers to help repair homes and clear roads and yards.”
According to the National Weather Service, residents of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and the Carolinas will continue to see tropical storm-like conditions Sept. 12 with flash flood warnings for counties along those states’ coasts.
“Tuesday, we expect our Southern Baptist volunteers will be able to get into the southern parts of Florida to respond to needs and have gospel conversations,” MacDonald said. “The rain stopped Monday. Our work can finally begin.”
David Melber, North American Mission Board (NAMB) vice president of Send Relief, has been working with NAMB’s disaster relief partners, SBDR directors in several states, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and others to map out unique response plans for hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
“Every hurricane is a challenge, and none of them are alike,” Melber said. “That means every response is different. Harvey stayed in one place for days and dropped 52 inches of rain. This slowed down every organization’s ability to respond but now we are in full response mode.”
As of Monday, Sept 11, Hurricane Harvey SBDR response has witnessed 29 professions of faith and initiated 508 gospel conversations; provided 444,765 meals, 7,240 showers and 4,534 loads of laundry; and completed 109 construction jobs including 47 roof repairs.
The work is not finished in Texas and has just begun in Florida.
“For both hurricanes, we will need generous partners to help us with the significant expenses related to responding to these events,” Melber said. “Then we need volunteers that will commit to long-term help meeting the needs of the communities impacted in Texas and in Florida. Please continue to pray for the areas that have already been impacted.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Josie Bingham writes for the North American Mission Board.)