Scenes reminiscent of the aftermath of 1999’s Hurricane Floyd are playing out across a 250-mile stretch of North Carolina. Already North Carolina Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers, and those from seven other states, have served Hurricane Matthew survivors by preparing more than 400,000 meals from six SBDR kitchens.
Photo by Casey Jones, NAMB
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer Lou Mulsand, left, a member of First Baptist Concord, in Knoxville, Tenn., talks with homeowner Kevin Kinsella of Savannah, Ga. Mulsand’s team helped Kinsella, a Hurricane Matthew survivor, clear downed trees from his home.
North Carolina Baptist Men Disaster Relief director Gaylon Moss said some of the same areas affected by Floyd were hard hit again by Matthew. Moss said volunteer days served in North Carolina have already surpassed 7,000.
“The extensive nature of the response, the scale and scope, are larger,” Moss said. “From the northeast corner of the state, to the southwest, we are serving across 200-plus miles. We have 10 clean up and recovery sites working and will open another today. The Baptist General [Association] of Virginia is coordinating another clean-up site for us.”
In addition to volunteers from North Carolina and Virginia, Moss said SBDR volunteers from Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania-South Jersey, Southern Baptists of Texas and Texas Baptist Men are also serving there. Kansas-Nebraska also sent a laundry unit that is in use in the state.
“At the height of the need for hot meals, we had six kitchens operating,” Moss said. “That is down to two now. We surpassed 400,000 meals prepared [Oct. 27].”
In the overall SBDR response to Matthew, volunteers from 15 states have served. More than 575,000 meals have been prepared. More than 4,000 chaplain contacts have been made.
There also have been 284 gospel presentations reported and 88 decisions for faith in Christ. To date, 815 chainsaw jobs have been completed, along with 104 heavy debris removal jobs.
David Melber, North American Mission Board (NAMB) vice president for Send Relief, expressed gratitude for the work volunteers have already accomplished in the response.
“We are thankful that the heart of Southern Baptists for service is demonstrated in the action of thousands of volunteers and church members assisting their neighbors in the wake of Hurricane Matthew,” Melber said. “As with the response to Louisiana flooding, the needs related to Matthew will be long-term. We are confident and thankful Southern Baptists will continue to serve until all of those needs are met.”
Arran Lake Baptist Church
Jeff Isenhour, pastor of Arran Lake Baptist Church in Fayetteville said the lake that is the church’s namesake is gone.
The dam broke at Arran Lake and washed out a main road, some smaller roads and many utility lines.
“We don’t know how long the main road will be closed – probably for months, maybe a year, but it’s going to be a while,” he said.
Photo by Geoff L Johnson, NAMB
Hurricane Matthew flooded scores of churches from Florida to the Carolinas. Piney Grove Baptist Church in Gresham, S.C., was one of them.
The week before Hurricane Matthew hit the area Isenhour began a Sunday sermon series called “Rescued.” He said, “The theme is about how Jesus spiritually rescues people us out of a life of sin. But I had no idea we would literally be rescuing people from floods a few days later.”
At least seven church members’ homes flooded immediately when the Arran Lake dam broke. “A young couple was just getting ready to get on the roof of their house when rescue boats arrived, so they evacuated,” Isenhour recalled. “One elderly couple lost everything.”
Isenhour said his home was not flooded, even though he lives less than a quarter of a mile from homes where the water reached the roof. “Some were affected in Fayetteville, many were not – it depends on where you lived.” His home became a safe place for some families to stay.
“None of us were expecting this to come to Fayetteville. We’ve never had anything like this. We just weren’t ready for it,” he said.
Some members of Arran Lake Baptist were in survival mode after the storm. Others wanted to serve but did not know where to start. Through social media and personal contacts, church members were asked to assess the needs in their neighborhoods so recovery could begin.
“The first few days we were just trying to help each other,” Isenhour said.
“Some church members pulled out carpet and moved furniture. Then North Carolina Baptist Men came in and started doing what they do so well. It was like the cavalry arriving.”
Apex Baptist Church delivered several thousand bottles of water. “So we passed out water in our community, then we took some water and supplies to Lumberton, where the need was so great,” Isenhour added.
Matthew opened a door for Arran Lake Baptist’s Sunday School classes to apply some principles the church has been emphasizing.
“I believe a Sunday School class doesn’t exist just to teach the Bible,” Isenhour said. “They exist to minister to people and develop relationships, also. We tried to encourage our classes to be mobilized – to take care of the people in their class, then meet the needs of others outside the class as they learn about them.
“We’ve always tried to tell our small groups that certainly they want to teach the Bible first, but if the end result is to get together and talk about the Bible but not apply the Bible and actually put it to work, then what good is it?”
The floods underscored the principles of ministry through small groups and prompts the church to prepare for future opportunities, he said.
Magnolia Baptist Church
Many in the Stedman community had no electricity after Matthew, but Magnolia Baptist Church in Stedman saw their power restored the day after the storm. Members of the church came together to prepare a community meal on Oct. 12 for many still did not have power after several days.
Fran Harris, Magnolia’s secretary, said more than 200 people came. When asked by the Biblical Recorder how word spread, Harris said the church and local fire department put a sign on their marquee advertising the meal. They also used word-of-mouth throughout the community and a local grocery store.
“They all seemed to be very, very appreciative,” Harris said. About 25 members came together to help with the meal; all but four did not have power at their homes. When those people who had helped returned home, they all had electricity.
Harris said she heard one member say, “God turned on more than our electricity that night.”
The church sustained some water damage to the roof. The worst case in their church was a woman whose basement flooded. She is getting some FEMA relief.
By press time, the church was planning to take a special offering for Baptists on Mission to help with disaster relief.
Lebanon Baptist Church
In Eastover, N.C., Lebanon Baptist Church canceled regular Wednesday night services Oct. 12. Instead they offered meals, showers and a time of fellowship to those in the community affected by Hurricane Matthew. They provided more than 275 meals, including meals delivered to local fire departments and people stranded in nearby stores. For some people who lost power during the storm, the dinner was the first hot meal they had in days, said Brian Charland, associate pastor of Lebanon Baptist.
Lebanon Baptist also canceled Sunday night Bible study Oct. 16 to pack double the amount of bags they normally fill for BackPack Buddies. The program provides bags of food for local students in need, usually sending bags home with families on Mondays. BackPack Buddies sent bags again on Friday, so families affected by the hurricane would have food over the weekend. Volunteers received and packed extra donations, sending about 800 bags of meals and snacks home with families.
“It’s been pretty cool to see people come together and work together to help those in need this week,” Charland said.
Long-term in North Carolina, Moss expects the needs to continue for the foreseeable future. “Recovery and clean up, mostly mud out, will be the biggest need for the next several weeks,” Moss said. “We need volunteers for mud-out, tear-out and clean-up [projects].”
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.”
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.