ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units are in action in 15 states in response to recent storms in the mid-Atlantic, flooding in Florida and wildfires in Colorado.
“It’s a busy time,” said Mickey Caison, the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) disaster relief team leader who is in Colorado assisting relief efforts with the wildfire in the state.
“The majority of the states have been able to handle it on their own. We have a few that we are assisting with water and some other resources – like Colorado and the two Virginia conventions,” Caison said in reference to Baptist conventions in the respective states.
Two of NAMB’s new 53-foot, 18-wheel tractor-trailers were deployed for the first time to deliver much-needed water to Virginia on July 2.
The new tractor-trailers, driven by Tennessee Baptist disaster relief volunteers, arrived at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., on Tuesday morning with 39 pallets of water – about 120,000 bottles. Thomas Road and the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV) set up a “cooling station” at the church after powerful storms battered the eastern United States June 29, leaving at least 22 dead and more than 2 million people without power.
The cooling station provides area residents with a place to cool down, get water and rest as temperatures have reached triple digits over the past few days. The church also is providing snacks to residents. The bottles will come at just the right time as the SBCV and Thomas Road have been providing water since Saturday and were beginning to run low.
Jonathan Falwell, left, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, speaks with Lynchburg city officials about Baptist relief efforts after what is being called the worst non-hurricane power outage in Virginia’s history.
“The neat thing about this event is that it’s definitely a local church event,” SBCV disaster relief director Jack Noble said. “Every one of our churches has the opportunity to get involved. … They don’t need any training they just have to go be Christ.”
Two pallets of the water will also be delivered to the Virginia Baptist Mission Board (VBMB), whose volunteers were feeding people in the Highland, Bath and Alleghany counties of Virginia. The Tennessee volunteers also delivered 80 rolls of roofing material to the SBCV, the VBMB and North Carolina Baptist Men who are all helping with relief efforts in their states. (See story relating to N.C. efforts.)
In fire-ravaged areas of Colorado, disaster relief work also is continuing. Caison said the Fort Collins area is moving into the recovery stage.
“We set up a receiving center for folks to make applications for support and work up in the mountains,” Caison said. “We did some preliminary assessment and identified areas where we can help. We’re working on the details of that today (July 3).”
Additionally, Oklahoma and Colorado units have set up a feeding unit at Vanguard Baptist Church in Colorado Springs. With 70 percent of the fire contained now, Caison said the unit will be closed either Tuesday or Wednesday as some area residents return to their homes in that fire-affected region.
Florida Baptist disaster relief units, meanwhile, are working in three locations in the state in the aftermath of historic flooding following Hurricane Debby’s onset in late June. The storm deluged several parts of the state, although its gusts never got above 45 miles per hour.
Fritz Wilson, the Florida Baptist Convention’s disaster relief and recovery team strategist, said the state’s Baptists are gearing up for a heavy response in Live Oak, one of the state’s hardest-hit towns.
“They received 20 inches of rain and the town just filled up like a bowl,” Wilson said. “There are all kinds of sink holes. There was 8 to 10 feet of standing water in houses. The water is just now receding because it had to soak through the water table to go down.”
On Sunday (July 8), Wilson said, Florida Baptists plan to start a large flood recovery response based at First Baptist Church in Live Oak. Wilson anticipates that Florida Baptist disaster relief will have three to four weeks of work in the Live Oak area.
Florida Baptists also are working in the town of Starke, where the flooding of the New River impacted about 50 homes. In addition, Georgia Baptists are helping to assess disaster relief needs around Lake City, Fla.
The Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention also has been active in flood relief near Duluth, Minn. The northeast part of the state was hit with floods nearly two weeks ago, with Southern Baptist volunteers subsequently participating in cleanup work and feeding in the area.
The convention reports many positive responses to their work, including a father and son who were “very skeptical” of accepting help at first. By the end of three days of Southern Baptist work on their home, they commented on how the volunteers were “living the Christian faith” in front of them.
“Pray for volunteers in all these areas that are working and for those who are affected,” Caison said. “Pray that we’ll have an opportunity to represent Jesus Christ and His love and grace in a very positive way during this time.”
For more disaster relief updates, visit namb.net/dr.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry is a writer for the North American Mission Board. Amanda Sullivan, a writer for the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, contributed to this report.)