S.C. Baptist volunteers begin relief efforts in wake of ‘thousand-year’ event

A South Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief official is predicting that it will take years for the state to recover from the extensive flooding of the past two days.

“This is much bigger than [the recovery from] Hurricane Hugo,” said Randy Creamer, disaster relief coordinator for the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Creamer said the flooding that has prompted 10 counties or municipalities to declare states of emergency has caused more widespread damage than did Hugo, which slammed into the state’s coastline in September 1989.

Creamer said the recovery will be “a marathon, not a 100-yard dash.”

He said Baptist relief workers set up a feeding operation on Monday afternoon in Richland County, one of the state’s hardest-hit areas, to provide meals for first responders and workers from the county and the City of Columbia.

Creamer said a number of Baptist associations across the state, including Columbia Metro Association, have “taken the lead” in setting up shelters for people displaced by floodwaters. “There’s a lot going on out there that I won’t hear about for a few weeks,” Creamer said.

As the floodwaters recede in the coming days, Southern Baptist teams from churches and associations across the state will coordinate with Creamer’s office to provide disaster relief services — including feeding tents, laundry facilities, and mud-out and chainsaw operations — to affected areas.

In the meantime, Creamer suggests that directors of missions and pastors look for opportunities to help those affected by the floods in their own communities. “Take care of the needs there, in your own Jerusalem,” he said.

He also encouraged South Carolina Baptists to pray for victims and to consider donating money to help with the state convention’s recovery efforts. “We’ll burn through a lot of expense in the next few days buying food and helping support our teams,” he said.

Donations can be made by visiting scbaptist.org/donations-for-flood-disaster-relief .

Tommy Kelly, pastor of Varnville First Baptist Church and president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, encouraged Christians to reach out to victims personally. “Find those who need help, and offer help, and do it in the name of Christ,” he said.

At least nine South Carolinians have died since a slow-moving rainstorm began on Friday. Some parts of the state saw more than 20 inches of rain. Hundreds of stranded people have been rescued from flooded homes and buildings.

Statewide, as of Monday morning, nearly 400 roads  and 150 bridges have been closed, including 100 roads in Columbia. More than 26,000 are without power. Nearly 1,000 people are in shelters. Boil-water advisories are in effect for up to 40,000 people in Columbia and West Columbia.

Many churches in the Columbia area were forced to cancel services on Sunday. The offices of the South Carolina Baptist Convention were closed on Monday.

At a news conference Monday morning, Gov. Nikki Haley said the danger “is not over” just because the rain has stopped, adding that it is still “a vulnerable situation.”

On Sunday, Haley said, “We are at a thousand-year level of rain. That’s how big this is.”


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