DR volunteers serving Matthew survivors in 5 states

While Matthew was still churning up the U.S. eastern seaboard as a Category 4 hurricane, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were already preparing hot meals for storm evacuees in Florida. Meal preparation is expected to number in the thousands as multiple teams and kitchens from other states began operations Oct. 10.

Meanwhile, SBDR assessors are working in coastal communities from Florida to Virginia coordinating first responses for cleanup, mud out and recovery. North American Mission Board (NAMB) SBDR executive director Mickey Caison said many volunteers were in route to their service locations Sunday.

“The heartbreaking thing is that we are talking about the same communities in South Carolina that flooded earlier this year,” Caison said. “In North Carolina these are the same communities that just completed their long-term recovery from Hurricane Floyd. They are flooded again.”

NAMB Send Relief vice president David Melber shares Caison’s concern. He called for prayers for those affected by the storm.

“We are experiencing historic widespread damage from Florida to Virginia,” Melber said. “Our greatest need is for prayer that God would direct and coordinate all we do in response. I am so thankful for the Disaster Relief network, and in particular the leadership in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. We have a network of volunteers in motion and resources coming from many states. This crisis is a great opportunity to see churches empowered to serve and minister to the thousands in need. We are grateful for the support in resources, both volunteer and financial.”

Caison said SBDR is ready to prepare as many as 100,000 meals per day. North Carolina is preparing for 10 SBDR mobile kitchen operations.

“We currently have volunteers from seven states already involved in the response, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia,” Caison said. “Volunteers from Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas are traveling to their areas of service this week and are prepared to respond as assessments determine the areas of greatest need.” The Texas units include groups from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and Texas Baptist Men. Virginia volunteers are serving with both the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and the Baptist General Convention of Virginia.

Kitchen operations are currently located at First Baptist Church of Flagler in Palm Coast, Fla.; Turning Point Baptist Church in St. Augustine, Fla.; North Jacksonville Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.; Southside Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga.; Northside Baptist Church in Brunswick, Ga.; North Conway Baptist Church in Conway, S.C.; First Baptist Church in Harleyville, S.C.; and Hoffmeyer Road Baptist Church in Florence, S.C.

A Florida SBDR team had been manning a kitchen at First Baptist Church in Melbourne, Fla., serving primarily storm evacuees. That team stood down on Sunday, with plans to move to a new service area this week.

“Most of the rivers and streams will not crest until Wednesday, so we will not know the full extent of some of the damage until then,” Caison said. “Assessors will be working at least for another week.” Caison noted that the year has been exceptionally taxing for volunteers with widespread flooding, tornadoes, wildfires and other disasters. South Carolina SBDR director Randy Creamer has called for spontaneous volunteers to join with trained SBDR teams to help in the response.

“This is an excellent opportunity for spontaneous volunteers to join with trained teams and serve,” Caison said. “This is going to be a large and long response. We need the help.”

In the on-going south Louisiana flood response, SBDR volunteers have already provided 678,675 meals, completed 2,839 clean-up jobs, 967 home tear outs and 2,327 mold remediation jobs. Through it all, there have been 10,769 chaplain contacts, 1,612 Gospel presentations and 199 professions of faith.

Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit https://donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-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.

— Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.